Tag Archives: fine-dining

[SF] Fine-dining at Gary Danko

**I apologize for the colors looking so off.  My camera has limitations, especially in low-light environments like Gary Danko.

On one of my last days in the Bay Area, I had a chance to dine at Gary Danko, one of the most famous restaurants in San Francisco and recipient of a Michelin Star in 2012. My friend actually made our reservations a month ahead, and even then the only Fri/Sat night reservation we could get was for 9:30pm.. So, if you’re interested in this place, make reservations early!

The restaurant is located in the Embarcadero district of the City, about a block away from Ghiradelli Square. There’s valet parking for $11, but there was also street parking available a few minutes away. We arrived a bit early, so our table wasn’t quite ready, so we hung out in the bar area, and I ordered a cocktail.  I actually can’t remember what it was called, but I asked for something fruity, and this was cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, vodka, and maybe something else?

Without waiting too long, we were seated at our table.  The place setting was not my favorite; maybe I just think the gold color looks tacky.

Fruity cocktail ($11) and place setting

We were provided with a lovely amuse-bouche, a butternut squash soup.  I usually don’t like butternut squash because it’s so sweet, but this was actually very well-balanced.

Amuse-bouche: butternut squash soup

The menus arrived, and it was a bit overwhelming at first.  There were five categories: appetizers, fish & seafood, meats & game birds, cheese, and desserts.  Our waiter kindly explained how the dinner selection works: you can basically pick a 3-, 4-, or 5-course meal, composed of any selection ($71, $89, and $104, respectively).  You could even get 5 meat dishes if you wanted (although they do portion them according to the course, and it’s not recommended by the waiter).  I decided to stick with one from each category and ordered five courses.


Foie gras with Red Wine Reduction, Butter Lettuce Salad

I decided to have foie gras since the statewide ban is quickly approaching.  It was a pretty big piece of foie, which was a pleasant surprise.  The flavors were really nice, but perhaps a bit too strong for an appetizer (personal preference).

Crispy Farm Egg with White Polenta, Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, Frisée and Pancetta

This was a very lovely dish.  The egg was perfect – crispy on the outside, fried to a beautiful golden brown, with a soft yolk.  The salad and polenta were light and paired with the egg nicely.  Overall a very inspiring dish, full of creativity.

Fish & Seafood:

Seared Sea Scallops with Butternut Squash Purée, Shimeji Mushrooms, Apples, Caramelized Cauliflower and Tarragon

It has been a long time since I’ve had scallops, and these amazing scallops make me wonder why I don’t order it more often.  They are so good.  And again, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the butternut squash puree – maybe I do like butternut squash, after all…

Herb Crusted Tuna with Citrus Braised Endive, Sunchoke Purée and Anchovy Essence

I was attracted to the idea of this dish very much, but it ended up tasting like just seared tuna that I’ve had before.. pretty much anywhere that didn’t mess it up.  Which doesn’t mean it’s bad; I guess I just expected something more.

Herb Crusted Lamb Loin with Cannellini Beans, Braised Lamb Shoulder, Barley, and Cumin Mint Yogurt

I’m sometimes wary of lamb because if not properly done, it has that gamey taste.  Some people like it, but it’s not for me.  However, the lamb here was cooked perfectly.  The cumin mint yogurt was awesome.  Cumin + lamb is a classic for me, maybe because they are commonly used together in Chinese cuisine, so I was very impressed with the Western version of cumin-seasoned lamb.

Seared Filet of Beef with Bacon-Potato "Risotto", Cassis-Shallot Marmalade and Stilton Butter

I liked this dish, but I must admit that I’m not sophisticated enough to actually fully appreciate all of the components of this dish.  To me, it just felt like a really good piece of filet atop really good chunky mashed potatoes.  (Or maybe that’s the way the diner is supposed to feel.  I never know with the high-end restaurants what they’re going for..)

Roasted Pork Belly and Tenderloin with Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Parsnip Purée and Maple-Cider Reduction

There really hasn’t been a pork belly that I’ve hated, and this one is exceptionally delicious.  It has both of my favorite pairings with pork: apple and maple.  Maple on pork is one of my favorite flavor combos ever – in fact, I have been pouring maple syrup on sausage patties before it was “in”, so needless to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying the trend.


A Selection of Farmhouse and Artisanal Cheeses Presented Tableside, Served with Grapes and Cranberry Bread

For the two of us at the table who ordered cheese plates, we were presented with a cart full of at least 20 different selections, categorized by type of milk and flavor intensity.  We each chose five – I can’t remember the exact name of all of them, but I do remember my favorite: the Cowgirl Creamery Triple-Cream.  I’m relatively new to the art of cheese appreciation, so it was mostly just the fun of trying out all the different cheeses that I’ve never had before.


Trio of Crème Brûlée with Assorted Cookies

There was definitely enough crème brûlée for all five of us at the table.  The flavors were (clockwise from left): coffee, vanilla, and chocolate, and there were chocolate and oatmeal cookies as well as a pine nut biscotti.  My favorite was of course vanilla, the “boring old” classic, and I liked the biscotti together with the chocolate crème brûlée.

Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces

Soufflé is possibly the greatest dessert ever invented.  I’ve made it once successfully, but I’m still too scared to work with chocolate.  Anyway, it was amazing.  Soft and rich and fluffy and warm.  We asked for both the vanilla and chocolate sauces, but I think vanilla alone would have been enough – the chocolate sauce almost overpowered the soufflé itself.  But why am I even criticizing?  I still would have gobbled down the entire thing by myself, if I didn’t have four other dining companions…

Overall, I think it’s pretty clear that I had a wonderful time here.  The food was some of the best that I’ve ever had, the atmosphere was great, and I was in the company of some pretty awesome friends.  It will be one of my favorite memories of San Francisco, for sure.

Gary Danko
800 North Point St., San Francisco, CA
(415) 749-2060

M-Su  5:30pm-10pm (Dinner); 5pm-12am (Bar)

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[Las Vegas] Fleur at Mandalay Bay

**All photos from this post are courtesy of ekimc.

My first catch-up post is from waaaaaay back.  As in, Thanksgiving of 2011.  I spent my holiday in Las Vegas with S., our college buddies, and friends from San Diego.  It was a pretty exciting weekend, but this blog is about the food ;)

We decided to have a nice meal for our “Thanksgiving Dinner”, and after shopping around several places, I chose Fleur by Hubert Keller as our restaurant.  Since we had a large group (16 people), almost every place directed us to Group Dining, and Fleur seemed to be the most reasonable and affordable option.

The restaurant is located in Mandalay Bay.  I don’t know anything about Las Vegas or any of its hotels, and I don’t really remember much about Mandalay Bay except that it was kind of hard to find the restaurant.  We were seated in a semi-private booth (there were curtains that we could draw to isolate our long table).

Chandelier over our table

We had a somewhat pre-set menu: appetizer (two choices), entree (two choices), dessert (tiramisu).

Our menu

Onto the food.  Due to strategic planning, I was able to try some of everything, hehe.

Ahi tuna tartar with shaved fennel slaw and ginger ponzu

I liked the texture of the fennel slaw with the tuna, and really enjoyed the refreshing ponzu sauce.

Onion soup "shooter" with velouté and truffle oil

I was expecting the soup in a shot glass and was quite surprised when it arrived in such a large plate.  The server explained that they increased the portion for us since we were dining on their prix fixe menu.  Although it had a great flavor, the soup was very creamy and heavy – I think a bit too much for an appetizer, at least for me.

Braised short rib with honey coriander glazed carrot and warm potato salad

The braised short rib was a delightful, beautifully-cooked piece of meat.  I read somewhere that ever since the economic downturn, chefs have been getting creative and using other pieces of meat that are cheaper and less popular – such as the short rib.  I’ve always loved short rib so I’m very happy to see the increase in its popularity!  Overall, I really liked all the parts of this dish, especially the carrot (but then, I love glazed carrots so I am pretty biased.  The “warm potato salad” turned out to be mashed potatoes, which were super light and fluffy.

Slow roasted Alaskan halibut with braised leek, sweet corn, and vegetable bouquet

The halibut was perfectly cooked, with a crispy skin and really nice flavors.  The vegetable bouquet was not as memorable – I didn’t particularly enjoy the combination of asparagus + bell pepper (too much crunch?).

Tiramisu with chocolate and orange-raspberry biscotti

I’m kind of a sucker for tiramisu, although S. always says that they taste similar everywhere.  Maybe we haven’t had REALLY GOOD tiramisu yet.  This was actually not really like a tiramisu at all.. I was really missing the strong espresso and rum flavors.  The cream-to-sponge cake/ladyfinger ratio was also too high.  The biscotti, however, were crunchy and had a great flavor combo (I love chocolate + orange), and I ended up enjoying the biscotti more than the tiramisu.

The group dining priced the dinner set at $65/person.  Throw in 20% gratuity, tax, and a $125 fee for the entire group, it came down to about $90/person.  Considering the fact that it was Las Vegas, and we had a large group, and it’s Hubert Keller’s restaurant, I’d say that it was pretty worth it.  Have you ever been here, or Fleur de Lys in San Francisco? Let me know what you think!

Fleur by Hubert Keller

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An occasional splurge: Four Square

A good friend of mine and I decided to visit Four Square, a really nice restaurant in Durham, to celebrate the fact that we’re saved from the bad economy for the next five to seven years! :D I’ve heard about Four Square for a long time now, but there’s never been an occasion.

Unfortunately, I was at work all day and went straight to dinner, so there was no time to grab my camera. I know y’all, I have not had any photos for a long time, so I’m really sorry… but! They have lots of pretty photos on their website and blog, so please check out those links – and if you get the chance, of course, visit the restaurant, too! Continue reading

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