I was a little nervous about our reservations for Gary Danko, a Michelin rated restaurant and listed on countless top 50 restaurants in the USA lists. I didn't pack any really nice clothes or any other shoes than my dirty Pumas. Then as we were driving to the restaurant, I remembered that I was in California and that the locales consider putting on an Ed Hardy shirt with plaid shorts as dressing up and I'd be fine in my button up shirt and jeans and sneakers. (After we were sat a customer was seated near us wearing a hoodie and hat, so I really had nothing to worry about.)
We ordered a few drinks and while we were looking over the very extensive menu, our amuse came. It was a fried piece of hen over potato salad. Now the potato salad was actually very good but the fried meat on top, which I would not be able to pick out of a meat line up, had a batter that reminded me of Van De Kamps Fish Sticks. Needless to say, this was not a good start.
As I said before, the menu is quite extensive. Probably the neatest part about Gary Danko is that the 3, 4, or 5 tasting menus are really up to the customer to create. Even though the selections are separated into starters, fish, meat, cheese and dessert, you can choose any combination you liked. If you want only fish, you can pick 5 fish dishes. Likewise if you only want dessert, then you can get 5 desserts.
After we all ordered, some very boring bread came to our plates. This didn't matter as I wasn't going to be dining on bread alone.
Abby started with the "Dungeness Crab Salad with Grapefruit, Asian Pears, Mint and Yuzu Rémoulade" and I went for the "Pancetta Wrapped Frog Legs with Garlic Purée, Potato, Lentils and Parsley". Both were great starters. Abby's had huge pieces of crabmeat and the Asian Pear was a nice touch. My frog legs were tiny, but was enough for a nice starter. The pancetta gave the frogs a nice salty bite and I had to try the hardest not to pick up the little legs and eat with my hands. I was given a small plate for my "refuse". (The waitress could have just said "bones" but she didn't. I don't know why I found this so funny, but I did.)
My brother-in-law's starter was the "Seared Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Nori, Enoki Mushrooms and Lemon Soy Dressing" and definitely had the best presentation of the night. The seared tuna was laid out like wings of a butterfly.
Next Abby got the "Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers and Mustard Sauce" and I went for the "Roasted Pork Belly and Tenderloin with Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Parsnip Purée and Maple Cider Glaze". The tenderloin was cooked perfectly and had great flavor, but the pork belly was the star of this plate. It had a nice seared crust and melted in my mouth. The only problem with my plate was the brussel sprouts and jalapenos that the pork was placed on. It just didn't make sense to me. The sprouts were cooked well and I can kinda get the fact that BBQ sometimes has hot sauce but the plate just seemed halfway there. Abby thought her salmon was "very good".
For our third course, Abby got the "Lemon Pepper Duck Breast with Duck Hash, Celery Root-Garlic Purée and Cardamom Poached Pears" and I got the "Seared Filet of Beef with Spaetzle, Butternut Squash, Crimini Mushrooms, Bone Marrow Butter and Shallot Marmalade". Abby's duck was fantastic, with the duck hash being the best part. My steak was cooked perfectly and the Spaetzle (a very fun word to say) was a nice side. I just couldn't taste the Bone Marrow Butter that I assume was melted over my steak. I think when I saw the menu, I just assumed a shank of roasted bone marrow was going to accompany the filet. Oh well, it was still a great dish and I was definitely getting full.
Our final course was next and Abby got the "Trio of Crme Brlée with Assorted Cookies" and I went for the "A Selection of Farmhouse and Artisanal Cheeses Presented Tableside". Abby's dessert portion was huge. I was expecting three shot glass sized creme brulee, but three full size desserts came out. They all had a great crispy top and Abby had no complaints. My brother-in-law got the same dessert and likewise was pleased with his choice. My sister went with the "French Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches with Three Sauces" which looked really cute on their plates. I would have just eaten them with my hands, but she tried to use the knife and fork and they just broke apart when she tried to cut them neatly. I had to go with the cheese though, because I saw the Gary Danko cheese cart earlier in the night and I really wanted a runny, stinky cheese to finish my meal. I forget the names of the cheeses I got, but I don't think I could have gone wrong with the selection.
Finally we were presented with a small plate of sweet treats and the ladies were given some sort of cheesecake treat to take home. While I was stuffed, I still ate most of the little desserts that varied from chocolate peanut butter to lemon squares.
I could easily see myself coming back to Gary Danko. There are endless combinations one can have while choosing their tasting menu. I'd love to taste the venison plate I saw or the red pumpkin soup. Overall, a very good dinner with great company. I give Gary Danko a 4 out of 5.
(Doesn't the name just make you want to scream, "Turtle Power!" No? Must just be me.) Anyway, Turtle Tower has the best Pho Ga I've ever had in the states. They specialize in Hanoi-style Pho, which means no bean sprouts and no hoisen sauce apparently. (This didn't surprise me after reading it on the menu because the best Pho Ga I've ever had was in Hanoi.) My sister and brother-in-law were raving about this place since we arrived and it was only after my mom gave it her seal of approval that I really wanted to try this place out. (My mom of course said that while the noodles were good, she believes she can get the same noodles in San Jose.) Anyway, the noodles were as good as advertised, though maybe a little softer than I would like. The broth though was incredible. So chicken-y (only way I can describe it) and so fresh. I only squeezed some lemon and added a small squirt of siracha. I love me some pho and this was one of the best bowls I've ever had. Immediately I was jealous that Turtle Tower was only a couple of blocks away from my sister's condo.
I give Turtle Tower a 4 out of 5.
On The Menu