Posted by Degan on November 21st, 2011
On the heels of posting about Pegu Club, I supposed I may as well post about wd-50 as well. It’s only been a year and a half! Good thing I have good notes. We had found out about wd-50 from Tailor, the first time we were in New York, and I fell in love with both their menu and their octopus bathroom so it was top of the list (okay after Per Se) for the return trip. It’s got a Michelin star, a brilliant chef – Wylie Dufresne – and is still one of the most interesting and enjoyable meals I have had.
I don’t know why we were debating the tasting menu. Probably because it was our last night in New York and we had had many epic dinners, at Per Se and Aldea and etc. and many cocktails and many, many – too many – beers with firemen on St. Patrick’s Day. But it was our last night in New York! How can you not end with a grand molecular gastronomy tasting menu?
And so it began – with a dish of cod, rutabaga, sea urchin and parsley. It was light and delicate, like licking your lips after a day at the seaside in winter.
The next dish was much heavier but felt so true to New York, even after just a week. It was an “everything bagel” made out of ice cream! and topped with sesame and poppy seeds. On the side was a tube of crispy, fried cream cheese, smoked salmon threads and micro-greens. The flavouring of this was perfect. It tasted just like a a bagel with lox but visually you couldn’t tell where the flavours were coming from. On its own, the bagel tasted like oil, the cheese tasted like fried batter and the fish was just weird but when it came together there was magic. So cool.
It was my second time back in New York – we were there for my sister’s 30th birthday – and it felt like so many people I knew were in town with us. My friend Dan came and had dinner with us, and after we went to PDT, were we ran into Nadia. Lauren was at Milk & Honey and planning to meet up with us later and we had just had so much epic fun that week. We were worn out but still so happy.
And I would have still been happy if they hadn’t brought out the foie gras next. A wheel of foie gras garnished with Chinese celery accompanied by passion fruit sand. The foie was thick and buttery and both the flavour and texture of the passion fruit was a welcome contrast. Tart and sweet and gritty it was again not something you’d necessarily want to eat on your own but paired with the celery and foie it was excellent. Chinese celery has a stronger taste than the celery we’re used to, so the flavours were strongly of animal, vegetable and fruit. It went very well with the wine.
The dishes were so interesting and so unlike each other that we had the distinct impression that the chef was playing with his creations. We had molecular eggs benny (pictured top) with geléed yolks and Hollandaise croquemsies; cold fried chicken with buttermilk ricotta, Tabasco sauce and caviar; Bearnaise balls in beef broth and lamb loin, black garlic Romesco sauce, soybeans and pickled garlic chives. Not all the dishes were winners. I can barely remember the Bearnaise balls. But I was so fascinated by what was being done with food and flavours and textures that I hardly cared.
Aside from the octopus bathroom, the room and the storefront are nondescript. It could be any other busy Lower East Side Restaurant but it was bustling and the staff were very friendly. Our server chided me on not being able to finish my desserts(s) but why are there always so many desserts?! I was stuffed to the brim at this point and the thought of having four sugary, rich courses was making me groan. I guess I am a bad sport, or spoiled. The pastry chef’s name is Malcolm Livingston II and the desserts were as inventive as the savoury dishes.
Thankfully the first was light and refreshing, although a full-size serving rather than a palate cleanser. Vanilla-mango ice cream was served with yuzu and spruce oil. This dish interested me at the time, because of the citrus and evergreen components, and also because I’d been obsessed with cedar infused cocktails from Tailor (NYC) and David Wolowidnyk (Vancouver).
The second dessert course was a dense hazelnut tart with coconut, chocolate and chicory. It was rich and tasted like fall in New York but I was too full to appreciate it at that point. The caramelized brioche with apricot, buttercream and lemon thyme was better but still very rich although the play between the buttercream and brioche textures and the lemon and thyme flavours was perfectly balanced. We ended the meal with these “leather” cocoa packets filled with chocolate dirt and Oreo truffles with a shot of espresso. The truffles were good and rich, delectable little bites of Oreo cookie, but the cocoa packets were incredible. Smooth envelopes of edible black leather were sealed but when torn open they were full of black chocolate malt dirt. Delicious. I’m not normally a chocolate fan but these were not very sweet at all and I loved both the concept and the flavour.
The next day we were stuck in the airport for 12 hours trying to get a flight out so the dining went downhill fast after wd-50. At any rate, I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat the entire week after I got home, but it was so worth it.