Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Danko.

My future mother-in-law turned 65 recently. When we asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she answered that she would like us to take her to Gary Danko.

At first I thought maybe this meant we were going to a magic show or a motivational speaking engagement. It turns out that Gary Danko is the eponymous restaurant of a chef who is so confident in his own skill that he need not be concerned by the fact that his name is about as appetizing as a prison dungeon or a movie villain.

Danko is force to be reckoned with. It demands two months' notice for reservations, a large sum of money and a willingness to dine at an establishment whose chef has a logo. We knew, and embraced, the fact that we were going to pay a lot of money ($130 a person, it turned out) for one meal. We hoped, quietly and nervously, that we would not be culinarily hijacked.

And Danko was kind to us. The service was impeccable, the food glorious and the bathrooms equipped with shoe buffers and a feng-shui fountain. I tasted risotto, foie gras, a vegetable tart, various cheeses, lobster, salmon medallions, bananas flambe and a very good pinot noir.

It was necessary to point out how great everything was, earnestly and assiduously, throughout our meal. Why? Because having a meal like that is like going to a movie. You don't break the frame. You decide to believe: believe in micro-cilantro, believe in $2,800 bottles of burgundy, believe in the amuse bouche, believe in Mobil Star ratings. To do otherwise is to let in the notion that what you are doing is vaguely obscene, and perhaps foolish. So we say things like "It's amazing how you can tell the difference with a true quality wine," and "Other places are kind of a rip-off, but this is really worth it," and "This is the best [insert dish here] I have tasted in my entire life!!"

All these things may even be true -- but anyway, they have to be. At Danko you have to shut an eye, open your wallet and bask in the experience. You also have to try not to imagine actual dollar bills being cleared from the table when you fail to finish your dish or beverage. When you discover later that the flawless $100 bottle of pinot is readily available from the vintner for $42, your only consolation is to remind yourself that in the moment, you allowed yourself to believe that it tasted like $100 wine. And it tasted good.

3 comments :

KPC said...

In the late 90s, some friends wanted to start a dinner club, and our first outing was to an expensive and famous NYC restaurant. It was a horrible experience because I kept thinking, "this costs a fortune, you have to have the best time." The high price detracted from my experience.

That, and the sommelier who kept fighting with one of our friends.

Christina said...

Hahahah -- that's funny about the sommelier. The Danko people were really nice and unpretentious -- but as my boyfriend just said: "it's just weird to be treated so 'special'"

pbdotc said...

lara and i hooked up a bobby van porterhouse last night it was pricey but not danko pricey. and like half of it's still in the fridge. in fact i can hear it call... gotta go.