Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dinner at WD-50

After a couple hours rushing between Manhattan and Queens and Manhattan on the subway, we made it to WD-50 only moderately late for our dinner reservation.
We both went with the tasting menu, and I splurged on the wine pairings (while Steph went with a couple wines by the glass) because I knew I would always wonder how awesome the pairings would have been if I didn't... I'm hoping Steph will chime in with a couple of her thoughts in the comments to confirm or deny the thoughts I attribute to her here... The menu starts out with an amuse-bouche entitled "Striped bass, golden raisins, chorizo, green tomato consomme" and paired with Lamberti Prosecco del Veneto 'Extra Dry', Non-vintage, from Veneto, Italy:
This tasted really, really good, but wasn't necessarily mind-blowing. Definitely perked up the palate and prepared you for amazing food, though, which is sort of the point of an amuse... Next up was "Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese" paired with the same Prosecco.
The "bagel" is a bagel-flavored ice cream, which was sort of crazy. This dish was really quite amazing, and it paired perfectly with the Prosecco, too. While gushing over how cool the ice cream bagel was and how glad we were to be at WD-50, we noticed that Wylie Dufresne himself was actually in the kitchen expediting orders. That was pretty cool to see, especially given how famous he has become in recent years. Our attention quickly returned to the food, though, as the next course arrived. This was "Foie gras, passion fruit, chinese celery" paired with Chardonnay Calera 2008 from the Central Coast:
The foie cylinder was filled with passion fruit puree that oozed onto the plate as you cut into it:
The passion fruit was surprising but somehow perfect, and the wine accentuated the tropical fruit flavors and took the dish to an even higher level. We were both deeply in love with this course. At this point I'm going to start running out of adjectives, because we were pretty darned blown away by the next course as well: "Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, and hamachi" paired with Rosato Preto 2008 from Tierra de León, Spain:
The cube of egg is a perfectly-cooked scrambled egg wrapped in egg, and the perfectly-crispy ridiculously-fine-diced potatoes at the bottom of the picture were insane. They were definitely the component that brought all of the other flavors together into something extraordinary. The rosato paired well with this, but wasn't quite as perfectly matched as the last two pairings had been. Next up was "Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar" paired with the same rosato:
The chicken is cooked sous vide, then chilled, breaded, fried, and chilled again. The white piles that look like mashed potatoes are actually ricotta warmed and flavored with buttermilk. The chip on top of the rricotta on the right is a chicken skin chip, which was genius. Overall this dish was interesting (the tabasco honey was refreshingly spicy, and the play on expected temperatures with cold chicken and hot ricotta was nifty), but not mind-blowingly delicious. The chicken was followed by "Perch, kohlrabi, 'dirty' grape, cocoa nib" paired with Chianti Classico 'Vigneti la Selvanella' Fattorie Melini 2003:
The fish was perfect, and the sauce and grapes were amazing as well, but we both felt like the toasted chunks of angel food cake interfered with the balance of flavors. It seemed a shame to mask any of the bright, crispy, smokey flavors in the rest of the dish behind the breadiness of the cake. Sans cake, though, this dish was the bomb. Loved it, and really enjoyed the pairing with the Chianti. Out next was the duck course: "Duck leg, popcorn pudding, kalamansi, lovage" paired with Cornas 'Cuvée Sasimir Balthazar' Franck Balthazar 2006 from the Rhone region of France:
The duck was almost like a prosciutto (a ridiculously awesome prosciutto...) and the popcorn powder over the top and popcorn pudding underneath were both delicious with it, but overall there was another somewhat dominant flavor in mix that left us both pondering how we really felt about the dish. Good and interesting but, taken as a whole, not our favorite dish of the night. The final savory course was "Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, pickled ramp, dried soybean" paired (more perfectly) with the same cuvée:
The lamb was beautifully cooked, and the crunchy soybeans were a trip. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and thought it was a great example of using something new (the dried soybeans) with something classic (perfectly cooked lamb loin). Awesome. On to dessert, starting with "Vanilla ice cream, balsamic, raspberry":
This was just ridiculously good vanilla ice cream placed on a bed of crushed dehydrated raspberries and filled with balsamic:
This was SO good. Seriously. We were both blown away by the fact that something so seemingly simple could taste so amazing. This was actually one of our favorite dishes of the night. The next dessert was "Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory" paired with Commandaria St. John Keo Non-vintage from Cyprus:
Some of the individual components of this dish were a bit perplexing but, taken together, it was fantastic. Delicious, and perfect with the port. Yet another dessert was delivered to the table next, this one was "Caramelized brioche, apricot, buttercream, lemon thyme" paired with Zierfander Auslese Stadlmann 2004 from Austria (and a super-delicious double espresso):
I couldn't tell you why I enjoyed this so much, but I really did. It was light and not too sweet, and perfect with both the dessert wine and the espresso. A nice finale to an amazing meal... until the final finale arrived:
The truffles were amazing, and the "chocolate leather" packets filled with crunchy chocolate powder were definitely unique... and a clever way to distract diners from the not-so-tiny bill as it was delivered... I'd read some negative comments about WD-50 before making our reservations, most of which dismissed the food without ever having tasted it based solely on Dufresne's reputation for molecular gastronomy, but I am so glad that we chose this place for our one crazy meal in NYC. Even though a couple courses weren't the most delicious things ever, others were insane and still put a smile on my face as I'm thinking about them again tonight. Even the things that didn't work on all levels flavor-wise were interesting and fun to experience, so I have no real complaints. The service was also wonderful, and the laid-back environment was much more comfortable than in other similarly-priced restaurants I've experienced. Definitely a meal I'll remember for a long, long time... and I can't wait to find an excuse to go back...

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