I wish everyone HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Jeebus, time flew so quickly… I’ll probably write a review of the past year soon, say, on the day of the new year? I’m not too sure on that. If not, I have a more personal post to write about anyways.
Going back to Friday night, I went to WD-50 with Ariel for dinner since he’s particularly intrigued with molecular gastronomy and Chef Wylie Dufrense since he’s the only person in New York who really does this particular style of cooking. And the fact that he likes food that has weird flavor combinations.
Since it was 6 PM, this is considered a bit early so there wasn’t that many people. As the time passes, more diners arrived and eventually the whole place was packed.
The decor is not exactly appealing. The dark blue walls and the large panel on the side of the room looks hideous. All the way in the back is the open kitchen (with Chef Dufrense peering into the dining room every so once in a while), where diners may peer in the where the plating station as well as seeing what the kitchen should look like: a mesh between a normal restaurant kitchen and a science laboratory.
As we perused the menu, we were tempted to try out the Tasting Menu. However, we’re not willing to go all in to sit and eat for the next two hours, and risk palate fatigue. We thought about going with the appetizer, main, and dessert route but after asking the waiter about what’s considered very good and weird, we ended up ordering two appetizers and a dessert for each of us (despite the fact we’re sharing everything equally).
The bone marrow, chestnuts, tonburi, pickled honshemeji was interesting, to say the least. Basically, they cook the bone marrow until it’s soft enough to consume without melting into pure fat by using some kind of chemical. The chestnuts added some crunch. The tonburi, also known as mountain caviar, adds a caviar-like texture, and the pickled honshemeji mushrooms added some subtle briny tartness to the dish. Overall, I wanted to like it but the flavors were hard to pick up. Ariel didn’t like this dish and considers it “bland.”
The foie gras, mole lentils, and quince yogurt was spectacular! Despite the fact we love foie in all its delicious fattiness, the intensity of the flavor contrasting with the creamy, slightly sweet and tart quince yogurt blew our minds. This was foodgasmic for both of us and we lingered and praised this dish for a couple of minutes we moved on to the next round of appetizers. All the notes hit everything on target and it really made us happy.
This dish was intriguing to Ariel’s eyes when he read this off the menu because of the banana tartar. When we asked the waiter what is the banana tartar since if one puts this in the literal sense, it’s just chopped bananas. However, he explained to us that the bananas are chopped, then mixed in with a tartar sauce; served with the fried quail.
When we actually ate this, we felt lost. The flavor combinations were too disparate that nothing really helped the other. The banana tartar was fine – it gives a smooth and creamy texture with a slightly caramelized banana flavor. The fried quail was crisp with a touch of gaminess. The concept was creative but didn’t the flavor execution didn’t pull through.
The smoked eel, blood orange, black radish, chicken skin was ordered for the sake that I love eel. Generally, it fared better than the bone marrow in terms of flavors. The smokiness of the eel is more tamed than what I expected but its luxurious, fatty texture still remained. The black radish, which the server said it was salsify, was delicately sweet and crunchy. I didn’t hear or see the chicken skin but the added element was some type of popcorn, which give it an added dimension of crisp and crunch. I liked this dish but it’s a tad too subtle for Ariel’s taste for him to like it.
And now we move to dessert! The jasmine custard, black tea, banana got Ariel’s attention since he hasn’t really tried jasmine tea or jasmine anything. I think and I let him choose since I know Pastry chef Alex Stupak will not disappoint me after doing a tasting the past summer – anything goes. Anyways, the jasmine custard was very luxuriously velvety and thick; delicately flavored with jasmine and the black tea foam and ice cream add a nuance of earthiness, airiness and creaminess. The caramelized banana on the base of the ice cream goes well with the floral flavors of the jasmine custard. It’s delicious.
The soft white chocolate, potato, malt, white beer ice cream gotten Ariel’s attention when we were deciding on the menu was the beer and potato combination in this dessert. When I took a spoon with everything this was the truly divine. The beer was intensely flavored without tasting alcoholic. The white chocolate and malt works with the beer ice cream to mellow out the latter and made it delicately sweeter. The potato played a minor role since it’s a size of a pebble.
After we finished our desserts and requested the check, they gave us mini-marshmallows as petit fours. These marshmallows are so soft, it’s like eating a passion fruit flavored cloud. Sure Jean Georges has marshmallows but it’s all pretense and presentation but this served in a rustic fashion with the intense flavor and über light texture surpasses JG’s.
Overall, the savory dishes have its hits (that exhilarates us) and misses (that leaves us wondering what are we eating or thinking it’s bland). Everything was presented beautifully. It’s just the fact that Chef Dufresne’s intellectual approach of the pleasure principle is respectful, but some dishes don’t respond too well. In terms of the desserts, I never felt wronged by them that I don’t mind splurging for these specifically. One day I’ll do the dessert tasting.
50 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002