wd~50, New York, USA

by lex on August 20, 2013

wd~50

wd~50

Our New York plans were coming along nicely. The bride and groom seemed rather relaxed and had everything under control, we had a HUGE bucket list of restaurants, bars and sites to visit and we had reservations at Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park. But that wasn’t quite enough.

Dylan and I realised that although our initially small budget was increasing exponentially we didn’t know when we would be back in New York. And so with that thought in mind we threw the budget out the window and decided another degustation was in order. But not just any old degustation, a degustation at a restaurant which is well known for its molecular gastronomy philosophy.

wd~50 is Wylie Defresne’s flagship restaurant in Nolita, New York. Wylie Dufresne completed a B.A. in philosophy before enrolling in the French Culinary Institute and becoming a chef. Wylie worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten for a number of years before heading to 71 Clinton Fresh Food and then opening wd~50 in 2003. The restaurant has held a coveted Michelin Star since the Michelin Guide made its way to New York in 2005.

wd~50 offer two menu options – a twelve course tasting menu and ‘From the Vault’, a five course menu comprised of the restaurant’s classic dishes. Although the classic dishes would be great to experience, we decided on the twelve course menu to see what Wylie and his team are all about in 2013.

Tasting Menu – $155.00 per person / $250.00 with wine pairing

  • SAFFRON-COCONUT ICE CREAM, CAVIAR, POPPY SEED
    (Pinot Blanc Cremant D’Alsace Brut Réserve François Baur / Alsace, France)
  • TILEFISH, PARSNIP ‘PRINGLE’, SWEETFLAG, TOFU
    (Pinot Blanc Cremant D’Alsace Brut Réserve François Baur / Alsace, France)
  • CHILLED EGG DROP SOUP, SEA URCHIN, MUSHROOM, RADISH
    (Glera Fermo Bianca Zanotto 2012 / Veneto, Italy)
  • SWEETBREADS, CUCUMBER-LYCHEE, TONIC, FERMENTED BLACK BEAN
    (Romorantin Cour-Cheverny ‘Cuvée Renaissance’ François Cazin 2008 / Loire Valley, France)
  • SEA SCALLOP, BERBERE GRANOLA, CARROT, MARCONA
    (Chardonnay ‘Linda Vista Vineyard’ Matthiasson Family Vineyards 2012 / Napa Valley, CA, USA)
  • PIG TAIL, ARTICHOKE, OLIVE OIL JAM, HAZELNUT
    (Chardonnay ‘Linda Vista Vineyard’ Matthiasson Family Vineyards 2012 / Napa Valley, CA, USA)
  • WALLEYE PIKE, CELERY, MACADAMIA, GRAPEFRUIT
    (Pinot Noir Rosé ‘À Côté’ La Fenétre 2010 / Santa Barbara County, California, USA)
  • RABBIT, SPRING ONION, HIBISCUS, THAI BASIL ‘NORI’
    (Gamay, Pinot Noir ‘Dôle’ Domaine de Beudon 2010 / Valais, Switzerland)
  • WAGYU FLAT IRON, MUSHROOM JERKY, GRAPE, VERJUS
    (Tempranillo Rioja Reserva Especial ‘Viña Ardanza’ La Rioja Alta 2001 Magnum / Rioja, Spain)
  • WHITE PEACH SORBET, HONEY-MILK CRISP, TARRAGON
  • POPCORN VACHERIN, BLUEBERRY, KAFFIR LIME, WATERMELON
    (Ortega U.Siegerreba Beerenauslese ‘Alzayer Wartberg’ Schloss Mühlenhof 1999 / Rheinhessen, Germany)
  • KEY LIME PIE, RITZ CRACKER, CHERRY
    (Late Harvest Gewürztraminer ‘Cluster Select’ Navarro Vineyards 2006 / Anderson Valley, California, USA)
  • BEER, MALT, PRETZEL

BREAD.

High end restaurants always serve bread to begin the meal. Bread ranges from dinner rolls to sourdough, white baguettes through to slices of dark rye. Each restaurant has their own unique offering and wd~50 was no exception. Epically thin wafers of sesame ‘bread’ were presented in a wooden box. Trouble was they were light, crunchy and mighty addictive, and similar to Lex-with-a-box-of-popcorn I just couldn’t restrain myself until it was all gone.

BREAD

BREAD

SAFFRON-COCONUT ICE CREAM, CAVIAR, POPPY SEED.
Pinot Blanc Cremant D’Alsace Brut Réserve François Baur / Alsace, France.

Straight up we were served ice cream, a savoury ice cream of saffron and coconut. Presented as an ice cream sandwich with rather salty poppy seed sablé ends, a hint of lime zest and a spoonful of luxurious caviar. Individually the elements were a little odd however combined they formed a wonderful blend of varying textures, flavours and temperatures. Interest piqued, taste buds alive and appetite whetted.

SAFFRON-COCONUT ICE CREAM, CAVIAR, POPPY SEED

SAFFRON-COCONUT ICE CREAM, CAVIAR, POPPY SEED

TILEFISH, PARSNIP ‘PRINGLE’, SWEETFLAG, TOFU.
Pinot Blanc Cremant D’Alsace Brut Réserve François Baur / Alsace, France.

We’d noticed the parsnip ‘pringle’ on the menu and wondered what their take on the moreish chip would be. ‘Once you pop you can’t stop’ translates oh too well to this dish. Concentrated parsnip flavour with the perfect chip (crisp) texture leads to an insane result. Firm tilefish and spongy tofu rounded out the textures of the dish while the sweet flag added a herbaceous, slightly bitter note.

TILEFISH, PARSNIP 'PRINGLE', SWEETFLAG, TOFU

TILEFISH, PARSNIP 'PRINGLE', SWEETFLAG, TOFU

CHILLED EGG DROP SOUP, SEA URCHIN, MUSHROOM, RADISH.
Glera Fermo Bianca Zanotto 2012 / Veneto, Italy.

Approaching course three I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve never been a fan of cold soups. That is until now. Before us was the most incredible bowl of chilled clarified soup finished with bok choy, asparagus and shaved oyster mushrooms for an earthy touch. Slightly sweet, salty sea urchin with its trembly panna cotta-esque texture took a lead role and worked in harmony with the soup.

CHILLED EGG DROP SOUP, SEA URCHIN, MUSHROOM, RADISH

CHILLED EGG DROP SOUP, SEA URCHIN, MUSHROOM, RADISH

SWEETBREADS, CUCUMBER-LYCHEE, TONIC, FERMENTED BLACK BEAN.
Romorantin Cour-Cheverny ‘Cuvée Renaissance’ François Cazin 2008 / Loire Valley, France.

A dish with cucumber will always garner my attention. Here my favourite vegetable was showcased in a number of ways and textures, from the sauce to the cubes and baby cucumbers. Fermented black bean cake brought the expected saltiness to the dish while sweetbreads were deep fried to perfect tenderness, with a mild flavour to match the cucumber. The addition of tonic to yoghurt was a pleasant surprise, really lifting the yoghurt and bringing all components together. Dehydrated lychee made for a perfect match to the wine.

SWEETBREADS, CUCUMBER-LYCHEE, TONIC, FERMENTED BLACK BEAN

SWEETBREADS, CUCUMBER-LYCHEE, TONIC, FERMENTED BLACK BEAN

SEA SCALLOP, BERBERE GRANOLA, CARROT, MARCONA.
Chardonnay ‘Linda Vista Vineyard’ Matthiasson Family Vineyards 2012 / Napa Valley, CA, USA.

Following the scallop we’d eaten at Le Bernardin is no easy task, yet wd~50’s take is not one to overlook. Ravioli made from carrot and filled with a sweet, nutty carrot and almond puree was vibrant in colour and on the palate. Buttery with bursts of cumin and ginger, an amazing ceviched scallop and overall outstanding dish, paired well with the chardonnay.

SEA SCALLOP, BERBERE GRANOLA, CARROT, MARCONA

SEA SCALLOP, BERBERE GRANOLA, CARROT, MARCONA

PIG TAIL, ARTICHOKE, OLIVE OIL JAM, HAZELNUT.
Chardonnay ‘Linda Vista Vineyard’ Matthiasson Family Vineyards 2012 / Napa Valley, CA, USA.

Pig’s tail can be a delight when done well. It must be cooked well and served with something able to offset the fattiness of the pork. Here the pig’s tail was made into a terrine, crumbed and cooked to the ideal crispness, served with slightly astringent cold artichoke and jammy olive oil. A touch of the sea made its way on to the plate in the squid ink. While one of my favourite elements on the plate was an emulsion of egg white, water and hazelnut oil transformed into a sponge-like powerhouse of flavour. A dish planned and executed well with a great balance of salty, fatty and sweet.

PIG TAIL, ARTICHOKE, OLIVE OIL JAM, HAZELNUT

PIG TAIL, ARTICHOKE, OLIVE OIL JAM, HAZELNUT

WALLEYE PIKE, CELERY, MACADAMIA, GRAPEFRUIT.
Pinot Noir Rosé ‘À Côté’ La Fenétre 2010 / Santa Barbara County, California, USA.

Fermented celeriac skin wrapped around walleye pike. The skin was so much like a wonton wrapper, but in other aspects completely different. Just like a blanket the celariac skin was draped over the pike and it concealed a wonderfully cooked delicate and flaky piece of fish. Not something you see every day but something worth stopping and taking notice of. Grapefruit gel added in small doses brought a wonderful level of acidity and tartness to each mouthful.

WALLEYE PIKE, CELERY, MACADAMIA, GRAPEFRUIT

WALLEYE PIKE, CELERY, MACADAMIA, GRAPEFRUIT

RABBIT, SPRING ONION, HIBISCUS, THAI BASIL ‘NORI’.
Gamay, Pinot Noir ‘Dôle’ Domaine de Beudon 2010 / Valais, Switzerland.

Sous vide is a wonderful cooking technique as it allows the protein to remain juicy and pink, having cooked slowly and gently for an extended period of time. There is a downside to sous vide cooking though, and that’s the caramelisation of the meat in a pan at high heat. Cooked sous vide the rabbit could have been any protein, the inherent rabbit flavour didn’t shine through. Although the chicken skin it was wrapped in was cooked well, giving a crispness to the ballontine, overall the rabbit was lacking.

A puree of white beans added an earthy tone, a streusel of white onion was a clever touch and coupled with onion pickled in hibiscus to showcase the vegetable using yet another technique. Served with a chilled gamay we found to be another mighty fine wine match. It was unfortunately the rabbit that let this dish down.

RABBIT, SPRING ONION, HIBISCUS, THAI BASIL 'NORI'

RABBIT, SPRING ONION, HIBISCUS, THAI BASIL 'NORI'

WAGYU FLAT IRON, MUSHROOM JERKY, GRAPE, VERJUS.
Tempranillo Rioja Reserva Especial ‘Viña Ardanza’ La Rioja Alta 2001 Magnum / Rioja, Spain.

Beef as the final savoury dish suits Dylan and I to a tee. Here we had Kobe-style shoulder of wagyu taking centre stage in all its deep red glory. Accompanied by mushroom jerky which was essentially mushrooms brushed with Worchestershire sauce, the jerky had the most uncanny taste and meaty texture of beef jerky it was quite a head spin. Peppery mushrooms, squash and grapes bathed in verjus went so well together and were perfect with the beef.

Though I found it hard to pick a favourite dish of the meal the beef was outstanding and definitely fighting for top spot in the degustation. The only downside was the pairing of a chilled wine which was too left field for my liking.

WAGYU FLAT IRON, MUSHROOM JERKY, GRAPE, VERJUS

WAGYU FLAT IRON, MUSHROOM JERKY, GRAPE, VERJUS

MACCHIATO.

Americans really don’t know how to make coffee, do they? A macchiato with an appearance more akin to meringue wasn’t the worst I’ve ever had but was far from the best.

MACCHIATO

MACCHIATO

WHITE PEACH SORBET, HONEY-MILK CRISP, TARRAGON.

When you have as many degustations as we do you tend to find dishes that you look out for during the meal. At the moment I am interested in the palate cleanser; it may come across as the least important dish of the meal but I find it quite important as it plays the role of taking the diner from rich savoury dishes on to sweet desserts. Done well the diner won’t even notice the change in direction, done poorly it will feel like a stop-start meal.

wd~50’s white peach sorbet had a wonderful depth of flavour – it was brilliant. A touch of tarragon sauce for an aniseed-like herbaceous note and sweet honey flavoured crisp. An exemplary palate cleanser.

WHITE PEACH SORBET, HONEY-MILK CRISP, TARRAGON

WHITE PEACH SORBET, HONEY-MILK CRISP, TARRAGON

POPCORN VACHERIN, BLUEBERRY, KAFFIR LIME, WATERMELON.
Ortega U.Siegerreba Beerenauslese ‘Alzayer Wartberg’ Schloss Mühlenhof 1999 / Rheinhessen, Germany.

Kaffir lime is a stunning varietal, a small amount of the pungent sour juice and the waxy glossy leaves are what take so many Thai curries to the next level. Used in small doses it can be impressive but too much and it can overpower. Here the kaffir lime was impressive on its own but tended to overwhelm the rest of the dessert. Combinations of mascerated blueberries, watermelon sorbet and popcorn meringue made for a refreshingly tart, slightly sweet and interesting dessert.

POPCORN VACHERIN, BLUEBERRY, KAFFIR LIME, WATERMELON

POPCORN VACHERIN, BLUEBERRY, KAFFIR LIME, WATERMELON

KEY LIME PIE, RITZ CRACKER, CHERRY.
Late Harvest Gewürztraminer ‘Cluster Select’ Navarro Vineyards 2006 / Anderson Valley, California, USA.

It was only recently that I discovered Key Lime Pie. It’s a dessert popular in America but not something I grew up with. Our friend Jason makes a wicked key lime pie and ever since I first tasted it I wondered why it took me so long to have this pie in my life. The question is what would Wylie and his team do – how would they present the pie? My guess was there would be no ‘pie’.

And I was right. Each element of the dessert was separated from the rest and taken to the ultimate level. The traditional pie filling was turned into a pillar of soft meringue with a sweet condensed milk centre. Dehydrated cherries brought a tartness to the dish to offset the sweet meringue, ritz cracker added both texture and that gorgeous buttery crumbly base every good pie needs, a touch of sour cream on the plate rounded it off. This was a great pie.

KEY LIME PIE, RITZ CRACKER, CHERRY

KEY LIME PIE, RITZ CRACKER, CHERRY

BEER, MALT, PRETZEL.

The meal ended with a dessert that to me sums up wd~50 quite well. Classic flavour pairings are taken, broken down, spun around, flipped on their head and put back together again. Beer and pretzels will always go hand in hand but have you ever thought of making beer flavoured ice cream, dousing it with a malt glaze and then rolling it in crushed up pretzels? Wylie did, and I’m so glad.

BEER, MALT, PRETZEL

BEER, MALT, PRETZEL

And so our last degustation in New York came to an end. An evening of both interesting and unusual dishes. Some that far outshone others. The biggest let down for us was the positioning of the tables approximately a foot apart. In many ways it felt we were having dinner with the couples on either side of us. Not something we had expected or enjoyed. That aside, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at wd~50. It is food that makes you think twice and really stop to appreciate the work that’s gone into it and how things aren’t always what they seem.

KITCHEN AT THE END OF SERVICE

KITCHEN AT THE END OF SERVICE

wd~50
50 Clinton Street
New York NY 10002
United States
+1 212 477 2900
wd~50 Website

wd-50 on Urbanspoon


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