Gary Danko

800 North Point at Hyde Street, San Francisco, United States

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This is one of San Francisco’s top dining destinations, and booking a table was a major project in itself. Once you finally make it, you can relax in a quite smart setting surprisingly near Fisherman’s Wharf, better known for cheap T shirt shops. People seem to dress up smartly for dinner here, a rare thing in California, though there is no formal dress code I am aware of. The dining room is fairly intimate, and had a particularly beautiful display of orchids on my visit. Amuse-bouche was a dish of mussels, clam, rock shrimp and baby squid in cold green pasta flavoured with basil (14/20) followed by a excellent warm blinis of smoked salmon with crème fraiche and caviar (17/20). Bread was simple and pleasant sourdough (15/20).

A starter of crab salad was shaped into a circular tower, topped with grapefruit, baby leaves and a ring of dried apple crisp. The crab was of high quality but was plain and perhaps would have benefited from a dressing. The salad leaves were fresh, and there were two smears of tarragon mayonnaise as dressing (16/20). Ahi tuna was seared and prettily presented in the shape of a butterfly. This was resting in a very fine citrus sauce, along with pieces of avocado and some superfluous enoki mushrooms and a few salad leaves; the balance of the citrus dressing was dazzling, having just the right level of acidity to balance the dish (18/20).

My two scallops were unfortunately cooked for a little too long, being distinctly crisp and served with some rather salty shiitake mushrooms (14/20). This dish lacked colour that a few salad leaves could easily have provided. The overcooking of the scallops was a rather surprising glitch from the kitchen tonight. A further amouse-bouche of chopped mushrooms topped with artichokes had too much lemon juice even for me, though it had good salad leaves (15/20).

My wife’s salmon comprised two medallions of wild salmon, cooked very well, moist at the centre and with a lightly browned horseradish crust. This rested on a bed of very finely diced carrots and very fresh cucumber pickled with dill. There were also five pods of edamame beans and a light mustard sauce (17/20). My quail was cooked pink and was stuffed with foie gras and wild mushrooms in a simple jus (16/20). We skipped the cheese board, since in the US it is so difficult to get unpasteurised cheese, and the board did not look that appealing to me.

A pre-dessert of passion fruit sorbet was only pleasant (16/20). Pineapple coconut Napoleon was three layers of puff pastry (the top one glazed) with a filling of pineapple cream and finely chopped pineapple flavoured with vanilla. There was also a carpaccio of pineapple topped with a classy coconut sorbet. This was all extremely good, the fruit very fresh, the pastry light (18/20). My passion fruit cake had reasonable texture but lacked real passion fruit taste, and was served with vanilla ice cream and two raspberries as garnish (14/20).

Coffee was good. It was served with petit fours as follows: a caramelised stack of nuts, a red jelly, a mini chocolate brownie, a chocolate tart, a raspberry tart and a caramelised orange (17/20). The wine list was extensive with conventional mark-ups, but the food prices were quite fair. Service was superb.

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User comments

  • Name unavailable

    Ate here a few weeks ago and I think it's safe to say that over the past seven years since your last visit the restaurant has made a gradual transition from a "destination restaurant" to an "institution." This place was packed with energy on a Saturday night with not an empty seat in the house and a noise level to match. Great wait staff. Decent if unspectacular (or maybe risk-free) food, I'd rate it a good "American one-star" with the caveat that it offers so many dishes a la carte (>30) I'd have to make several trips back before I really could judge. They have about as good of a chance losing their star as they do gaining a second one (i.e. very small either way). Overall a thumbs up here but I'd give my dinner the night before at Benu a (very) slight edge over these guys. Worth a visit.

  • J.J. Stives

    In a city with more restaurants per capita than any other, I found this to be one of the more remarkably over rated restaurants I have ever dined in. Granted I was only there once and I was alone, but compared to what else is available in SFO, I would not go back. The cuisine was 5/10 at best. As another review notes, what is going on elsewhere is more distinctive, more innovative, more carefully executed. Would I go back? Why bother?

  • John

    Ron Siegal, formerly at Masa now at the Ritz, was cooking at a much higher level than Gary Danko when I last sampled the two side by side a few years back.