December 11, 2006
On December 10, 2006, I took the 4 train with my sister-in-law, Elaine, to Brooklyn Bridge and changed to the J train, the first time I had ever been on it. In three stops we emerged at the Essex Street Station, walked three blocks ENE and found ourselves at WD-50 at 50 Clinton Street. The welcome was warm and we were soon seated at a small table enjoying an apéritif of champagne rosé with a box of paper-thin sesame crisps. We ordered from the à la carte menu, until the desserts. Fortunately, the tables on either side of us had ordered the nine-course tasting menu (with the wine pairing for one of them.) Elaine being the gregarious type, we were soon in conversation with both tables and were able to sample some of their dishes which added another dimension to the stunning visual impact of each plate. The à la carte plates were considerably more substantial and, while nicely presented, were not works of art.
The tasting menu is also a showcase for gee whiz inventive items: the false fried egg of coconut cream with a carrot juice yolk; the noodles that you squeeze out of a plastic thing into the miso soup, the beet juice inside the foie gras and the beet coating on the deboned squab etc etc.
Elaine started with the corned duck, rye crisp, purple mustard and horseradish cream. I had the foie gras, watermelon, pistachio, sea bean and lovage. Elaine then had the rack of lamb, banana consommé, chinese broccoli and black olives. I had the pork belly, smoked yucca, romaine and papaya. They were all delicious, but not quite as unusal as you might expect from the descriptions and the reputation of the chef.
We enjoyed a bottle of 2004 Radio-Couteau (Sonoma) Pinot Noir with our food. The wine pairings at the table next to us seemed quite imaginative, culminating with the chocolate dessert in a sweet wine from “the oldest vineyard in the world” in Cyprus. I was given a taste and it reminded me of a Banyuls, which the French recommend with chocolate.
One can order single desserts or three or five plate dessert tasting menus. We chose the three plates, but four came, all delicious and works of art like the main tasting menu. A highlight was the “Irish coffee,” which included whisky inside a chocolate roll.
The service was always friendly and efficient. The clientele was mixed, but mostly young. The décor is not fancy, but the colored glass lamps are very nice and the end of the dining room opens onto the kitchen. www.wd-50.com. The restaurant is named after its chef: Wylie Dufresne and its street number.