Gary Danko- One of the Best Restaurants in San Francisco
There are moments in life that continue to shine on like glittering jewels in the dark recesses of our minds, long after they have passed. Often representing treasured memories with loved ones, those are happy moments, glorious moments, that we wish would last forever. Dining at Gary Danko’s is one such moment… when those of us who are discerning foodies experience a series of hysterical emotions, not quite daring to believe that we have arrived at our culinary mecca.
Upon entering this Michelin starred restaurant, friends and I are greeted by graciously friendly staff who are attentive and professional without exuding any airs of pretense. Beverages at the charming bar include an 80 plus page wine list as well as an array of original cocktails with fresh ingredients one would expect to find in San Francisco- lemongrass, kafir lime leaves and exotic fruits. As the maitre ‘d whisks my drink to my awaiting table, I catch a tantalizing glimpse of the infamous cheese cart, the pungent blues quietly cutting through the din of guests’ excited chatter. If you are so lucky to frequent Chef Gary’s not so humble abode, do request what I have lovingly dubbed “The Don’s Table,” a corner booth, lavishly accented with satin pillows and a hand-crafted tapestry. It is the table to conduct the serious business of eating Chef Gary’s seriously hysteria-inducing cuisine and it’s also the best table in the house to view everything that goes on in the cozy dining hall.
I could intimate endlessly about Gary Danko’s but alas, I am bound by my editors to keep to a certain length and so I will complete the most difficult task of regaling the very best of my experiences. Though how really does one differentiate one superlative dish from another and one unparalleled moment of service from the next?
A tiny blini arrives on a slate colored plate, atop which delicately rests fresh smoked salmon and a dollop of Osetra caviar, compliments of the chef, Seamus, our dazzlingly fabulous guide tells us. We gently take hold of this miniature masterpiece and chew slowly, swirling the saltiness of the sea with the softness of the blini in our mouths, the perfect opening to what would be a culinary evening that legends are made of. My friends had never experienced Chef Gary’s genius and that night I took tremendous pleasure in watching the hysteria that took over these foodies as I proved that I had not exaggerated in the least.
The next four hours were among the most luxurious, decadent gastronomical hours of our lives, as we dined and drank, laughed and cried. Perfectly seared Ahi Tuna dressed in delicate lemon and soy… oysters so fresh I felt I was eating the ocean… Scallops with a golden crust, tender inside… Beef cooked to such magnificence that a grown man began to cry from sheer joy… Succulent lobster with a potato puree that will make it impossible to ever go back to regular mashed potatoes… Horseradish Salmon superbly browned outside, resting on a piquant mustard sauce…soft Brie with a drizzle of honey and a burst of sweet grapes…a cholesterol free Strawberry Souffle that would make Julia Child proud…an enthralling trio of crème brulees that sadly signaled the end of a most spectacular evening…
As if Chef Gary’s culinary brilliance were not reason enough to make Gary Danko’s a second residence for us all, he has somehow assembled a team of the most gracious, knowledgeable and multi-talented people any world class restaurant could hope to have. Gary Danko’s staff work together seamlessly to provide absolutely astounding service with such expertise and aplomb that all those in hospitality should take note. A linen napkin casually drops to the floor and in a blink of an eye a new one rests gently at your table. A glass of water refilled before you realize it’s empty. Rustic bread appears magically on your plate just as you turn to reach for more. Utensils provided for the friend who selflessly shared his salmon dish and may want to taste the cheese course you’re having that he didn’t order. A few kind words as you walk towards the beautifully appointed bathrooms.
And I must give a special thanks to the kind and effervescent Seamus, whose phenomenal wine pairings, disarming jokes and fascinating anecdotes left my friends thoroughly charmed. An evening like the one we experienced- the explosion of fresh flavors and complex textures, the orgasmic pairings of food and wine, the attentive and brilliant Seamus- are what legends are made of. That evening is the kind that we work hard to be able to enjoy, to share with loved ones, to sit back, partake in such a feast of the senses and reluctantly walk away, eager to plan the next dinner there. My hats off to Gary Danko and his team, and thank you for helping me convince my friends to move to San Francisco after they realized that eating will never be the same again. There are many reasons we love San Francisco, but Gary Danko’s seals the deal. A side note to Chef Gary…please don’t be too worried if you see a face pressed against your home window one of these days. It’s probably one of my friends stalking you, desperate for more of your culinary genius. Your fault Chef Gary, not mine.