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Gary Danko - 1/1 Report (long)

binkis | Jan 5, 200610:17 PM

I'm a Hound from NYC, in town for two months on business. My wife came out and we went to GD on New Year's night. What an amazing experience! We had the truffle tasting menu with the wine pairings. Here's the breakdown:

First Course: Chestnut and Porcini Mushroom Bisque with Apples, Celery Root and Bacon
This bisque was as perfect as any I've ever had. Just the right consistency with incredible flavor. The bowl arrived with the solid ingredients in the middle and the bisque was poured by hand in front of us, in tandem. I'm always a big supporter of aromatic soups being served like this. The paired wine was a Pinot Gris that was just the right note to complement - cold and crisp, without too much acidity to take away from the smooth warmth of the soup.

Second Course: Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Leek Potato Purée and Shiitake Mushrooms
This was the only course the disappointed me a bit, especially being a huge scallop fan. Everything was well prepared, but the flavor was a little bland for my taste. I almost salted it, but decided I should experience what the chef wanted me to experience. Interestingly, my wife (who enjoyed this course a lot, despite not really liking scallops) couldn't finish hers and gave me half of one of her scallops. It tasted better than mine - the searing was sharper on hers. Might have made all the difference for the entire dish. The paired wine was a white that I don't remember, but was also a good match - less crisp, more chardonnay than pinot gris.

Third Course: Pan Seared Beef Filet with Potato, Leeks, Bacon and Périgord Black Truffles
Wow!! I ordered my meat rare, and it was perfectly rare. My 'medium rare - medium' wife tentatively tried some of the rare middle of my cut and was blown away by how smooth and flavorful it was. But the quality of the meat is to be expected. What was unexpected was the sauce, which I expected to be a 'typical' wine reduction. The flavor was heavily oniony, almost like french onion soup. It was incredible. And the vegetables that accompanied were similarly flavorful. I've never had such a delicious piece of celery. Celery! Fabulous. The wine was a 75/25 Merlot/Cab. Very smooth and lovely. I prefer a darker wine, but that's just a personal preference.

Fourth Course: Cheese
It's difficult to explain the variety and breadth of cheese they had. We are huge cheese fans, so this was the orgasmic moment of the night. We had all three blue cheeses - each as different as they were delicious. Sharp cheese, stinky cheese, smooth cheese, hard cheese, soft cheese. It was amazing. We asked after the course for a summary of what cheeses we had, so we could order them. They not only happily wrote down each cheese, but included a list of where they were available, across the country. Nice touch. The wine pairing was a very sweet madiera wine, which was appropriate but not to our liking. (This speaks only to our taste - not a problem with the wine certainly.)

Fifth Course: Roasted Pears with Gingerbread and Nutmeg Ice Cream
Again, I was expecting something typical but it far exceeded what I anticipated. The truffles added such an amazing level of flavor that every bite caused me to shake my head in disbelief. Truly a memorable dish - and I don't have a big sweet tooth.

A few additional thoughts:

* I made no mention of the truffle portion of each dish (except dessert), because I found the truffles to be underwhelming. This was my first experience with truffles; I expected a major taste experience and my expectations weren't met. I am hoping it's similar to caviar, where the first time you try it, you're just getting used to the very new flavor, and each subsequent tasting allows you to better appreciate the subtleties.

* I was very impressed with the portion sizes. They were substantial, but we weren't over-the-top stuffed by the end of the meal. (By contrast, when I ate at Fleur de Lys a few years ago, I was stuffed by the time the meat course was served.) We also weren't completely drunk by the end of the meal, which can happen with wine pairings. Very well balanced meal, in this respect.

* The sommalier deserves special mention. Not only did she clearly love wine and sharing her knowledge of it, she went above and beyond to take care of us when we didn't drink

* The service could not have been more perfect. Our waiter was jovial and friendly, but not too much. It was a classic case of "they were there when you wanted them and not there when you didn't". I was surprised at a few tiny etiquette things - the bread was put on my plate across my body, and my soup was poured from the right side. But these were merely diversions, not a problem at all. Overall it was such a comfortable room and environment. There was nothing remotely 'stuffy' about any part of the experience.

Total bill was $510 including tip. It was truly a special experience.

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