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Dinner report at Gary Danko

Cary | Feb 1, 200510:36 PM

I posted a bit earlier for solo dining tonight, and ended up going to Gary Danko. I had heard that their bar was very friendly to solo diners and I had a bunch of free time so away I went.

I've read/heard that the bar gets full quickly, even on weekdays, so today when I arrived around opening time, I was surprised that the bar stayed 1/2 full the whole time I was there, about two hours.

Upon entering the lighting was dim and decor was very nice. I told the hostess that I wanted to eat at the bar, and was told with a smile to sit where ever I liked. There were several people there at the bar sipping some drinks, and I randomly chose a seat on the left side.

I was warmly greeted by the bartender (Dave), and he presented the wine list and the menu. The wine list is about what you would expect for a restaurant of its class. Many high priced bottles of big name labels. However there are several sub-$60 bottles for each varietal and region. I was glad to find a very large selection of half bottles and settled on a decent red Burgundy. I opted for choosing my own 5-course menu and I must say I had a hard time choosing! What eventually made it easy for me was that I tried to pair the courses with my wine selection.

While I was still choosing the wine and courses, my amouse bouche came out which was a few spoonfuls of a Thai broth (w/ roast duck). Very intense lemon grass, with hints of basil (?). An excellent way to start the appetite and cleanse the palate IMO.

My first course was the "Seared Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Nori, Enoki Mushrooms and Lemon Soy Dressing." This was a nice, refershing dish with the lemon, soy dressing. I probably would have preferred if the lemon soy was more mild, so it would balance with the more subtle tuna, but it was still very enjoyable. Four slices of seared tuna with nori and ginger on top and the mushrooms on the side and the lemon soy lightly dressing the plate.

Second course was the "Glazed Oysters with Osetra Caviar, Salsify and Lettuce Cream." This seemed to be a very popular dish, and I can understand why. Wow. Awesome. Each of the four bites had the oyster, caviar and salsify layered and sitting in the cream sauce. Very nicely balanced.

Third dish was the "Pancetta Wrapped Frog Legs with Sunchoke Garlic Purée, Potato and Lentils" This came with two small frog legs with a vertical tower of lentils. Another good dish. I'm not sure if I would order it again, if only because there are so many other dishes I would want to try. People who would say that frog legs taste like chicken really need to try GD's preparation.

Fourth dish was the "Juniper Crusted Venison with Caramelized Endive and Cranberry Compote." Cooked medium rare (more towards the rare side, which is perfect for me). The fruit and venison paired very well my with my Vosne-Romanee. Tender venison, and not gamy.

Dessert is their popular (traditional) chocolate souffle with creme anglaise and chocolate sauce. Excellent. I prefer the classic souffles over the very popular flour-less souffles seen everywhere.

An okay espresso and a tray of excellent mignardises ended the evening.

Service through out the night was excellent. Always polite and with a smile. Servers served and cleared from the correct side. Dave, the waiter/bartender made sure my water glass, wine glass, and bread plate was refilled promptly. Dave also was a good conversationalist and offered his insight for each of the dishes.

Early in the night a regular dropped in and ate solo at the bar next to me and all the employees knew him and greeted him by his first name. This was a good sign. A good thing about eating at the bar is that you can see closeup what your neighbors ordered and you can share opinions on what is being eaten.

I'll definitely go back because there are so many dishes I want to try. Definitely I'll try some of their cheeses.

I've mentioned before in previous postings that I almost never remember a waiter's name at a restaurant, but tonight at GD, makes two.


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