One of the landmarks in the New York dining scene for years has been Chef Wylie Dufresne's wd-50, especially if you're looking to try molecular gastronomy or modernist cuisine. Thanks to the cruel forces of Manhattan real estate (which have taken out so many icons), wd-50 closed up shop tonight after dinner. We only made it there once, but dishes from that meal made both of our favorites lists that year. It was a surprise dinner for my birthday and I had absolutely no idea where we were going until A walked me all the way to the door. It was just the start of a night of surprises, since one of the joys of eating modernist cuisine for us is how nothing is ever really what you expect until you taste it.
The meal started out with some sesame flatbread crisps. We also got some cocktails but I haven't added pictures of those, because I don't have any recollection of what they are. I should probably mention that, 4 years later, we don't remember every detail about the dishes or even what all of our favorites were, so this isn't a great "review." It's more of a chance for us to look back and remember what we ate on our only visit to such a wonderful place. Also, sorry in advance for some of the unfortunate picture quality. We didn't have a macro lens on our SLR and the light wasn't the greatest, but oh well.
We got the tasting menu that night. Our first course was fluke with sunflower seed, cole slaw and lemon (most of these are menu descriptions, so not really much help on what the dishes were, and neither are my limited notes). There was also a cilantro flavored sauce and the cole slaw was kind of like a powder. This was a good light start to the night.
The second course, the everything bagel, we definitely remember for how unique it was. Instead of an actual mini bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese, there was something that looked exactly like the top of a mini everything bagel, but instead it had the consistency of ice cream. There were also smoked salmon threads, crisps of cream cheese, and pickled onions. It's fun and unexpected when you "bite" into something expecting it to have some substance and then to realize it's basically ice cream instead.
The foie gras course I remember most for how rich it was. I'm not a huge foie gras fan, but I'm glad we had the opportunity to try this. It was one big round of foie gras topped with slivers of celery, sitting on a financier of Chinese celery.
When you broke open the round of foie gras, liquid came spilling out, and that tasted like passion fruit. It was a combination of flavors that we had never had before (or since).
Next up was scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, kindai kampachi, and toasted potatoes. The final dinner menu at wd-50 has the same egg dish that we got (but with a different fish). We don't remember a ton about this one, sadly.
Have you ever had fried chicken leftovers the next day and just eaten them cold? I can't explain it, but there's something really good about cold fried chicken. That's what came up in our next course, which made A's favorites list and was high up on my list of possibilities. It was cold fried chicken, buttermilk ricotta (which was whipped up like mashed potatoes), tabasco (like a honey tabasco sauce), and caviar (not sure what type, but maybe sturgeon). It was like eating a cold version of chicken and mashed potatoes, and it was delicious.
After the cold fried chicken, it was time for black bass with chorizo crumble, grilled pineapple, and a popcorn puree. This sounds like it was really good, but unfortunately, sandwiched between 2 glorious dishes, we've kind of forgotten about it.
The next dish - beef and bernaise - was the one that unexpectedly ended up on my favorites list from 2010. At the time, I still didn't eat much red meat, but this dish was spectacular (looks like this one is also on the final dinner menu). I was so surprised by it, especially given my initial hesitation when I saw that the menu had this dish listed. I was expecting beef with a bernaise sauce, but instead it was like eating bernaise gnocchi, caramelized shallot paste, and beef broth, with some slivers of snow peas on top. I would definitely eat this again, but sadly, this will have been the only time for this dish.
We had mentioned to them before the meal that I didn't eat much red meat, so for the next course, they brought out different dishes for A and me. I had arctic char with fried yucca, cherry black bean sauce, and other stuff that I can't remember anymore and was not on the menu to be identified.
A got the squab breast which came with Chinese broccoli, corn bread with pickled cranberries in it, and what tasted like a spiced pumpkin puree. We don't remember much about these two, sadly. I bet we were still thinking and talking about the bernaise dish at the time.
That was the end of our savory entrees and now it was time for sweet. The first dessert was white beer ice cream, with quince, caramel, caraway, and a really pretty cookie.
The second dessert looked like a spring roll. It was rainbow sherbet (in a shell that made it like an egg roll) with apple, tarragon, and orange flavors. That came on top of an olive oil sponge cake, with olive oil ice cream and a piece of grapefruit. It was so interesting.
The final dessert was by far the most beautiful. It had soft chocolate, beets, long pepper, ricotta ice cream, but more than the flavor, I just remembered how pretty the design was.
Since it was my birthday dinner, they brought me a candle, which was edible and tasted and smelled like coconut. It was really just another example in the long list of how Wylie and his staff are geniuses at what they do.
To end our meal, we first got chocolate shortbread with milk ice cream, which was like eating an Oreo ball.
And the last to arrive were cocoa packets, which were exactly what they sounded like. The cocoa inside was like little pellets housed inside the chocolate exterior.
We really enjoyed our meal at wd-50 and now, looking back, are glad that we had the opportunity to at least visit wd-50 once. It's sad that they have to close, but we're thankful for the experience.