My husband and I dined at Gary Danko to celebrate his birthday this past Tuesday. His coworker highly recommended GD, so we had high hopes. I opted for Four Courses while my husband had Five courses. Unfortunately GD just didnt meet our expectations. Don't get me wrong, the food was good, but...
Mine: 1) Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Onion, Roasted Grapes and Apples; 2) Roast Lobster with Morel Mushrooms and potato puree; 3) Bison with (more) Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus; and 4) Flambéed Pineapple with Caramelized French Toast and Maple Syrup Ice Cream.
His: 1) Risotto with Lobster, Shrimp and Asparagus; 2) Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers; 3) Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb with Artichoke-Chickpea Stew and Pinenut Relish; 4) Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces (Caramel and Vanilla); and 5) Flambéed Pineapple with Caramelized French Toast and Maple Syrup Ice Cream.
The amuse for the evening was a Warm Asparagus Soup with Duck Pancetta topped with a dollop of pesto. The soup was very mild and clean tasting but underwhelming. We did enjoy the duck pancetta, as it added a nice surprising crunch of texture to the soup. The pesto didnt seem to do anything except add a little color.
My favorite course was the Seared Foie Gras. It was a generous portion and was complemented nicely with the sweetness of the roasted apples and grapes. Husbands favorites were the Foie Gras too as well as his lamb.
The Risotto with Lobster and Shrimp was also delicious but paled in comparison to the Foie Gras, in terms of wow-factor. The texture of the risotto was perfectly al dente but lacked oomph. The lobster and shrimp was plentiful and was not heavily dressed up so we were able to enjoy the natural fresh taste of the shellfish.
Even boiled lobster w/ clarified butter has rocked my socks off but this Roast Maine Lobster was just slightly better than OK. I thought it was a tad overcooked which caused it to lose the tender sweetness of the meat.
The Horseradish Crusted Salmon was also another disappointment. As it is also featured on the Tasting Menu, we assumed it would be one of the better dishes. It was not. The Horseradish Crust seemed to lack, well, horseradish. Perhaps the intent was supposed to be a subtle hint of horseradish, but I would have liked more of it. The crust resembled plain old grilled white Wonder Bread with just a hint of horseradish and butter. The salmon, though, was perfectly cooked. I thought the best part of this entrée was the dilled cucumbers, which added a much needed tang to the whole ensemble.
I admit it. I ordered the Bison just so I could say I had bison. It was cooked perfectly rare to medium rare. It tasted just like regular beef to me but my husband detected a little bit of gaminess to it. Nothing else about this entrée calls out to me, though. I should have ordered the Moroccan Spiced Squab, which sounded like it would taste much more interesting.
The Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb was also perfectly cooked. My husband inquired about the missing herb crust, but I told him that I noticed some green herb things stuck to the lamb. The chickpea stew reminded me of ratatouille, which while tasted well, lacked any originality. The pinenut relish on the other hand added a nice unique touch.
We shared a generous chocolate soufflé was good but we have had better (i.e. Roys). Sadly it did not satiate my chocolate cravings (gave up chocolate for Lent) as this soufflé seemed to lack chocolate power.
The Flambéed Pineapples were prepared tableside and was quite the show-stopper. The accompanying Caramelized French Toast was not caramelized but rather grilled and did taste good. Perhaps it could have tasted great had it been creamier in texture. Unfortunately, the pineapple was picked too early as it lacked sweetness. Maybe it would have tasted better if it were cooked longer. On the plus side, the maple syrup ice cream rounded out this dessert nicely with the cooling effects of the ice cream.
We each had two glasses of wine. Mine: an Alsace Riesling and a glass of Kamen Claret. His: a glass of a white blend (Viognier & Marsanne) from Tablas Creek and a red Artadi. Our wines generally complimented the meal nicely but not superbly.
A plus at GD is the service. The staff is wonderfully attentive, but not annoyingly so. Our server was very pleasant and made our dining experience enjoyable. And since we were celebrating my husbands birthday, we enjoyed a plateful of sweets (about 10), which was a nice touch. The two that held my attention were the pinenut brittle and the ganache truffle (with a tease of cardamom??).
However pleasant our dining experience was at Gary Danko, I dont think I will be returning anytime soon. Did we expect too much? We have shared some amazing dining experiences, such as our First Wedding Anniversary lunch last October at The French Laundry, but we are hardly food snobs. Last year I took my husband to Michael Mina and had a much more memorable experience there. And about a month ago, we dined at Winterland and were wowed by the creative dishes and would love to go back to all. At $300+, we should have been falling over our feet happy but weve had more satisfying meals at Park Chow for $30.