Thursday, February 14, 2013

Have a Gary Danko Valentines Day!

Editor's note: you are unlikely to get any seats at Gary Danko today.
But we'd love to hear from you if you tried!

Mysterious parting gift (for the ladies) from Restaurant Gary Danko.
"So, who is Gary Danko," asks the ESM ("Evil Step Mother," who is really, actually, not at all evil).

The story is familiar to many but none-the-less remarkable: son of Hungarian and Jewish immigrants, a native of upstate New York, waiter-cum-chef-cum-star-chef. Danko has travelled from coast-to-coast, worked hard, and become one of San Francisco's favorite chefs; his restaurant a revered institution.

Restaurant Gary Danko maintains one well deserved Michelin Star, so while there may not be as much "table drama" as hipper, newer restaurants one is unlikely to leave Danko dissatisfied. Tastes have shifted further and further out the avant garde in San Francisco, Danko might seem staid or conventional in comparison.

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Brass Fleur de Lys means business. For serious.
The three of us, myself, the ESM and my Dad, cruised into Danko at 6:30 on a Wednesday grabbing the last three seats at the bar (where a full menu is available).

"In and out in an hour," prefaced my old man.

"Sure, sure," I said, knowing better. 20 minutes in and we were still chatting up the bartender and fretting over the a'la carte options (about a dozen each of appetizers, seafood courses that could also be offered as small plates and meat and game bird courses).

The menu also features an ambitious array of desserts. Had I wanted to stay longer than the three hours we ended up being there, I would have opted for the chef's tasting menu of 5 courses with pairings - which would have likely brought me into Atelier Crenn territory (financially if not culinarily).

Crenn's restaurant, by the way, is down the road not far from Danko - but Danko was probably a more reasonable choice for my nearly 70 year old father who is not one for "table drama".

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North Point
As with all sons and fathers, there are similar interests and there are divisions.

I do not care for golf, the old man doesn't "get" hip-hop. I like beer and he loves wine (I love wine too, but more of the $2-chuck variety). I drink Bourbon. The old man has been known to keep a bottle of Bushmill's, perplexingly, in the freezer. We both have many versions of "Angel From Montgomery".

The ESM is a vodka-rocks drinker, and Dad has embraced this as his pre-dinner drink. Sadly, they like the frosted glass variety of overpriced ("it's been filtered 10 times, by French monks!") grain alcohol. I tend to have more austere tastes - you can always trust the Polish to make a great (gluten free) potato vodka: Luksusowa, Monopolowa. Руссии Стандарт if you like. $14 for a fifth and not the paint thinner that comes in those fancy bottles.

My point is, we like what we like. We each bring different priorities to the things we enjoy in life. I save and I spend a large sum of money on dinner at the French Laundry. My dad doesn't understand the allure of spending 5 hours in a restaurant - I'm disturbed by his insistence that salmon should be cooked through.

"That was worth every penny," said my father at the end of our three courses at Restaurant Gary Danko. He sipped with interest an amaro as the bartender and I took turns explaining the "Fernet Branca" phenomena in San Francisco.

Save your pennies and come early to Restaurant Gary Danko. Have a seat at the bar for just the right amount of "drama".

I didn't make it to the bathrooms, but I'm sure they are deserving of their florid Yelp reviews.

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Menu highlights:

Risotto with Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Shimeji Mushrooms and Butternut Squash.


Quail Salad with Rosemary Potato Cake, Maitake Mushrooms and Pomegranate.

Pan Seared Bass with Root Vegetable "Risotto", Fennel Confit and Sage.


Branzini with Fennel Puree, Nioise Olives and Saffron-Orange Emulsion.

Pistachio Crusted Veal Loin with Braised Winter Vegetables, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Sweetbreads (naturally this was my entrée).


Chocolate Praline Parfait with Bourbon Sauce and Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

Pear Tart Tatin with Cinnamon Custard, Oatmeal Streusel and Pear Sorbet.

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Restaurant Gary Danko
800 North Point Street, San Francisco