Last Call at WD-50

December 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

After eleven years, on November 29, WD-50 had its last night of service at 50 Clinton Street and thanks to Wes who managed to snag tickets, some of us were lucky enough to experience Wylie’s Dufresne’s last 12 course tasting menu of his greatest hits with wine pairings. Having been here two times prior, this final meal was definitely the best of the three and I was also surprised by how much I loved the white wine pairings with certain dishes.

It was definitely a bittersweet night…Wylie was walking around talking to customers and our server was nice enough to arrange a kitchen tour and photo with the man himself. WD-50 was actually the first place where I ever ordered the tasting menu and I’ve always loved it for its refined, oftentimes whimsical take on classic dishes and flavor combination, served in a super casual and friendly LES setting with exemplar service.

Now, to the courses…

Pu-pu platter / Salad, beef tongue, cold fried chicken, saffron-coconut ice cream sandwich with Champagne, Billecart-Salmon NV

Small bites with bubbles. Favorites were the beef tongue that was skewered with a ball of deep-fried mayonnaise (yes, you read that right) and the cold fried chicken that came with a tiny scoop of caviar and some fried chicken skin.

Shrimp noodles, tomato and basil with Champagne

A comforting bowl of pasta, except the noodles here are made of shrimp instead of typical flour, eggs and water. Classic Wylie.

Foie gras in the round with Dewazakura “Omachi” Ginjo from Japan

One of the most popular dishes of the night…tiny little pearls of foie gras with chocolate covered crispies and a film of vinegar on the bottom to balance out the richness of the foie.

Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado and hamachi with Torrontes “Don David” Michel Torino 2012 from Salta, Argentina

Ingenious “ravioli” where they used egg yolk as the pasta to encase the fluffiest scrambled eggs after. Also loved the tiny tiny crispy potatoes and super-fresh hamachi.

Sake lees bowties, clams and kimchee crisps with Ilias IGP “Kallisto” Mercouri Estate 2013 from Peleponnese, Greece

One of my favorite dishes of the evening – pasta in a briny broth thanks to the clams, topped with these insane crispy kimchee chips that I found myself wishing WD would just mass manufacture so I could buy bags and bags of them. The wine pairing for this course was also ridiculously good and smelled very similar to white peaches.

Bay scallops, sea beans, smoked sable and daikon radish with Lazio Bianco “Fiorano” Alessandrojacopo Boncompagni-Ludocivi 2011 from Lazio, Italy

Another standout – small, perfectly cooked scallops with a smoky sauce from the sable fish. We were all trying our hardest to scrape every last bit of that sauce out of our bowls.

Beef & bearnaise with Pinot Noir “Le Bon Climat” La Fenetre 2008 from Santa Maria, California

A very playful dish and totally unexpected when thinking a classic steak with bearnaise sauce – three fluffy, kinda cute looking bearnaise gnocchi in a very rich beef consomme bath.

Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, pickled ramp, dried soybean with Merlot “Los Carneros” Sinskey from Napa, California

Probably the most traditionally prepared dish of the evening but a still amazingly delicious lamb with a really savory, umami-bomb black garlic romesco.

Vanilla ice cream, balsamic, raspberry

At this point in the evening, things start to get a little fuzzy from all the cocktails and wine pairings, but I definitely remembering busting into this marshmallow-looking, raspberry powder encrusted scoop of ice cream only to find a gorgeously dark and syrupy balsamic vinegar oozing out. Everyone freaked at this dish, which looked so simple from its presentation.

Jasmine custard, chartreuse, cucumber and smoked cashew with Sparkling Apple Cider “La Transparente” Cidrerie du Vulcain NV from Fribourg, Switzerland

I had this dessert the first time at WD-50 and it was probably one of the most memorable courses from that meal because it was so refreshing and new. A layer of cucumber ice on top with this almost bacon-y cashew crumble and once you cracked through the top, a dreamy custard below.

French toast with St. John Commanderia NV from Cyprus, Greece

“French toast” that was black-out good. Super crusty and crispy on the outside and almost custardy in the middle paired with a raisiny and not-too-sweet dessert wine.

Mignardise

Our last course at WD-50 (though we really, really didn’t want it to end) – an assortment of mignardises, including these little balls of gjetost, a Scandinavian whey cheese covered with a layer of white chocolate, that I had at my first time at WD-50, mini churros and something like a pate de fruit. We were all definitely kind of depressed to realize we’d never be back in this particular space, eating this kind of food. To cope, we hilariously (and very drunkenly) decided to drown our sorrows in some Disney-focused karaoke at nearby Karaoke Boho. A super hi-low and perfect kind of night.

Thanks so much to Wylie and the entire team at WD-50 for treating us so well over the years and consistently delivering course after course of amazing food…it was truly one of, if not the most delicious meals I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to see what you do next!

WD-50 (August 17, 2014)

November 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

A summer visit to one of my favorite restaurants in New York City, WD-50, which is sadly closing November 30. Love that the atmosphere and service is always friendly and super casual (if you drunkenly ask for a kitchen tour at the end of the meal, they’re usually nice and polite enough to say yes) and the food manages to be sophisticated and comfortingly familiar at the same time.

Highlights of this particular meal were the first two dishes – an oyster in its “shell” and a super rich, flavorful potato ravioli paired with caviar, both paired with a lovely champagne, an updated version of shrimp and grits, which is one of my favorite Southern dishes to begin with, the pork collar course and the verbena mousse with buckwheat (which oddly reminded me of Carvel ice cream cake and seemed to amuse the waiter when I told him so).

This was also the first time I decided to opt for the wine pairing…and thanks to that and the additional bottle of sake we ordered towards the end of the meal (because the oat meringue dessert didn’t come with a pairing and someone at our table apparently would not let that stand), yours truly had a massive hangover the next morning. Worth it though…

Oyster in its “shell,” preserved lemon, snow pea, hazelnut with Pinot Meunier Champagne “Brut Blanc de Meunier” Millesime 2007 Jean Michel from Champagne, France

Egg yolk-mashed potato ravioli, caviar, cucumber with Pinot Meunier Champagne

Avocado-pea soup, smoked crab, pistachio with Riesling “Vandenberg” Tatomer 2010 from Santa Barbara County, California, USA

Cuttlefish, carrot, chamomile, schmaltz with Sauvignon Blanc Bluxome Street Winery 2012 from Russian River Valle, California, USA

Charred chicken liver, szechuan, injera, melon with Viognier “Antoine Creek” Grammery Cellars 2013 from Walla Walla, WA, USA

Shrimp grits, pickled jalapeno with Grenache, Zinfindel, Mourvedre Rose “Old Hill Ranch” Bucklin 2013 from Sonoma Valley, CA, USA

Hamachi, turnip, shiso, blood sausage with Hoyo Sawayaka Junmai Uchigasaki Brewery from Miyagi Prefecture, Japan

Pork collar, poppy seed, red bell pepper, tamarind with Bourgogne Rouge Camille Giroud 2011 from Burgundy, France

Cured duck breast, curds-n-whey, sweet potato, rice noodles with Malvasia Nera “Medos” Castello Monaci 2011 from Salento, Italy

Oat meringue, banana, strawberry, yeast

Verbena mousse, rhubarb, buckwheat, camelina oil with Sparkling Apple Cider ‘La Transparente” Cidrerie du Vulcain from Fribourg, Switzerland

Ovaltine cake, marcona almond, cardamom, sheep’s milk with Tawny Porto Quinta do Infantado “10 years old” from Douro, Portugal

Cookie dough ice cream with sarsaparilla jelly

The pass at the end of service

Betony and Alder

August 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

Two very different meals, spanning seven months. One of my first splurge meals after moving back to NYC was at Betony, helmed by Eleven Madison Park alums and executed to perfection. Unfortunately, since this meal took place so long ago, I don’t really remember the specific components of each dish but just that the overall experience – food, service, ambiance – was very much worth the money. The standouts were definitely chicken liver mousse, super smooth and served with bits of fried chicken skin and green apple, the roasted chicken and the grilled short rib. 

The second meal was in late spring at Wylie Dufresne’s Alder in the East Village, which focuses on bar food with a modern twist. Though I didn’t think it could compare to his flagship (WD-50, which is sadly closing this coming fall), it is a way to sample some of Dufresne’s food without paying a pretty penny. The best dishes were the “pigs in a blanket” (Chinese sausage, Japanese mustard, sweet chili sauce) and the French onion soup rings with beef gravy and gruyere but I do wish the portions had been a little bit more generous. 

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.

WD-50
50 Clinton Street
New York, NY
212.477.2900

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