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Aug 11, 2006 03:26 PM

Gary Danko at seven - backstage at the show

Gary Danko celebrates its seventh anniversary this week.

The Contra Costa Times had a good review this week with a little about the craft that goes into Danko's food. It actually made me think I might give Danko a second chance.

I had a less than impressive visit little over a year ago. My impression was that this restaurant was just phoning it in. They had the formula down and were cruising.

However, reading a little about how some of the dishes are prepared gave me a new interest. Nicholas Boer writes ...

"Sous chef Kolin Vazzoler likes to take two days to caramelize the red onions served with the seared foie gras, but burner space is at a premium at Gary Danko, so he often has to settle for an eight-hour braise in butter, balsamic vinegar, honey, veal stock and thyme"

Wow, settle for eight hours. If I ever took an hour to caramelize onions it was because I forgot they were on the stove.

There is info about how the fat in fois gras can develop an off flavor in high heat so the fat is removed as it is seared in a dry pan. The fava beans might just be from Danko's personal garden.

Anyway, this review armed with Chowhound hints since that visit (big thanks to Morton the Mousse) may cause me to drop in at Danko's next time I'm in the area.

CC Times on Gary Danko's

Gary Danko Website (without flash

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  1. I'm not convinced -- Danko himself admits to not having worked in his own kitchen for several years now. It is staid with an unchanging menu and with so many other chefs in this city actually inventing new dishes, I find little to draw me back to Danko.

    Would love to hear otherwise though!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Carrie 218

      What would draw me back is the cheese cart. But I can go for that alone and sit in the bar. Danko produces some solid dishes. They do not excite me but they are good and reliable. The kind of place I would take my conservative grandmother and know she will like it and be reasonably impressed. I find all the hype about this place to be a bit much though.

      And if not working the line in your own kitchen is a downside, crickey! You would have to throw out almost every high-end chef in the city. Most taste and expedite. Certainly they create but they have others do the actual cooking.

      1. re: chaddict

        There's a difference between "not having worked in his own kitchen" and "not working *the line* in your own kitchen." Yeah, most name chefs don't work the line, but most of them do work in the kitchen in some capacity: supervising, doing quality control, developing or tweaking dishes, etc. at least semi-regularly (even Thomas Keller supposedly video conferences with Per Se every day when he's at French Laundry).

        Not sure which, if either, of those descriptions applies to Danko.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          My understanding of "worked in his kitchen" means prep and/or cooking. I do know that when Danko did a private dinner not too long ago he was in the there himself, "working the kitchen." I was a bit impressed when I heard that because a lot of chefs will send a sous to do a little party. Maybe it was a VIP of the restaurant.

    2. The menu changes seasonally.

      There's a lot to be said for perfecting certain dishes and sticking with them, especially given that farmers and ranchers keep growing the same old plants and animals.

      1. I stand by my claim that the three course menu of seared foie, beef tenderloin and chocolate souffle is the best high-end value in the city. Most restaurants charge you supplements for all three of those dishes but at Danko you get good portions of all three for just $60. I've been less impressed when I've veered from this formula.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          I would agree that GD is one of the best fine dining values at $60. They've increased their prices a bit in the past year, but it's still a decent value. I would pick the same appetizer and dessert, but would usually get one of the quail/squab dishes instead of the beef.

          1. re: Cary

            I visited a year ago and had a 5 course tasting. Although the dishes were solid only the pan seared scallop served on a bed of leeks and mushrooms stood out for me. The pea puree it was served on complemented very well for me. The cheese course didn't do it for me. I like cheese, but I'm no connoisseur of fine cheeses, would def. skip if I went back. Have to agree the chocolate souffle is great. 2 chocolate sauces poured into the souffle make this chocolicious. Personally wouldn't go back just to drop in, but for a nice dinner it's a good place to go; plus the service is impeccable.

        2. I have a sentimental attachment to Danko as my first high end restaurant, and it was perfect as that. I've visited at least once a year the last five years, and nothing much has changed, which is just as I like it. The appetizers are the best thing on the menu, and I often order more than one as part of my tasting. I'm not sure a seven year old restaurant can be hyped anymore, I think it's joined places like Boulevard and the Ritz as solid SF institutions.

          1. I've taken out of town guests there twice, and they continue to talk about it a year later. The food quality, preparation, and service has been impeccable.

            If you want Ame and go to Danko you will be disappointed, but if you find their menu appealing you will not.