50 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002
This was the meal we were most excited to have in our entire USA trip. We made reservations a month in advance to the day, and it was where we were going to celebrate K’s quarter-of-a-centuryth birthday. There was nothing that was going to stop us from getting to the restaurant, not even the crappy NYC traffic. We were in Woodbury commons shopping in the day, and traffic was just ridiculous going back into NYC. When we got to the Port Authority we had about 10 minutes to our reserved timeslot, and we called the restaurant to ask them to hold our table for as long as they could while we rushed there. Thank God they don’t have a dress code, as we were wearing probably the most shabby looking clothes ever, looking a huge mess, as we rushed into the restaurant. Imagine our relief as we finally sat down, and were quickly poured two tall glasses of ice cold water. First order of business – get some alcohol. We ordered 2 cocktails, a Juicy Lucy, and a Check the Weather. Both went down very well, though A’s Juicy Lucy was a little too bubblegummy sweet.
Service at wd-50 is truly fantastic. Abigail, our server, was like a bright ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Some people are born to be in the service industry, and Abi is definitely one of those people. She was engaging and made us both feel right at home. We ordered the tasting menu, and waited in excitement to be blown away by what is widely regarded to be some of the finest examples of molecular gastronomy in the world today.
wd-50 is owned by Chef Wylie Dufresne. He is a regular guest judge on Top Chef, and has competed in Top Chef Masters as well. He’s well known in the restaurant world for being ultra creative and daring to experiment with different cooking techniques and tools. Chef Wylie is the head chef there at wd-50, and it’s so wonderful to know that the Chef behind the restaurant’s fame is actually there cooking your food. In so many restaurants, the celebrity chef is just there to draw the crowds and is hardly ever in the kitchen, let alone to do any actual cooking.
First item: sesame seed bread. Crispy, delicate, and very, very addictive.
Next item in our tasting menu was a fish amuse bouche, with watermelon foam and some peppers. The fish was served at room temperature, which didn’t make it texturally very appealing, but it was full of fishy flavour (in a good way).
The next dish was called Everything Bagel. This was served with smoked salmon threads and a crispy cream cheese. At first look, it looks like a deconstructed bagel dish, with a little slice of poppy seed bagel, and the classic fillings like smoked salmon and cream cheese artistically arranged on the side. However, there is nothing like a classic bagel in this dish. What looks like a bagel is actually ice cream! Yes I’ll say it again, it’s ice cream! This is one of the truly amazing aspects of the meal – what you see is not what you get, and what you think you’re having is not actually what you’re having.
Cut to the next dish: an emormous slice of Foie gras with chinese celery. First of all the combination of foie gras and chinese celery seems a little strange, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When you cut through the foie gras, you find a liquid passion fruit core in the center that oozes out sexily. The presentation and creativity was spectacular. Tastewise this didn’t deliver as much. The sour tang of the passion fruit cut through the creaminess of the foie gras, and perhaps that was the whole point of combining those 2 ingredients together, but we’re not sure if the flavours necessarily complemented each other. Nevertheless, it was a really exciting dish to look at and appreciate the work that went into creating it.
Next dish presented to us was Chef Wylie’s take on breakfast. This was Scrambled egg ravioli with charred avocado and kindai kampachi. Some extremely expertly diced fried potatoes were sprinkled all over the plate as well. They were so tiny it was literally impossible to pick up with a fork – they just slipped through the slits in your fork. This was their interpretation of hash browns we guessed. Overall this dish was outstanding, both in presentation and taste. The scrambled egg ravioli was very well done, and the kampachi was just awesome. We absolutely loved this dish.
The next dish was Cold fried chicken with buttermilk ricotta, some Tabasco and caviar. This was easily our favourite dish of the entire tasting menu. The chicken was fried, and then chilled. Texturally this was a huge success – the jellied fat didn’t annoy us at all, but added a wonderful new dimension to a classic fried chicken dish. The chicken was served with what looked like some mashed potato, but was actually buttermilk ricotta. There was no strange cheesy smell or taste, and was such a cheeky take on mashed potato. This dish was truly beginning to remind us of a traditional fried chicken dish, and what was the little dollop of ketchup sauce on the side was actually Tabasco, that had been ‘Wylie-d’ and transformed into what genuinely looked and felt like ketchup, but with a totally different taste. It was pure genius. We also loved the little slice of fried chicken skin, but couldn’t care too much about the caviar, as we didn’t see how it fit in the dish at all. Perhaps it was a reference to a surf and turf?
The Black bass was next. There was a beautiful smear of what we were told was popcorn across the entire plate. It was really popcorn! It’s really cool how your brain looks at what you’re going to eat, processes it, preps itself for what it’s about to taste, and then when you actually it eat it the disconnect between what you’ve prepped yourself to have and what you’re having just makes your brain do a little cartwheel. The popcorn sauce was one of those moments, and we felt almost bad having to destroy the beautiful presentation to eat it. The fish was beautifully cooked. It was firm yet juicy and overall very delicious. The ground chorizo was also nice and smoky, but we couldn’t care very much about the pineapple.
So far, this meal has been by far one of the most exciting meals we’ve ever had. Dishes are turned on their heads, reworked in creative ways and challenging our notions of food, texture and tastes. The next dish was Beef and béarnaise, and this was way out there in terms of creativity. When I say Beef and béarnaise, you think of steak with some sauce. The last thing you’ll ever expect to see is soup. Well, soup was what we got. The soup was the beef steak, and the béarnaise was manifested by the 3 creamish balls. They were topped with some onion reduction. Talk about deconstructing a dish. The individual components were not meant to be eaten separately, as they had some really powerful and quite jarring flavours. Eaten together however, you honestly feel like you’ve just had a steak with béarnaise sauce. This was such an amazing dish that we still talk about it quite regularly.
It would be really hard to top the highs of the previous few dishes, and indeed there was a lull in the proceedings with the next dish – Lamb loin with black garlic, romesco, soy bean and pickled garlic chive. The lamb was perfectly cooked, slightly rare in the middle and juicy and tender all throughout, but the black garlic was definitely an acquired taste. It was too overpowering that we barely touched it at all. Hence it was like eating an incomplete dish.
With the tasting menu we were served a series of desserts. First up was a White beer ice cream with apple, caramel and caraway. Beer ice cream is definitely a novel concept and this dessert definitely pushed the boundaries. It was slightly bitter, and the caramel provided a much needed sweetness to remind us again that this was dessert. (Not our favourite dessert, but a very brave attempt at one.)
We loved our next dessert. It was a Rainbow sherbet with plum, tarragon, orange and a little bit of olive oil. The sherbet was wrapped in a thin roll of sugar paper that was just so delicate and crispy. We loved all the flavours, and the different components worked very well together.
The third dessert was Soft chocolate with beet reduction, long peppers and ricotta ice cream. The soft chocolate was seriously decadent and to die for. The ricotta ice cream was also very luscious, but we didn’t like the beets very much – just give me more of that chocolate!!!
Since it was K’s birthday, a complimentary dessert was brought out for him. This was a cucumber cake, with once again that lovely sugar paper, and a candle was lit in the roll of sugar paper. It was such a delicate cake – you wouldn’t think that cucumber was strong enough an ingredient to be the main focus in a cake, but it really worked. Funnily enough, cucumber is K’s favourite (healthy) snack to munch on when he’s feeling hungry (and fat), so this was such a pleasant surprise for him! The candle extinguished itself when the flame hit the sugar paper (whether this was intended to happen or not we don’t know) and gave a little smokiness to the dessert which we quite liked. There was a little taste of seaweed somewhere in the sugar paper, but we were told there wasn’t any added to the dish at all..quite fascinating indeed.
The final dessert of our extremely long but exciting meal was a Cocoa packet with chocolate shortbread and milk ice cream, basically a take on cookies and cream. The ice cream was hidden in the shortbread, and the cocoa packet was actually edible in its entirety, packet and all! It was such an exciting concept, to bite into the packet and to taste the cocoa powder (obviously it wasn’t just ordinary cocoa powder). It was like having a cup of coffee to finish off our meal, but without the coffee. The ‘cookies and cream’ was also wonderful. It was a small little bite, quite characteristic of the entire meal – full of small components, all carefully thought out, meticulously created and beautifully presented.
Overall this was quite the meal. We were brought on a culinary tour, and tasted some of the most interesting and creative foods of our lives. The team at wd-50 is just awesome, both in the kitchen and in the front of house, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in the couple of hours we were there. (Yes, the tasting menu is a whole journey and actually does take a while to complete, but that’s all part of the experience!) At the end of the meal we got to go into the kitchen to meet the team responsible for all our food, and even took a photo with the main man himself, Chef Wylie Dufresne! This was the perfect birthday celebration for K, and definitely one of the meals we will be talking about for ages to come.