To celebrate me turning another year older, we made reservations at Gary Danko. This French-American restaurant gives you the option of designing your own 3, 4, or 5 course tasting menu (priced $68, $85, and $102 respectively). We could mix and match amongst the appetizers, entrees (seafood and meats), cheese, and dessert sections. As our waiter explained, we could (and wouldn't be the first) to have all desserts as our entire tasting menu.
As tempting as that offer sounded, I couldn't bring myself to spend $102 on just desserts, so we both opted to choose a medley of dishes and make our own 4 course $85 meal. As you'll soon see, I opted for a progression of courses, while my husband went full-on with a meat-lovers' dream menu.
My husband chose two value-priced red wines: the Eric Texier, St. Gervais, Vieilles Vignes des Cadinières 2005 ($42) from the Cote-du-Rhone-villages region in France and the Figge, Paraiso Vineyard 2007 ($50), a pinot noir from Monterey County in California. Both were basic red wines that were a decent match for the food. Overall, my wine-loving hubby preferred the Cote-du-Rhone as it had more structure than the fruity pinot noir.
Our amuse bouche (served on a pretty silver charger plate) was a star anise pickled bit of salmon with cucumber salad. So much fresh, salty, and licorice flavor in such a tiny bite!
My first course: Glazed Oysters with Osetra caviar, zucchini pearls, and lettuce cream. When I saw the plate, I immediately thought of Keller's Oysters and Pearls. Like it's Keller counterpart, this dish was addictive and rich. I liked the buttery Osetra caviar with the texture of the tiny zucchini pearls. Overall, it was a very elegant dish whose sauce we both sopped up!
My hubby's first course: Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Caramelized Red Onions and Rhubarb. This was a generous size of melt-in-your-mouth foie gras with sweet red onions and rhubarb. Simply amazing.
My second course: Roast Maine Lobster with Potato Puree, Morel Mushrooms, Edamame and Tarragon. Our server mentioned that this was one of the most popular dishes (which makes sense since people like me just gravitate to the word "lobster"). I love morel mushrooms - saute them in butter and I'm all set. Overall, we could see why this nicely seasoned dish with perfectly cooked lobster (not chewy at all) was a crowd-pleaser.
My hubby's second course: Quail stuffed with foie gras, mushrooms and quinoa, and vegetables. What's better than one foie gras course? Two, of course! In this dish, the foie gras seemed to help keep the quail nice and juicy.
My third course: Coriander Crusted Bison with King Trumpet Mushrooms, glazed cipollini onions and herb spätzle. After our other courses, this was my least favorite dish. The sides were flavorful and the bison tasted fine, but the meat wasn't as tender as I have had at other places. Bison, being a lean meat, tastes better on the rarer side in my opinion.
My hubby's third course: Roasted pork belly and tenderloin with potato-ramp puree, fava beans, artichokes and maple glaze. This dish was thick and juicy, and like his foie gras, the pork belly was also mouth-watering. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked as slicing through the meat was like cutting through butter.
My dessert course: French macaron ice cream sandwiches with three sauces. Everyone seems to get the souffle, but I was drawn to the idea of macaron ice cream sandwiches. My three flavors were pistachio with fudge, raspberry with chocolate sauce, and salted caramel. These were so cute and so much fun (though I think I took a little too long taking photos because the meringue got a little chewy).
My husband's idea of dessert is enjoying a cheese plate, so it was appropriate that he enjoy the infamous Gary Danko cheese cart. He opted for a raw cow's milk pecorino, 14-month old sheep's milk El Trigal Manchego, 8 year old cheddar from Quebec, and a tangy blue cheese named "Roaring 40's". He loved the different cheeses (most were savory and strong) - I was so full that I kept eating his grapes (which our server noticed, and brought me a whole plateful of them!)
Oh wait, but there's more! Tiny little sweet treats (our petits fours), a breakfast blueberry cream cheese cake for the next day, and a light, spongy lemon cake to congratulate me on turning another year older! We couldn't finish our petits fours so we took them to go - along with another full set of them compliments of our server.
Good food and fantastic service made our celebratory meal a memorable one.
Gary Danko is located at 800 North Point Street in San Francisco.