Unalloyed Pleasure

Gary Danko

Another excellent fish dish is the tuna steak. A large wedge of the meat is given a nutty crust of herbs and cracked peppercorns, and cooked past the usual rare to a point at which the flavor develops fully, muscle fibers are evident, and teeth are required. One wouldn't want every piece of tuna cooked like this, but it is refreshing to see this steak in place of the banal, flabby, pink cube that one so often gets, and there is no hint of the dryness that can occur when tuna is cooked less skillfully. The fillet of beef is enticingly tricky: Although the meat is naturally mild in flavor, and appears unadorned, it has somehow been invisibly infused with Stilton. Should the invisible cheese not suffice, a lavish, rich potato gratin and candied shallots sing backup.

Not everything at Gary Danko is so perfect. The lone vegetarian dish, italicized on the menu as though to point out its ancillary nature, does, sad to say, seem like a consolation prize, consisting as it does of a viscous, tomato-based pottage of insufficiently tender chick peas with underseasoned braised artichoke laid on top. Similarly, the salmon fails to thrill. Surprisingly for a dish featured on the autumn tasting menu, it doesn't have a lot going on. A sizable medallion of the heavy fish, with a faint-flavored crust, is heavily seasoned with fresh dill, as are the accompanying wilted cucumber slices. Salmon and dill is a classic pairing, but dill is an easy herb to abuse, and here there is too much of it.

It is always a delight to see (and smell) a traditional cheese trolley, and even more so to watch it arrive at your table and unveil its mysteries. Gary Danko has a decent mix of very good artisanal cheeses, with few surprises: local goat cheese, mild hard cheeses, a magnificently au point Pont L'Eveque, Roquefort, and several more. The wine pairing suggested for the cheese selection is a 1976 Domaine du Mas Blanc Banyuls, a warm, full dessert wine -- a match made in heaven.

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Gary Danko

800 N. Point
San Francisco, CA 94109

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: Nob Hill/ Russian Hill/ Fisherman's Wharf

Details

800 North Point (at Hyde), 749-2060. Open for dinner every day from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations required. Parking: valet; several nearby pay lots, for instance at the Cannery and Ghirardelli Square. Muni: 30, 39, 40; Hyde Street cable car. Noise level: loudish

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Dessert at Gary Danko is a fairly heady affair. The portions are heroic: A trio of crèmes brûlées is more than three times the size of an average serving of brûlée, not to mention the accompanying cookies and fruit. The trio consists of mild vanilla, stimulating coffee, and an opulent chocolate, by far the best of the three. On a milder note, the chocolate soufflé is in the classic style, puffy and light. Although a bit dry and bland on its own, it is impregnated at the table with a thin chocolate sauce and a crème anglaise, adding depth, richness, and fat. Also excellent, for those in a dark mood, are the port-glazed figs with licorice ice cream.

Eating at Gary Danko is a true pleasure. The food, as is appropriate in a restaurant named for its chef, has an unmistakable character, luxuriously refined but with dynamic elements that make it not only delicious but exciting. At its best, Gary Danko offers an unqualified, grand dining experience.

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