WD-50, the new menu
August 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
Finally, a moment to catch my breath. I’m so behind on posting all the restaurants from this glorious NYC summer but thought it’d be nice to start with one of my favorite meals, the new tasting menu at WD-50 by Wylie Dufresne. It was surprisingly easy to get a reservation on relatively short notice and proved to be a good bonding experience with fellow food-obsessed summers and the odd associate.
To start, we began with some sesame crisps and an excellent beer from Brooklyn Brewery/Amacord called AMA Bionda recommended by our kickass server James, who was knowledgeable and great at explaining each of our dishes to us throughout the night without being dull or pretentious. In fact, the restaurant as a whole had a very casual atmosphere that didn’t leave you feeling self-conscious like at some other “fine-dining” establishments.
On to the real food! Our first course: mackerel, nigiri, salsify, seaweed and sesame. Nigiri, but not. The salsify, a root vegetable, was blitzed in a food processor and then mixed with hazelnut oil and other binders so it assumed the familiar texture of sushi rice and was blanketed with a pristine piece of cured fish. Gorgeous, isn’t it? It was a pretty compelling bite and even after 11 more courses, remained Christine’s favorite of the night.
Next: lobster roe, charred lemon, green grape, coriander-brown butter. Roe usually brings to mind fish eggs, but here, I believe it was pounded, spread into sheets, steamed, and cut into strands of “pasta.” Initially, it seems a bit gimmicky, but the sea flavors of the roe do come through and pair very well with the rich lobster, sweet grape, biting lemon and slightly nutty brown butter.
Course #3: pho gras, a luxurious play on the Vietnamese comfort food. Off center lay a generous slice of foie gras, accompanied by rice noodles and the usual pho accompaniments – hoisin, sriracha, lime juice. As the server poured the broth, the foie gras slowly slid into the bowl and the air was filled with star anise, cinnamon, and other traditional Asian spices. It strongly reminded me of the smells emanating from my mom’s kitchen when she makes her Chinese five spice pork belly. The deep fried bit of beef tendon, a fun take on the traditional chicharron, was a nice contrast with the silky liver and slippery noodles. This dish and the following were probably my favorite savory dishes due to their comfort level yet refinement.
Next up, amaro yolk, chicken confit, peas n’ carrots, another creative and mind-blowing take on comfort food. There were a lot of comments at the table about its striking similarity to chicken pot pie and I definitely had to agree. I still dream about this yolk sometimes, which stayed perfectly intact (no whites) until you eagerly busted it open with your fork and it had a thicker, richer texture than your typical duck egg yolk. The chicken confit was packed with flavor and very tender, but honestly, you could not get my mind off that yolk. Even the ingenious take on “peas,” which were carrots covered in dehydrated pea powder would not distract me.
Veal brisket, za’atar, plum, and mustard. The veal was very thinly sliced and came with scallions, plums, and interesting mustard wafers, which melted on the tongue after the first crunchy bite. The za’atar, a mix of Middle Eastern herbs and spices, went nicely with the rest of the dish and didn’t overpower the almost delicate brisket.
The next dish, though still delicious, was probably one of my least favorites, most likely due to the kaffir-yogurt (which Bert likened to bathroom sanitizer, in a good way). It certainly took a while to get used to and I think it was almost on the verge of drowning out the flavor of the sweet peekytoe crab and delicate rice puffs.
Another dish – sole, black licorice pil pil, fried green tomato, and fennel – that threw me off but was nonetheless very well executed. The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly and I loved the crunch of the somewhat random little fried green tomato. The two pil pil sauces (originating from the Basque region of Spain), a classic and then a black licorice take, balanced against the anise-y flavor of the pickled fennel and fennel fronds. I was pretty skeptical about this dish before trying it because of the licorice element, but with each additional bite, it started to grow on me.
Lamb sweet breads, nasturtium-buttermilk, zucchini, pistachio. I’d just had some amazing “buffalo” sweet breads at Recette about a week before, so the bar was high for these babies and Dufresne did not disappoint. I still have no idea how the dish was put together and what exactly a nasturtium is (flower maybe?), but everything melded beautifully, with the creaminess of the sweet breads contrasted against the crunch of the pistachio brittle.
Root beer ribs, rye spaetzle, and apricot. Overwhelmed with deliciousness yet? Well, here’s the last savory dish, a no-holds-barred heritage pork rib that’s been bound into a cylinder, smoked, and then drizzled with that root beer infused pork jus. This is meat at the highest level. The rye spaetzle served as a very earthy foundation and the sweetness of the dried apricot only served to bring out further the smokiness of the pork. Heaven.
Whew. Time for a pre-dessert palate cleanser – jasmine, cucumber, honeydew, chartreuse. Pastry chef Malcolm Livingstone’s first creation left us feeling ultimately refreshed, composed of chartreuse foam, a frozen film of cucumber, an almost bacon-y tasting cashew crumble, and then, after cracking the cucumber ice, more jasmine cream, honeydew and chartreuse, and cucumber ice cream. Wow.
Official dessert #1 was the dish of yuzu milk ice, hazelnut, rhubarb, and basil. Basil puree, strawberry and citrus reduction, hazelnut crumble, and on top, the lightest, fluffiest-looking yuzu ice cream ever. Which slowly worked our way up to…
The most outrageous, most ridiculously indulgent approach to s’mores that I’ve ever seen. Vaguely remember a lot of “wtf’s” and “omg’s” happening at the table as these were set down in front of us. I may have also blacked out briefly after the first bite. Two sauces – one, an acidic black currant sauce and the other, a chili hot cocoa – and generous shmears of torched meringue around the edge of the plate. In the center, the graham cracker and meringue ice cream, whipped and airy on the inside and torched and crisped on the outside so it really resembled and tasted like a toasted marshmallow, but on steroids.
Finally, the perfect end to a helluva meal – a single bite of gjetost, a Scandinavian whey cheese, surrounded by a thin shell of white chocolate and coated with tart raspberry. At this point, I would’ve been happy to just pass the eff out with my stomach full of, in my mind, the world’s most delicious food, but through Bert’s name-dropping, we managed to also finagle a tour of the kitchen.
The shot of chefs plating at the pass is probably my favorite from the entire evening (though the one directly above is a close second, thanks to Christine for the photo!). The kitchen was still manically plating dishes during our tour, so we had to make sure we kept out of the way, but it was stunning to see the inner workings of a top restaurant kitchen. In the end, we all had a truly amazing, memorable time and could not thank the chefs at WD-50 and especially our awesome server, James, enough! If WD-50 is on your list (and it better be), make your reservations ASAP! There’s also a menu called “From the Vault” which offers 5 courses for $75 (the 12 course tasting was $155), comprised of classic WD-50 dishes.
50 Clinton Street
New York, NY