WD-50, NYC 5

March 26, 2009

This is my fifth blogpost on WD-50 since the first one back in 2006. WD-50 merits a full report each time as its menu is constantly changing and creative.  One usually finds some holdovers from the previous tasting menu, but never from the one before that. Even the “eggs benedict,” which I had reported would be permanent, was not there when Françoise, Linda, Philippe and I went for dinner on March 22, 2009, to start the celebration of Linda’s 60th birthday. We were surprised on arriving at 7:00 that the restaurant was almost full. The last time they were just setting up then. I suppose that it was a Sunday evening made the difference.

wdaWe were seated at the same table with the same excellent waiter, Mars. A basket of the usual sesame crisps was put on the table. He arranged for Linda and I to have two of the chef’s new creations as substitutions for appetizer courses we had on the Tasting Menu on our last visit, while Françoise and Philippe had the standard Tasting Menu of the month.
We started with a bottle of the same white wine that we had enjoyed in November, 2006 Palmina “Honea Vineyard (Santa Ynez Valley) Arneis. We also ordered a bottle of 2005 Thorne (Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noir and one of 2006 Carlisle (Russian River Valley) Zinfandel.
The pinot noir was really delicious. The zinfandel was a bit heavy; unfortunately it had only been decanted just before serving, a rare service error.

Then the Tasting Menu began to arrive:
Razor clams, sake lees, cabbage, pumpernickel

This was nice, but not substantial enough to really form an impression. 

Second for Françoise and Philippe 
Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese

This photo is from our November meal. You can see our positive comments there.

Second for Linda and me
Chestnut-horseradish soup, smoked mackerel, bartlett pear, verjus

We really liked this. The chestnut foam had just a touch of horseradish.  The diced pear was on the bottom. Those are chestnut chips on the left. Above them is pulverized, frozen Spanish mackerel. This is more complicated than I usually prefer, but everything was pulling in the same direction and hung together well.

Third for Françoise and Philippe
Foie gras, passionfruit, chinese celery
These photos are also from November. Françoise really liked it too, but Philippe thought that the passion fruit was too strong for the foie gras.

They contemplate the creative cuisine.

Third for Linda and me
Aerated foie, pickled beet, tamarillo-molasses, brioche

The fluffy foie gras was interesting to try, but I don’t think this is as much of an advance in foie gras cuisine as the enclosed passion fruit.

Scallops, tendon, endive, parsley, hazelnut oil

The slow sous-vide poaching of the scallops in hazelnut oil works very well. Underneath are hazelnut granules. They add needed crunchiness as do the julienned endive and the crisp, fluffy piece of beef tendon on top. There is also a soft layer of tendon draped over the scallops.

Truffled carbonara

When we visited the kitchen after the meal, we could see this dish being assembled for another table. The yellow is egg yolk, the red bacon, the black Italian truffle shards which had a little flavor, not much. We were instructed to draw our fork across the plate to pick up a bit of everything. The white glob is black pepper whipped cream which I rather liked. The dish really had little to do with spaghetti carbonara; it is actually closer to the former eggs benedict. While this was good, I liked that better, but I also like change when I come to WD-50.

Lobster legs, brussels sprouts, lily bulb, banana-kimchee

This is a real breakthough and was superb. A providor in Maine has invented a way to get the meat whole and undamaged out of lobster legs, the little ones out of which we sometimes try to suck the meat, but usually give up on. These had a sweet taste of the sea which goes beyond claw or tail meat. Furthermore, Wylie knows enough not to try to enhance them further. Some Brussels sprouts leaves, lily bulb chips (which you can’t see) and a well balanced banana-kimchee sauce on the side for those who want it were perfect garnnishes. Bravo.

Rabbit, wild rice polenta, cassis, kale, black olive

This rabbit sausage dish is okay, but not among the chef’s best creations.

Squab, butternut noodles, cream soda, carob

Once again the chef’s mastery of sous-vide cooking produces a succulent main ingredient. The carob-amarinth balls had more flavor than the last time we had them.

Vanilla ice crea
m, balsamic, raspberry

There was a dose of good balsamic vinegar underneath which was a nice counterpoint to the ice cream and the raspberry granules.

Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory

These are classic flavor combinations, perfectly executed here with new techniques.

Carmelized brioche, gala apple, sage, brown butter

This was a good repeat from the last time. I think I have run across brown butter ice cream twice since then; others may be copying this one.

Cocoa packets, milk ice cream
This has become the traditional finish here.

The meal was a big success. The chef’s creations seem more and more to satisfy the palate as well as dazzling us with his creativeness. They have a multiplicity of ingredients, which I would probably criticize in a more conventional restaurant, but which work well together here. The dessert chef, Alex Stupak, is equally successful in the same way. Nonetheless, I was surprised that six of the eleven courses on the Tasting Menu were the same as they had been four months before. (That was only four repeat courses for Linda and me because of the two substitutions which were offered.)

After we had finished our meal Mars took us into the kitchen where we were able to chat briefly with the chef and pose for a photo with him. Mars also explained some of the kitchen stations to us.wdr




It was a fine evening, even better than our previous visits to WD-50.

To see our blogpost from our November 2008 meal at WD-50 click here.

To see our blogpost from our July 2008 meal at WD-50 click here.

To see our blogpost from our March 2007 meal at WD-50 click here.

To see our blogpost from our December 2006 meal at WD-50 click here.

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