Thursday, June 23, 2005

My wife, Merritt, has experienced many of the great restaurants San Francisco has to offer. But she'd never been to Gary Danko which just this year surpassed Boulevard as the #1 restaurant in the city. Last night I took her there as a surprise for her birthday. Not only was the food, service and presentation excellent but there were little touches that placed it above its peers.

We sat at the bar and had a drink as we waited for our table. We were early and our table was availabe at exactly 8pm our reservation time. The interior decor is reminiscent of Chicago-style: dark lighting and warm wooden tones, but not heavy or oppressive. The art pieces were striking without being showy.

For appetizer Merritt had Lobster Salad with Avocado Mousse, Papaya, Mango and Madras Curry Vinaigrette; and I had Risotto with Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Maitake Mushrooms, Patty Pan Squash, Marjoram Oil. Mine was a rather large serving for an appetizer and it was oustanding.

For entree Merritt had Pan Seared Beef Filet with Wild Nettle Risotto, Asparagus, and Morel Mushrooms; and I had Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb with Israeli Cous Cous, Yellow Zucchini and Garam Masala. This was a relatively smaller portion but still more than enough and just as delicious.

For dessert Merritt had Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces; and I had Chocolate Hazelnut Crispy with Coffee Cream and Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet. I liked mine slightly more, definitely a chocolate-lover's nirvana.

Our service felt more intimate than at Boulevard's. Our waiter was putting on a show every time he came by and made us feel special. One of the nice touches was that he took our valet parking ticket and said it would be added to the check and that the ticket would then be returned to our table once the car was outside the door so we wouldn't have to wait out in the sidewalk. Another was that they gave an extra plate of sweet goodies with the words "Happy Birthday" on the plate - I had only mentioned that the occassion was a birthday once to the reservationist.

All in all a very special experience.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I also saw Howl's Moving Castle a few weeks ago and I liked it. I hesitate to recommend it unless you're a fan of animation. Miyazaki's movies of late have been pretty esoteric and altogether trippy.

Although I thought Howl's was relatively less 'out there' than Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. My favorite Miyazaki films are Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro which are more rooted in a traditional storytelling arc.

Still, I think Howl's themes and symbolism will reap many an interpretation and deep thought for years to come, which is part of what makes him such a riveting figure in contemporary animation. Plus, it's frickin beautiful to watch.