18 April 2007

Dinner @ wd~50

Food matters at wd~50—no secret there. How it's prepared, how it looks, and how it tastes are all equally important; and no detail is too small for you know about if you're interested to ask. Every aspect of your prospective meal is available for consultation with your server. And if you enjoy hearing about food, as well as eating it, as much I do; then deciding what to eat is a nice warm up to meal itself.

After some thought and discussion, my dinner at wd~50 was a 9-course tasting extravaganza with wine paring that began at 7:30 PM and lasted 'til 10:30 PM.

ROW 1 - Left: Sesame Crips

I munched on these between courses the whole night. It was like eating parchment, super thin sheets with sesame seed sprinkles.

ROW 1 - Right: Hamachi, black chickpea, celery root, carrot
Wine: Cava Avinyo Brut NV Reserva (Pendes, Spain)

While I've had fattier hamachi at my neighborhood sushi place, wd~50's hamachi was an easy beginning and a gentle way to slide into a meal that would be more adventurous down the road. The celery root, the white daub to the side, had the consistency of creamy mayo and provide texture to the dish, if not necessarily flavor; and the black chickpeas, the pebbles between the fish, were freeze-dried, imparting the opposite mouth feel—rough and gravelly.

ROW 2 - Left: Shrimp and tarragon macaroons

Basically Styrofoam-like balls, which I know doesn't sound appetizing, but they were good, as well as fun to eat. They literally went poof in my mouth and evaporated on contact with my tongue. It was like eating shrimp flavored air.

ROW 2 - Right: Foie gras in the round
Wine: Riesling Kabinett 'Erbacher Marchobrunn' Von Simmern 2004 (Rheingau, Germany)

Does this remind you of anything? I thought of Dippin' Dots, the freeze-dried ice cream, when the server put the bowl in front of me and handed me a spoon. The foie gras "rounds" also ate like Dippin' Dots; they melted in my mouth, leaving a butter-like texture to savor. The green dots were watercress, I think. I know the brown dots were dark chocolate, and buried under the foie gras were balsamic vinegar dots.

Foie gras being what is it—pure cholesterol—the dish was very heavy. If it wasn't for the wine to offset and cut its richness, I don't think I could have finished the bowl. But the combination of flavors was most enjoyable—the bitter chocolate against the creamy foie gras, balanced by the acidic vinegar.

ROW 1 - Left: Smoked eel, blood orange zest, black radish, chicken skin
Wine: Gruner Veltliner 'Gebling' Buchegger 2005 ( Kremstal, Austria)

The eel was my substitution instead of sweetbreads, which was the fourth course on the menu. I've never met an eel I didn't like and this was no exception. It was one of two courses where I wanted seconds—another slice please, Chef Dufresne. This dish had a nice balance of textures and flavors—mellow smoked eel against the faint firmness and light crunch of the shredded radish.

ROW 1 - Right: Beef tongue, fried mayo, tomato molasses

This was my favorite savory dish of the night. I cleaned the plate and still wanted more. The beef tongue had the taste of delicate corned beef, although milder in flavor than traditional cured and pickled beef. The fried mayo cubes were amusing little things with a spongy, springy texture so not like mayo from a jar. The molasses, the brown stripe to the side, was a concentrated paste of intense sweetness that didn't taste like tomato, but was good and a perfect match for the beef.

ROW 2 - Left: Miso soup, sesame "noodles"
Wine: A Cote Domaine Charvin 2005 (Rhone, France)

It was make your own noodles night at wd~50. A mini squeeze bottle contained the DIY sesame "noodles" to squirt into the miso broth. The broth was like essence; it tasted so clear it seemed to be distilled. It was the lightest miso I've ever had, yet also the most intense in flavor. The "noodles", like so many food elements in the tasting, provided texture if not necessarily flavor.

ROW 2 - Right: Langoustine, popcorn, hibiscus, endive

This dish was a challenge for my palate; it was all texture and very little taste. I appreciated the quality and feel of each of the food elements in my mouth, especially the red hibiscus chards which were like eating delicate bits of brittle glass. But I can't say if texture was enough to carry the day, I wanted a bit more flavor of something—salty, sweet, or peppery maybe. It was an esoteric dish to study and admired, but difficult to emotionally connect with.

ROW 1 - Left: Squab breast, beets, sorrel, coconut pebbles
Wine: Bonarda 'Vista Flores' Kaleido 2005 (Mendoza, Argentina)

I had the server describe this dish when I was still looking at the menu, so I know the squab was gently cooked to a perfect medium rare in a beet reduction. Hence it's the same color as the beet stick and stumps to the left. The white balls were the coconut pebbles, and they dissolved in my mouth the same way as the shrimp macaroons.

Once again, another thoughtful dish from the kitchen, well conceived and constructed in its elements, if not very intense in its flavor. Words like austere and restrained come to mine when I think of it. No one thing stood out, but I enjoy it overall and liked it more than the langoustine that came before.

Thus ended the multiple appetizer and entrée portion of my meal. Next came a very suitable black currant parfait palate cleanser that set my mouth straight and primed me for the sweet stuff.

ROW 1 - Right: Black currant parfait, green tea, elderflower

This was a really lovely bowl of pleasant flavors and textures. The black currant ice cream had a wonderful mouth feel, lush and silky, and tasted lightly tart on the tongue. The dry, crisp cookie bits offset its smoothness and the white foam added yet another sensational to experience.

ROW 2 - Left: Soft chocolate, avocado, licorice, lime
Wine: Albana Passito 'Frutto Proibito' Fattoria Paradiso 2003 (Romagna, Italy)

Let me say that I loved everything about this desert, the way it was plated and how it tasted. It was abstract art as edible food and vice versa, abstract food as edible art—very much a joy to see and eat.

Each element on the plate had its own unique flavor and texture, and you could mix and match different combinations with every new spoonful. The lime ice cream was refreshing and partnered the soft chocolate twist perfectly. Or you could eat the ice cream with the crushed chocolate cookie and be just as happy. The licorice and avocado drops were inspired, adding them into the mix took things to the next level. The licorice skewed things spicy and the avocado made it all taste green and fresh.

ROW 2 - Right: Coffee cake, ricotta, maraschino, chicory ice cream
Wine: Commanderia St. John NV (Lemesos, Cyprus)

After the culinary high of the last desert, the final desert was hard press to top it—and ultimately didn't for me. The glaze on the coffee cake square was slightly smoky and probably intended to enhance the chicory ice cream, which I think lacked flavor intensity, although it had a nice texture; the coffee cake, itself, was a bit dry. This was the weakest thing in tasting.

While one would like to end on a high note, there were enough pleasant surprises and small revelations for my palate that I was pleased with food experience, overall. wd~50 challenges food and makes food challenging; but in the end, it's still food—you eat it, you enjoy it—and it's good, freakishly so, sometimes.

Wine P.S. I thought the German Riesling, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and French Cote du Rhone were exceptional. Those alone were worth the extra for the wine pairing.

50 Clinton St.
New York, NY 10002
ph: 212-477-2900

Labels: , , ,


Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

I loved this place. i ate here twice in one week when I was in NY in February. I wrote about it as well if you want to continue thinking about WD-50 haha. did wylie dufresne see you taking photos?

4/20/2007 1:09 AM  
Blogger Blue Plate said...

hi eat, drink, 'n be merry,

i read your post—it was partly responsible for my visit. with so many wonderful restaurants in nyc to choose from, it says a lot about a place that you would want to eat there twice in one trip. but i feel similarly after my experience. i would go back to wd-50 were I to find myself in new york again.

one other table was taking pictures of their food while i was there. i don’t know if chef dufresne noticed. though visible, he stayed in the kitchen all night and seemed very focused on the food. he head was down all the times i looked over at him. : )

blue plate

4/20/2007 5:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home