Having flown all the way from Australia, we (being Angela, Mark and me), thought it’d be justifiable to take Stephanie out for her 24th birthday dinner at wd~50. This is one of those gastro molecular places that serves morsels of food. In other words, it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking to eat to get filled, this is not the place. If you’re willing to appreciate the creativity and thought process behind a dish (albeit a small dish) then this is most definitely the place. That being said, we hit a late lunch at Las Ramblas around 2:30pm in the West Village and walked to the Lower East Side. We were satiated but not filled, and it was the perfect stomach for wd~50′s five couse tasting menu.
Five Course Tasting Menu
From the Vault ($75)
Wine pairing ($55)
Some notes before we get onto the food- wd~50 is run by Wylie Dufresne (his initials comprising the name of the restaurant), once a sous-chef of Jean-Georges. His method of presenting food is in the form of deconstructing some other popular or everyday dish. Not only does he deconstruct the parts of a dish, but he attempts to put it back together in his own way (usually with some odd sounding agent). Needless to say, there are a bunch of fancy smancy gadgets back in the kitchen. Wylie’s cooking is essentially based on chemistry. In fact, this is a good read if you’re interested in how he figured out how to fry mayo.
To be honest, it only works sometimes. We kept track of our preferences on the paper menu they handed each of us below. Clearly we had some deviations, but we all did leave agreeing that this is 1) a cool place for a first date and 2) a great experience for those who have yet to foray into molecular gastronomy. Simply put, you will find food here that you will not find elsewhere.
There is an extensive wine-list. You may bring your own bottle but it’s a $40 corkage fee. From briefly skimming the wine-list, they serve around 10 wines by the glass with the cheapest bottle hovering around $50.
Mark and I both got the Radeberger, a bottled Pilsner from Germany. Amazingly, it was only $6. Stephanie opted for a syrah (La Clarine Farm ‘Sumu Kaw Vineyard, 2010′ which goes for $15.50 a glass or $70 a bottle. This is a very light and fruity red and does not take much time to set (it’s not particularly dry). It was probably one of the best syrahs I’ve ever had.
Sesame flatbread chips
These were an instant winner at our table and took until the 3rd course for us to finish. Not much to say about them, other than they’re light, airy and taste like sesame.
AMUSE BOUCHE: Monkfish cheeks served with husk cherries
I was a bit taken aback when the server introduced us with this monkfish cheek amuse bouche. I had thought it was lobster. Sadly, this barely registered on the scale. It was too light, a bit bland without much character. It was, however, the first time we had husk cherries, which are actually tomatoes. The sauce, which I can’t quite remember what it was, also didn’t add too much flavor.
We were amongst the first to arrive at the restaurant (with the earliest reservation time at 6pm). But it quickly began filling up after our amuse bouche course was served. What we loved was the seat with a view into the open kitchen.
Course 1: SCRAMBLED EGG RAVIOLI, CHARRED AVOCADO, KINDAI KANPACHI, CRISPY POTATOES
This was by far, the most unique dish of the night. Imagine Gordon Ramsey’s scrambled eggs enclosed in a solid casing. If I remember correctly, the scrambled eggs are cooked first and then coated with a yolk-gelatin mixture, which is then poured into a cube mold. After, they warm it up in hot water. The result is a resilient exterior with a very fluffy yet wet scrambled egg interior. It’s served with charred avocado and kanpachi, which is an amberjack fish. However, it’s the tiny diced cubes of crispy potatoes that really put this dish over the edge. Surprisingly, all four elements went together so well. The potatoes alone were a bit salty, but were perfectly balanced by the kanpachi and avocado.
*Mark and Jessie’s favorites of the night.
I really do think I need to emphasize the awesomeness behind the cubes of fried mayo. Wylie figured out a way to fry the mayo through adding gellan gum. Yeah, I have no idea what that is either. They’re also coated with panko bread crumbs. Serious WIN.
Jessie: 6/10 (most of that is attributed to the fried mayo)
This was unfortunately, a very mediocre dish, but I appreciated the various ingredients he tried to incorporate.
This ended up being, by far, my favorite dish of the night. The lamb, which was perfectly seasoned, contrasted well with the black garlic paste, which was slightly on the spicy end. However, when added to the crunchy chives, the combination was just a pure sensation in the mouth. I can’t even possibly describe how wonderfully satisfying this course was. However, both Angel and Stephanie thought the garlic paste was a tad salty.
Mark: 7/10 (he was a bit freaked out by the gel)
MILK ICE CREAM, COCOA SHORTBREAD
Last but not least, these little balls came with our check. They tasted like balls of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a dark chocolate oreo crust. Simply divine!
As Wylie is quoted as saying, ”Everything that’s on a bag of Doritos, we have here.”
For those that are interested, the Maitre d’ will graciously take you for a tour of the kitchen. The “tour” was really us just standing in one spot and him explaining what goes on, but still, it was such a nice gesture, particularly given that it was quite a busy night.
The kitchen on the dining floor level is specifically used for plating. There are a few stoves with burners but the vasty majority of the room is filled with long tables with plates being plated. There is a mirror kitchen on the level below where all of the cooking is done. All in all, it seemed as if the kitchen space was nearly the same size as the 70-seat dining room.
Dinner here was a wonderful experience. At times, I had to wonder- Is Wylie a chef or is he a mad scientist? I’m pretty sure I’m not the first to ask this question. Either way, this is a place worth checking out if you’re into this kind of stuff.
The service was impeccable. Not only was it very timely (sometimes a bit too timely as courses came out within a minute of each other), but all of the runners were extremely patient with our questions and willingly repeated stuff we could not hear. Even when we left the kitchen, the chefs stopped what they were doing to bid us goodbye. Can’t get any better than that.
50 CLINTON ST.
between Stanton & Rivington
on Manhattan’s Lower East Side
Open for dinner only, seven days a week (6pm-10pm)