WD~50: Part One
Dim lighting, plush booth seats, wiry wooden chairs, and polychromatic decorated walls are all signs of an average, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. However, WD~50 is anything but your local eatery. Its dishes incorporate ingredients ranging from squab breast to transglutaminase (meat glue.) Its executive chef gets invitations to present lectures at Harvard University, and its dessert chef wields the title of “Boy Wonder” in the pastry world.
WD~50 serves one of the most avant-garde, experimental cooking that New York City has to offer. In a melting pot of cultural cuisines and world-class cooking, WD~50 stands out undeniably. You don’t just stumble into the restaurant one day; you hear about it first. Then, you develop a curiosity that drives you to give the place a try.
Admittedly, WD~50 does not procure the most decadent, hunger-inducing dishes, but it does offer interesting flavor combinations—that work—and an abundant amount of surprise in texture and temperature.
Putting a spin on the classic bread basket, chef Wylie Dufresne presents a rectangular box of sesame seed flatbread. Yet, this is no ordinary flatbread; it’s too flat to be flatbread. Dufresne’s flatbread is as thin as paper. These sheets of sesame seed-flavored crunch could cut your tongue if you’re not careful. They’re not memorable because of their taste—rather bland actually. They’re memorable because of their texture and aesthetics.
Dufresne’s interesting flavor combinations start to show in the first course of the tasting menu. A mix of spiciness, gingerly sweetness, and ocean presents itself in the form of a spoon-sized dish. The base of the dish is striped bass while a few sauces and some gingerbread decorate the fish, adding color, texture, and flavor.
The venerable ice cream bagel follows, stepping up the anté on innovation. While at first glance, the bagel appears like a nano bagel—a bagel that is smaller than a mini bagel—second glance reveals something fishy about the bagel. The gradients of dark brown and tan are too perfect, and the whole thing starts becoming drippy. Of course, the taste of the bagel would not betray the fact that it is made of ice cream because the flavors are impeccably similar to that of a real bagel. Still, innovation continues as Dufresne also reinvents smoked salmon and cream cheese. The smoked salmon are fine, powdery threads, and the cream cheese is a brittle, hard sheet. However, these sides pale in comparison to the star of the dish, the bagel. The salmon threads are a bit too powdery, leaving a dry feel in the mouth, and the cream cheese has an almost imperceptible taste—perhaps a fault of my own palate.
Foie gras steals the spotlight for Dufresne’s third course. The foie gras, which is duck liver, is ice-cold and buttery. It melts easily in the mouth but requires a slight of pressure to completely dissipate. As surprising as the texture of the foie gras is, more surprising is the hidden treasure that lies within the wheel of foie gras. Inside the foie gras is a cylindrical cavity of space occupied by cold, refreshing passionfruit sorbet. Again, sweet meets savory in this dish while overtones of bitterness and spice from chinese celery add even more dimensions to an already wonderful dish.
With that, I will end this post, since I’m quite tired (Just got back from New York!) Fear not however, reviews of the remaining thirteen dishes I tried at WD~50 are coming, including my overall thoughts and impressions of the restaurant. I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays, and have a wonderful New Year! See you in 2011!