Our last night in San Francisco, hubby and I went to Gary Danko. Gary Danko is a restaurant that opened while we lived in San Francisco and at which we had a couple of amazing meals. It had been probably close to 8 years or so since our last meal though, so we really wanted to go again. The funny thing about Gary Danko is that I don’t think the menu has really changed that much in all that time. There are certain dishes that they are pretty well known for, and while they certainly add seasonal ingredients, the menu stays pretty similar I think. But before I even talk about the food, I have to mention service again. It was amazing once again. This is one of the nicest restaurants in San Francisco—but the servers treat you like you are a regular and talk to you like you’re an old friend. We chatted about various restaurants in San Francisco, and he let us in on the fact that the bar at Gary Danko is a great deal because you don’t have to order the 3 or 4 courses. We chatted about our kids and his kids and our upcoming trip. There was not an ounce of pretentiousness or snobbery.
The food at Gary Danko is really good and really solid. I like that even though you have to choose 3, 4, or 5 courses ($71, $89 and $104), you can order whatever you want from whatever part of the menu (there are appetizers, a fish and shellfish section, a meat section, cheese and dessert). He told us if we wanted 4 courses of dessert, go for it. I started with the “crispy farm egg” with white polenta, mushrooms, frissée and pancetta. It was great. It was the smooth, slightly sweet polenta on the bottom with some dressed greens, and the egg on top. The egg was actually breaded and lightly fried—and perfectly runny inside. It was a nice take on the classic frissée salad with a poached egg, the breadcrumbs giving it just a little more substance. It had a nice balance of flavors though with the dressing on the greens and we both really liked it. Hubby had the risotto with lobster, rock shrimp, mushrooms, corn, roasted tomatoes and peas. We have had a version of this before and as before, it was spectacular. How they get the lobster and the shrimp EXACTLY perfectly cooked, I don’t know, but I wish they would teach all the other restaurants in the world. The shellfish just melted in your mouth. The risotto is rich and creamy, but not so much so, and not such a huge portion that you were sick of it by the end (often my problem with risotto).
My next course was the roast Maine lobster with potato puree, mushrooms, corn and tarragon. This was a dish I had once before (or a similar version anyway) and I loved it so much, I had to have it again. It was just as good as I remember. I love lobster when it is cooked properly, but honestly I rarely order it because it so rarely is. Again, they had it down—especially that claw. It was amazing. A little crunch from the corn and slight anise type flavor from the tarragon with the milder potatoes—the ingredients just let the lobster shine through. Hubby had a pork dish with pork belly and pork tenderloin medallions with potato ramp puree, cauliflower, roasted peppers and maple cider glaze. The pork belly was beautiful—I love it when it is served in a slice type format and you can see the layers of fat. It also seems more balanced between the meat and fat when it is cut like that as opposed to some of the overlarge hunks with too many gelatinous fatty bits I have seen at other places lately. The tenderloin wasn’t as good—it just doesn’t have as much flavor and depth.
I have pretty much given up on fancy cheese services since leaving San Francisco—but Gary Danko reminded me why I like them so much. They brought us the huge cart and let us pick whatever we wanted (we only ordered one cheese course and then one of us got the dessert). We had a nice selection of things and a nice discussion about cheese carts in San Francisco with our waiter. Apparently there are only 3 or 4 restaurants that have them even in San Francisco.
Dessert was warm Louisiana butter cake with apples, huckleberry sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. It was basically croissants that were cut up and then more butter and caramel added. Can you say buttery and rich? It was really good though, and the huckleberry was nice because it was a little tart and you always need some sort of creamy type thing to go along with something like this. This is one of the desserts they are known for, and it is clear to see why. All I know is I am glad we only got the three courses option because we were completely stuffed at this point. I would say the portions are very generous, especially for a multi-course fine dining experience.
Even though we were stuffed and done with our dinner, we still enjoyed the extra little petit fours that they brought out at the end. It is always fun to bite into them all and taste all the different flavors. As if that wasn’t enough, they even bring you little cakes (these were pineapple upside down cakes) wrapped up to take home. Because our waiter knew we were traveling all day with our 2 kids the next day and gave us 4 to take home (see what I mean about the service?). Because we had had a fairly long chat with our doorman at the hotel about how much he also loved Gary Danko, we gave him the extras—we figured he would appreciate them more than our kids. (Other thing I love about San Francisco—everyone loves food in this town. I have had long discussions with taxi drivers about restaurants, and they all know where the restaurants are unlike a certain city’s taxi drivers—talking to YOU Chicago!).
All in all, this trip was a bit of a whirlwind, but we ate really well and satisfied my son’s need for Dungeness crab (had several crabs at Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch one day too) as well as taking them to a few more places that they haven’t been yet (the Exploratorium was a favorite spot). San Francisco certainly owns a little piece of my heart that is for sure.
800 North Point
San Francisco, CA 94109