Best Restaurant San Francisco 2000 - Gary Danko
You sit down at the tiny bar, slightly disappointed that the surroundings aren't as elegant as they were at Chef Danko's last showcase, the Dining Room. Then you get into the lively, friendly rhythm of the place and you realize that although it may not be as finely appointed as, say, the Fifth Floor, Restaurant Gary Danko is more fun. Once you're seated, an amuse-bouche of silky asparagus-basil soup with morsels of lobster is offered for consumption, after which the affably elegant maitre d'/owner, Nick Peyton, explains the menu and makes you feel at home. There are three-, four-, and five-course menus to choose from ($51, $60, and $70 respectively); you, of course, go for the five-course, beginning with a seared foie gras that is as delicately subtle as others are dense and rich. Next: a medallion of salmon that is not only lighter and more supple than any you've ever experienced, it's accented with a horseradish-spiked crust and cool, crunchy dilled cucumbers beneath. A juicy beef fillet flavored with Stilton follows, a lusty potato gratin and candied shallots at its side. Next comes the thing you've been dreaming about for the past several days: a cheese cart laden with pungent exotica, including a fierce, crumbly French blue, Spain's noble manchego, a creamy Coulommiers leagues beyond any brie you're acquainted with, and a handcrafted Rocky Mountain Tilsit that you'll never forget. Conclude the meal with a rich, molten chocolate soufflé served with chocolate and crème anglaise sauces, like an insanely good chocolate con leche. There's nothing prim or precious about Danko's food: It's hearty, exuberant stuff with plenty of panache and pizazz. You can also enjoy it at the bar, a la carte.