Sunday, May 21, 2006

wd-50 - New York
I am curently blogging from the 415. School has finally ended, so I'll be in the Bay Area this summer for my internship. It starts Monday, and so do power lunches in the Financial District. But before I start on Bay Area posts, I'll finish my winter break eats. Gosh, I'm so bad with updating.

One great meal was at wd-50 on the Lower East Side. It's a restaurant in the molecular gastronomy league, fusing science with haute cuisine. Wylie Dufresne is known for his extensive use of transglutaminase, an enzyme that binds proteins, throughout his menu. I was quite excited to taste everything, so I went with the tasting menu. Dufresne replaced most of my dishes on the regular menu with specials, so I got to taste some of his more unique dishes.

We started off with some sesame crisps. Quite addictive and light. I could munch on these all day.

Salmon threads, soy bean, pickled cherry

This amuse was just alright. The salmon threads are similar to Chinese dried pork threads used in Taiwanese sticky rice and various breads and pastries. The dehydrated edmame wasn't too flavorful, and the pancake covering was kind of limp. There were too many elements competing with each other. All I could say about this was just that it was "different."

Carrot-coconut "sunny-side up"

This is one of Dufresne's signatures. I was impressed by how visually accurate the coconut juice and carrot-juice dome were; I was even more blown away by how the textures were almost identical. Popping the carrot, the juice oozed all over the plate. Very fun to eat.

Foie gras, candied olives, green peas, beet juice

Another one of Dufresne's signatures, this foie gras is well deserving of its fame. The greatest part (besides eating it) is cutting it open and having the beet juice ooze out. The foie gras was creamy and rich and went amazingly well with the beet. The candied olives were delicious too.

Octopus confit, pesto of Asian celery, poached pinapple, almonds (replaced Shrimp cannelloni, chorizo, thai basil)

This was another interesting one. The octopus confit was done perfectly, tender and juicy. The pesto was a bit overpowering, though. Asian celery is extremely strong, and it's "raw" flavor masked the sweetness and smokiness of the octopus. The poached pineapple and almonds were nothing too special. I didn't really find that it went especially well after the strong celery aftertaste either.

Corned duck, rye crisp, purple mustard, horseradish cream (replaced beef tongue, fried mayo, tomato molasses)

A great take on a NY classic. All the elements worked perfectly, but nothing too special to report. I did run out of the rye crisps before the duck, however. I want my carbs, dammit!

Miso soup, sesame "noodles"

At this point, we were allowed to "make our own food." We were presented with a double clarified, super hot bowl of dashi, along with a tube of a tofu+sesame mixture. As you squeeze the mixture in, it solidies into noodles in the soup. The noodles have a melt-in-your-mouth quality and a sweetness that complements the savory dashi well.

Pretty innovative, but I had already something similar in Hong Kong. The only difference is that the noodles in HK were a mixture of minced fish and other flavorings. I guess that sort of ruined the wow factor for me.

Ocean trout, tomato-chickpea, cucumber noodles, pita puree, falafel spices (replaced langoustine, celery root, banana-mustard)

This was one of my favorites. The lightly cooked trout was super-rare and tender. The cucumber noodles were a nice marriage of taste and texture: cool and refreshing like the vegetable, yet quite chewy like a nice al dente pasta. The same treatment goes for the pita puree and falafel crumbs. I wasn't too crazy about the tomato/chick pea cakes.

Beef sirloin, red pepper tart, water spinach, whipped horseradish (replaced duck breast, parsnip ricotta, spaghetti squash, black vinegar)

The 21-day aged sirloin was wonderfully flavorful and rare, but less tender than I preferred. It rested on a bed of water spinach, which was way too salty given it also absorbed the fine juices of the beef. The horseradish was superfluous, since it would mask the flavor of the beef. I really enjoyed the red pepper "tarts," which were actually a buttery crisp with a red pepper cake.

Tangerine sorbet, basil, olive oil

This was an excellent palate cleanser. So smooth and citrusy. This would be great on a hot summer day.

Gelled grapefruit, black sesame ice cream, targon meringue (replaced Manchego cheesecake, foamed pineapple, pear)

I wasn't too impressed with the first dessert. The tart grapefruit didn't go too well with the sesame ice cream. The grapefruit gelly was strange and slippery, and just didn't work for me. There were also these toasted rice bits that seemed out-of-place and unnecessary.

Caramelized banana, smoked chocolate ice cream, stout (replaced butternut sorbet, pumpkin seed cake, chocolate soil, mole)

Sam Mason redeemed the meal with this wonderful dessert. The chocolate was so intensely dark and rich. The strong stout foam worked extremely well with the banana and chocolate. The taste of this dessert stayed with me long into the night; I still remember and savor it.

A close-up since it was delicious.

Wild rice-crispy treat

A view of the kitchen

Overall, I enjoyed my meal at wd-50. Not every dish worked; I think Dufresne overextended himself in the innovation factor and things got too complex and even silly. However, it is definitely a restaurant you leave with an experience. Many, if not most, of the stand-out things I ate during spring break was from this meal alone.

50 Clinton St.
New York, NY 10002

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Blogger Sam said...

we are going to WD50 in less than two weeks and I think your post has made me a little bit nervous. We wont be able to do the tasting menu because of the tastes of our group differ to much, but I am getting kind of worried that some of the people I am going with will really dislike it because it is so unconventional. I pity people who love foie gras but hate beets, they will be fighting a losing battle with that menu! We'll have to see I guess...

5/21/2006 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmm. I want to try the carrot and coconut egg. Love your site and your food post

5/22/2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hedonist said...

Sam--dining at wd-50 is a large part experiencing the concept. Yes, it's innovative, but I wouldn't say it's exactly "good." I don't regret trying it, but I'm not really sure if I'd return. The dishes are a hit or miss.

5/22/2006 11:47 PM  
Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

These photos and small descriptions are great. But just so you know Chef Dufresne is not the pastry chef. Sam Mason is. This is a common mistake and one many chefs do not even correct, but it is important to know that most high end restaurants have their own pastry chef, many times with their own particular signatures, even when it is a collaborative experience.

6/21/2006 4:37 PM  

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