I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

WD~50: I want all the Fried Hollandaise you have

 Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Why use illegal mind-altering substances when eating at WD is mind blowing enough?

Headed by Wylie Dufresne, WD~50 stands out against other establishments because of their innovative, playful food that combine contemporary and classic techniques. See what I did there? I was able to describe WD without using that phrase: molecular gastronomy. Like someone that knows a lot more about food and smarter than me most likely, said that those that make food and cuisine that they dub as being molecular gastronomy are doing it poorly and doing it for the shits and giggles and the food here, is executed with precision that to just coolly call it molecular gastronomy is like calling sushi raw fish. The food at WD is creative and has a casual atmosphere but has a service and quality of food and execution that up to par with its Michelin rating.

Sesame Flatbread

WD has one of the best bargained tasting menus in the city which I decided to take full advantage of and being my first visit here, I added on the Eggs Benny dish that is one of the notable dishes that I needed to try. The aerated sesame flatbread was unbelievably light and crisp that I would find myself chomping on through the meal. The closest comparison texturally is like a potato chip and for some reason, I had a strong white trash urge while eating these to ask if they had any jalapeno and cheese from the MRE packs (this of course is a outlandish idea, because anyone that has eaten a MRE knows, that you never, ever get the cheese wiz, stupid peanut butter). Tasting menu after the Jump!
White Anchovy
 The first dish was a deboned white anchovy with an olive oil jam, diakon and shiso. The anchovy was tender and sweet and did not have that weird fishiness that you would expect from eating an anchovy, mainly because it was fresh. The diakon was tart which was a nice contrast to the anchovy and the combination of the olive oil and shiso smoothed out the dish.
The next dish was an everything bagel, with smoked salmon threads and crispy cream cheese. If you think that this is like anything from your standard fare from you Yon Kippur spread then you are in for a surprise. The bagel is actually an ice cream studded with all the fixings of an everything bagel. The salmon thread reminds me of the fish floss that I grew up eating congee with but the floss was a lot drier. Eating it all together, you have the flavors of eating an everything bagel with lox and cream cheese but pulled a Matrix on you, doing the whole what you think you know, you don’t. 

Everything Bagel
Eggs Benny
My favorite dish and the one that I was excited to try was the eggs Benedict dish. The eggs or rather the egg yolks are sous-vide in a cylindrical tube that gives the eggs a custard-gel feel to it, like a perfectly cooked egg in a ramen dish and topped with a crunchy dehydrated Canadian bacon would have been a great dish alone but the hollandaise was my favorite part of the dish and elevated it from good to great. The hollandaise component is frozen into cubes and then coated with an English muffin powder and fried. I am not ashamed that if it is at all possible, I would eat a dish, not even a dish, just give it to me in a cone or a cup of these fried cubes of hollandaise. These self contained cubes exploded with creamy rich hollandaise, I wish I could go into more vivid detail, but would go into weird innuendos and borderline smut.


Poached Egg, Edible Shell

The next dish was the Foie-lafel which was a wonderful play on a falafel.

It is foie gras that is coated it in a chickpea crust before deep-frying. It was served in their house made pita bread shredded lettuce, fava been tabouleh, and kimchi tahini. The balls of falafel, squirted tasty liquid foie but with the combination of the chickpea coating, the rich, fattiness of foie barely comes through with the heavily spiced chickpea component. The kimchi tahini was light on the kimichi part and tasted like a lightly spiced tahini. Though the dish was a fun dish and an elevation of a much loved street food, I wanted the foie to be more pronounced.
The next dish was the Poached Egg in the Shell, pumpernickel, Caesar dressing, bean sprouts. The poached egg was another winner and I think it is a safe assumption that eggs at WD are going to be winners. The egg was perfectly poached (assuming sous-vide), the edible “egg shell” was made of brown butter that used edible molding clay to achieve this effect. Pumpernickel bread was shaved paper thin and there were pickled bean sprouts and a garlic-y Caesar dressing smeared on the bottom. Execution of this dish was on point and did a go around with all of your senses and the egg was nice and nice and runny and wished the bread was not crispy, so I could have soped it up!
King Oyster Udon

The King Oyster ‘Udon’, sweetbreads, banana-molasses, pickled ginger was an interesting dish. King Oyster mushrooms are shaved into ‘Udon’ noodles, but they were more comparable to being like fettuccine. The sweetbreads were breaded and deep fried which is always good and served with a banana-molasses, crunchy banana chips, and pickled ginger. Though I liked the texture of the slippery and crunchy bites of the noodles and the fluffy bites of sweetbreads, the banana molasses threw me off in this dish. The Banana molasses had that weird artificial taste to it and the banana chips reminded me too much of the kind I find in granola. It was a bit too sweet for me this dish and was not one of my favorites of the night.
The Tai Snapper, onion tart, coffee, Asian pear made up and put the tasting menu back on track. The Snapper was cooked a la plancha, which gave it a nice crust on the fish. The onion tart was a self composed disk of onion, that used gellan (think gelatin that can put up with heat) giving it a silky smooth onion flavor. The addition of the smoked tomato sauce and crunchy coffee crumble, eaten together tasted like barbeque fish and made me wonder if that was what he was going for. I enjoyed this dish and the Asian pear batons were refreshing and crisp. 

Tai Red Snapper

The Quail, nasturtium yogurt, turnip, nutmeg I think is a dish that is an example of the food WD makes in which it combines classical technique of a torchon but using contemporary techniques such as “meat glue” to ensure that the deboned quail is a perfectly composed round and sous-viding it to cook it to temperature and doing the quail justice of a juicy piece of meat. This dish has all the taste and balances that you would find in any French restaurant and just as good, if not better. 
The final savory course was the Lamb Loin, ‘red beans & rice’, chayote squash. The beans were actually pine nuts that were cooked in the same style as ‘red beans & rice’ with bacon, cayenne, and thinly sliced pickled chayote squash draped over the loin, which was I would have liked done rare because that is my caveman preference but it was nonetheless like all the meat coursed, cooked to temperature, juicy and flavorful. The red beans and rice was masterfully done and the pine nuts were like prefect grains of rice. 

Lamb Loin

Overall the savory courses were all hits, but having a sweet tooth, I was excited for the dessert courses starting with the Concord grape, cheesecake and lime. The Concord grape was a smooth sorbet that has a secret oozy fill of a Concord grape puree, the cheesecake was dehydrated and the lime curd was extremely tart. With a graham crumble this dessert was thoughtfully deconstructed and most importantly tasted great. Composing a bite with all the separate elements had all the flavors of a key lime cheesecake. 
Concord Grape, Cheesecake, Lime
Apricot, brown butter, buckwheat, quince, green tea

Next up was the Apricot, buckwheat, brown butter, quince, green tea. The Apricot had a pudding/jam like consistency and was topped with a brown butter ice cream, uniformed cubes of quince and dots of green tea foam. The apricot composition was intense and slightly tart but the nutty brown butter ice cream, which I could have easily ate a whole bowl of itself was a perfect pairing. The Green tea foam was a good accompaniment, and despite its lightness, still was able to cut the richness of the dessert. 

The last dessert and final course of the tasting menu is the Soft Chocolate, beet, long pepper, ricotta ice cream. If the last course is supposed to leave an impression, this is it. It is “artfully” splattered with a beet puree with a ribbon of soft chocolate in the middle with crispy chocolate coca nibs and long pepper sprinkle. This Jackson Pollack inspired designed dessert was quite good. The Chocolate ribbon was smooth, creamy and the chocolate ribbon was a very stable structure. It was like a chocolate mousse that had the creaminess of smooth peanut butter, which I did not get a chance to ask how they got the chocolate to stay so soft and stable. 
Soft Chocolate, beets, long peppers, ricotta

Lastly, the petite fours which were the Rice Krispy Treats, a frozen shortbread ice cream bite coated in Rice Krispies, a light and creative end to the tasting. I am going to answer the questions most ask after a tasting menu:

1.       How full were you?
I was comfortably satisfied and full. Though some courses was “elf food” like, such as the bagel, even a glutton like me was comfortably full.

2.       How long?
The tasting menu took about 2 hrs from me getting in and seated to me leaving

3.       Was it worth it?
For the price and satisfaction, I can definitively say yes, the quality and the amount of food was worth of the 140 price tag

Another question that is asked when eating at a place that use contemporary and experimental techniques is does it enhance or make it better? For example, the Eggs Benny, one of the signature dishes of Dufresne, is it better than “normal” Eggs Benedict with an actual English muffin and poached egg. In truth, probably not, but the thing is that the execution of the dish as well as the creativity makes it a great dish. Part of dining in a place such as WD~50 is that it is a change of the norm and that it is pushing the boundaries of what food can and could be. Sure not everything is going to be to your liking and some dishes maybe great or straight fail, but WD~50 is pushing the comfort levels of food. WD is not just going for the norm or mediocrity but is pushing for better and the best which makes this a standout restaurant and a great dining experience.

Rice Krispy Treats

 50 Clinton Street
New York, NY 

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