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Tasting Menu Crawl - Gary Danko – no!

Krys | May 17, 200502:40 AM


I have rarely been so bored … bored with the food, wine and ambiance.

The highlight of the night was when Al Gore and Tipper showed up. I love Al, but he’s not exactly Mr. Excitement. He’s looking good these days though.

Gary Danko is all style and little more. Gary Danko is a tourist trap … a high class, upscale expensive fisherman’s wharf tourist trap, but TT, none the less. I suppose if the hottest restaurant in town is Olive Garden, I’d be impressed. The other half of the crowd seemed to be San Franciscans with more money than taste. The Tommy Toy crowd.

The five course tasting menu ($79) really wasn’t. It was just a selection off the regular menu. Wine pairing, the awful, uninspired wine pairing, was $45. Pours were skimpy. I doubt you could say I had a full glass over all five courses.

There was the option of: 3 Courses $59:: 4 Courses $69 :: 5 Courses $79. As mentioned, the only difference between the tasting menu and the 5 course meal was that you had the option of picking what to eat. It was nice that you could mix and match. If you wanted three appetizers, an entrée and dessert … that was fine. Any combo would do. Have it your way.

The few things I liked were:
- The staff
- The Mozzarella Company of Texas goat cheese wrapped in Hoya Santa leaves

A nice cheese, but the exciting thing about this to me was there was a recent discussion of this herb which supposedly has a sassafras / root beer taste. I was planning to go to Cowgirl creamery to pick some up. Saved me the trip.

If this was the 1980’s, I was 18 and my date took me here, I’d be impressed. It just reminded me too much of an old style continental restaurant where you were served snails and fillet mignon.

So, I had the snails and beef.

I didn’t take notes and the snail dish was new as of last week so it is not on the website.

Amuse bouché: lobster cream with lavender cream, two rock shrimp … bitter, not in a good way.

Bread: Bay Bread rustic sour dough thinly sliced. Butter was hard. At the Ritz, the butter was the proper temperature for spreading. It was replaced during the evening with fresh correct temperature butter. That is one of the many touches that makes the Ritz great. The butter and bread I could buy around the corner summed up GD’s lack of detail. I like Bay Bread. However, if a restaurant of that supposed caliber won’t bake its own bread, then use Acme.


Snails on mashed potatoes topped with greens and some sort of cilantro based salsa strewn with mushrooms.

Nothing came together. Ok, it was some sort of potato pancake thingy, but it boiled down to mashed potatoes. Snails were fine, if not memorable … which can be a good thing in an escargot … they were not too chewy and having no flavor, were unoffensive.

Fish and Seafood

Roast Maine Lobster with Morels Mushrooms, Asparagus and Tarragon

Does it SAY there are more mashed potatoes involved? … no … but the baby lobster tail sat on a bed of mashed potatoes. Lobster was ok. The tail was cut in half, lobster removed and then put back in the shell for easier eating. Totally forgettable tastes in everything.

Meat and Game Birds

Pan Seared Beef Filet with Wild Nettle Risotto, Asparagus, and Morel Mushrooms

As good a dish as any I’ve had in the 80’s.


The do get credit for the cheese course, but it was ungenerous. Four micro pieces with thinly sliced walnut bread and out of season red grapes. Yes, I know grapes go with cheese. Can we be a little more creative?

I had a nice herb crusted fleur de Marquis and discovered that herby cheese like this go well with marsala. There was a nice unpasturized Amish Blue and another creamy blue from Massachusetts, but I’m blanking on the name.

There were about a dozen carefully selected cheeses. Talking to one of the staff, he said that the majority change ever day. Nice, but you were getting pieces only slightly bigger than the free samples at the Cheeseboard.


Strawberries with White Chocolate Mousse, Balsamic Ice Cream and Buttermilk Panna Cotta

This was one of those three ways to present strawberries desserts … tasteless strawberries at the height of strawberry season. The memorable dish for me at GD will be the memorably bad balsamic ice cream. It was like eating pure frozen balsamic vinegar, awful. It was a waste of good (?) balsamic and sliver of tasteless strawberry.

The mousse had some sort of overly sweet ladyfinger type cookie on top. The panna cotta in a teeny glass, was ok. I’ve had better recently at Nizza la Bella.

Plate of candies and cookies

About a dozen … from Costco? The raspberry jelly had the taste of a Whitman sampler jelly. The two sugared nuts were nice. Slightly better quality … slightly … than McDonald’s new sugared nuts.

There was a nicely wrapped parting pineapple sponge cake. Too cloyingly sweet.

The pacing of the meal was the worst. I waited and waited between courses. Good thing I had a book. I got A LOT of reading done. ALmost finished the book ... War and Peace.

Despite their “men in black’ outfits and funeral demeanor, the staff was really very pleasant.

The room is dimly lit and very Manhattan in the 1980’s chic. A gazillion page wine list (a few wines from India … the next hot wine region?). Chatting with the bartender, it seems they have some interesting and very old wines. I will say that the prices for the bottles and glasses was reasonable. Half glasses were also available. But … it’s too dark to see your wine properly.

The room is noisy as well. I was getting a headache after a while from the din.

There are questions often on the board about Gary Danko or French Laundry. Gary Danko doesn’t belong in the same league. While the flavors did not inspire me at FL, there was an attention to quality and creativity. GD cost a third less than FL and The Dining Room at the Ritz. You get what you pay for.

Not really. Go to Boulevard. I may not be a fan of Boulevard, but at least the ingredients are top quality. You will get a more delicious meal and better bang for your buck. I mean, go to Piperade … even Slanted Door. I have a new low in upscale dining.

My tasting menu crawl preferences to date:

The Dining Room at the Ritz
The French Laundry (can you believe that)
Gary Danko

A restaurant like this is packed while a restaurant like Bizou closes. Maybe SF isn’t such a serious food city after all.


Ya think it was an off night?


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