Side Dish

Danko Schön, Pho Free, Hot Seat, Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em, Out of the Hole

Danko Schön
Gary Danko
is seeing stars -- five of them, to be exact -- bestowed upon his dining room on North Point by The Mobil Guide. Only 42 such awards (that's a grand total of 210 little pointed sparklers) were handed out nationwide, and the less-than-6-month-old Danko was one of only three restaurants in California to be so honored. It just goes to show that, despite the recent sniping in Wine Spectator, you shouldn't judge an eponymously named celebrity chef restaurant by just its moniker. Harry had a flawless meal there last week: The food was great, the service smooth, and the sommelier charming. (Thanks, Renee-Nicole.) And that was a lot of grubbin' for a $66 prix fixe! Perfect for your next date ....

Pho Free
Don Johnson's elegant ode to modern Vietnamese cuisine is actually going to see the light of day. Test dinners are happening at Ana Mandara even as we speak: Lucky guinea pigs and groundhogs are munching down on chef Khai Duong's delicious food in preparation for a big celebrity-studded opening.

Hot Seat
The Angelenos are coming! The Angelenos are coming! Chaya San Francisco opens today on the Embarcadero. This is the third in a growing family of Franco-Japanese restaurants, and I can't wait: Having visited Chayas Venice and L.A., Harry hands-down (and thumbs-up) approves of owner Yuji Tsunoda's tasteful treats. Chef Shigesumi Tachibe will bring his East-West flavors to the 170-seater, which includes a chef's table in the kitchen. If that seat's a little hot for you, you can hog a stool at the 21-foot zinc bar and hunker down for a few more weeks of winter.

Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em
Yountville's Live Fire is blowing into town. Fred Halpert will send up smoke signals at his new location in the old Pickled Ginger space. The successful concept focuses on smoked, grilled, and otherwise perfectly abused and violently tender meats. Due to popular demand, the menu will not feature wood-roasted groundhog.

Out of the Hole
Well bite my tongue and see my own shadow! No sooner do I list the dark, vacant, and forgotten restaurant real estate in town, than change-of-ownership papers get posted -- notably at Alta Plaza, Evita Cafe, and Gramercy Grill. Watch this space for more on those spaces.

Know something Harry doesn't? E-mail and sweep the dirt out from under the rug.

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