Wednesday, August 10, 2011

wd-50 Review

For a city with such a grand array of dining options, New York comes up short for those interested in and intrigued by molecular gastronomy, most prominently represented by Alinea in Chicago and the recently closed El Bulli in Spain.

Maybe that explains why reservations are still tough to come by at Wylie Dufresne's wd-50 eight years after it opened in 2003. When I went looking for one, the only reservations available were at 10 p.m. for most of the next month.

wd-50 does play around with the traditional notion of food, presenting it in forms other than what you might be accustomed to. Some of it is delightful and divine. Some of it is fun, but you’ll find it fails to serve the function of feeding you.

My dining companions and I did notice that Dufresne was in the kitchen. It was nice to see a chef in his own restaurant, despite having reached the level of Top Chef fame.

The delicious Tommy-O (orange peel gin, lillet, clarified o.j.) and Catch o' the Day (cantaloupe, Campari and gin) cocktails.

A papery-thin sesame cracker reminiscent of papadum, an Indian cracker. It's so light and addictive, you'll be reaching for pieces nonstop until it's gone.

Each of the appetizers came with three sets of the featured composition, which worked out well for our party of three. The corned duck with purple mustard and horseradish cream atop a rye crisp was fabulous. The meat wasn't too gamey and the flavor was in the same family as pastrami. The horseradish really muscled its way through and worked well in this dish.

The aerated foie with pickled beet, mashad plum and pieces of lightly toasted brioche was one of the most interesting things we ordered. It may look like a lot of foie on the plate, but it's been plumped up through the aeration. Yet, when eating it, the richness of the foie gras makes it hard to finish the entire portion.

The eggs Benedict is a signature dish of wd-50. It's a deconstructed version —a poached egg yolk, fried mayo covered in English muffin bread crumbs, and a crispy sliver of Canadian bacon. It's amazing and fun to eat. This is the kind of thing you came here for.

The halibut looks tame and for the most part it's components are recognizable. There are burnt lemon slices, hen o’ the woods mushroom and grated soybean in a mushroom jus. The fish was mild, but fresh and cooked perfectly and really stood out despite the fact that the mushrooms tasted a bit of grease to me and the broth was so earthy one dining companion thought it tasted like dirt.

The lamb skirt steak had an odd texture — it looked almost like a terrine, with gelatinous ribbons threaded between the layers of meat, which had a strong flavor. I wasn't much a fan of the sides: pistachio crumbles and a pistachio "polenta,"  endive marmalade and spiced apricot.

Rounds of Iberico pork neck were layered on top of smoked paprika spaetzle and a peach and marcona almond sauce. Swiss chard, two ways — packed into a small packet, and shredded and fried, completed this dish. The pork was slightly on the salty side; one dining companion found it similar to country ham.

If you research wd-50 before going, you’ll find many who debate whether you’ll be full when you leave. We were pleasantly surprised and sufficiently sated by the time we were through with the entrees. So, we ordered just one dessert: Tri-star strawberries with brown butter ice cream, pinenut panna cotta, kaffir lime gelee and elderflower. This was nearly a knockout dish, until it came through the panna cotta snaking through the center. The nutty flavor was overpowering and though we cleaned the plate, that remained on the plate. The brown butter ice cream was terrific as were the sweetness of the berries. There were pieces of what tasted like the best shortbread ever, but turned out to just be pressed, freeze-dried strawberries. That’s ingenious.
At the end, there are complimentary rice krispy treats. These wowed us — they were filled with marshmallow ice cream — and ended our meal on a happy note.

The balance sheet for wd-50 falls in favor of the interesting, but not altogether best-tasting food. It’s worth visiting to experience the avant garde cuisine, but you likelywon’t jump through hoops to eat here again.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:42 PM

    great pictures! that country ham (i mean, Iberico pork neck) was sall-TAY! it needs to be served with 2 extra glasses of water!