Sunday, January 15, 2006

Gary Danko - San Francisco

The culmination of our holiday trip to San Francisco was the legendary, dark-windowed Gary Danko.

We managed to break through the phone lines precisely three months and eleven hours earlier, but a note to less neurotic would-be diners: There did seem to be walk-in seats at the bar.

Neither of us was completely blown away, but dining there was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The staff demonstrated the best of American service: talkative and friendly but well short of intrusive. (We invited the sommelier to join us after he admired our wine selection, but he declined, seeming sincerely regretful.)

The highlight of the meal was the herb-crusted lamb, rare and thinly-sliced, although the seared polenta that accompanied it was overdone.

The glazed oysters with caviar were also excellent – tender, not slimy (briefly poached, explained our waitress) – as was the foie gras. (But to be honest, Christine has yet to encounter a foie gras she doesn’t like.)

Lobster salad was light and delicately tasty, and the dressing on the salad was sublime.

The cheese course did not disappoint, despite our initial scepticism at the small servings: favourites were the Umbriaco and the Couronne Lochoise, and the Montbriac was ripened to perfection, i.e. oozing all over the plate. We also enjoyed the Chevre Noir, a goat’s milk cheddar.

Finally, the chocolate soufflé was darn good (although still a distant second to the same at Bouley, pre-re-opening); the trio of crème brulees, however, was just a bit too much to cope with to finish the meal. We were anticipating delicate "miniature" brulees, but were instead presented with three full-sized bohemoths. The flavours were delicate and refined, but the quantities overwhelming.

We overdid it on the booze, but this shouldn’t surprise anyone: a well-made pre-prandial cocktail at the in-house bar; two glasses of Perrier Jouet brut rosé upon seating; a 2000 pinot noir from Hanzell, one of the Sonoma vineyards we fell in love with when we visited the previous week; and to accompany our dessert, a 1998 Chateau Climens. We were tempted by the Chateau D’Yquem at $48 a glass, but $117 for the Climens seemed like a better bargain (four hours into our meal).


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