Many thanks to those who weighed in on my recent posts where I sought advice on whether to attend wd~50, Ko or someplace else altogether, as well as what to order at wd~50. My girlfriend and I ended up attending wd~50 and the experience was spectacular.
I just wanted to share the review that I posted on Yelp, as well as expand upon it, since Yelp cut me off at 5000 characters.
wd~50 is the first restaurant where I've been served by the executive chef.
My girlfriend and I ate here last night for a belated Valentines Dinner. I got lucky and snagged a 6:00 reservation on a Sunday night two weeks ahead of time. However, due an F train running on the A/C line and a non-running M train, we were forced to take a cab from Canal Street and proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes sitting in traffic on Canal, Houston and Bowery. I did call the restaurant and let them know we'd be late, to which the manager was very appreciate and gracious. Our cab driver finally let us out of Chrystie Street and told us it'd be faster to walk, so we hoofed it for the last half mile.
We finally arrived 20 minutes late. After arriving we were warmly greeted by the host, who expressed his apologies for the traffic and subway difficulties. After we checked our coats, he then explained to us that they had two tables available for us. The first table had the main door on one side, the coat room on the other side, looked out onto the sidewalk and was flanked with bar patrons. Ehh, not really a desirable table at all. The second table he offered us was the CHEF'S TABLE, RIGHT OUTSIDE THE KITCHEN!!! Seriously? Hmm, maybe being late was a good thing. He then explained that if we disliked hustle and bustle, it probably wouldn't be a good table for us, but we always like seeing the kitchen and its activity, so it'd be great. We sprang for that table, after he made sure it was ok with the chef and it was.
After we sat down, Chef Dufresne came out and introduced himself, saying how nice it was that we were able to join them. That was the first of several interactions we had with him that night. He is a very friendly, accommodating, down to earth and not snotty or pretentious. Chef de Cuisine Bignelli also came out and said hello to us.
Onto the menu. Our servers were very helpful making menu suggestions. Our server also said that we were free to take as many pictures of the kitchen activity as we liked and that after dinner, we could even have our picture taken with Chef Dufresne.
As for what we ordered, for our appetizers, I pretty much stuck to what people on here suggested. We had the Cold Fried Chicken, Eggs Benedict and Bay Scallops. Before any appetizers arrived, we were served Parmesan Crisps, which were light, crispy and flavorful. To drink, I had the Tommy-O 2.0. Delicious! Bartenders here really know what they're doing. Definitely come here for drinks instead of dive bars or bad "hidden" speakeasies. Ok, certain NYC speakeasies are still worth it, but not many. The bartenders at wd~50 definitely have their act together.
The Cold Fried Chicken was served first and plated individually for each of us. I was in heaven with my first bite. It was served room temperature and wasn't greasy or fatty, yet had a nice crispy outside. The meat was succulent and tender. The buttermilk-ricotta and caviar balanced out the chicken nicely and had some cottage cheese flavors too. It also had some tabasco syrup on the bottom which I wasn't a huge fan of, as it was spicier than I like. Overall tho, quite good.
As for the Eggs Benedict, the dish is a unique interpretation. The deep friend Hollandaise sauce is still in liquid form within the shells, the ham is crispy and the egg yolks were uniquely rendered, almost like a custard or pudding.
The Bay Scallops themselves were quite good and still retained a lot of ocean flavor. The dish was also served with a cauliflower puree, capers and preserved lemon. Individually, all the flavors in this dish were quite good, but when the scallops were mixed with the cauliflower, capers and lemon, something wasn't right. Individually tho, great scallops and cauliflower puree.
Just a side note that it was the Eggs Benedict and Bay Scallops that Chef Dufresne personally served us.
Moving on to our main courses, I had the Lamb Shoulder and my gf had the Tilefish. Both entrees were excellent and the portion sizes were perfect. Flavorwise, the lamb dish had items I'm not usually a fan of - polenta and endive, but I loved what was done with them in these dishes, especially the endive marmelade. The poached endive was pretty good and the pistacchio polenta was like no other. The Tilefish dish was pretty interesting as well. It contained a Manhattan Clam Chowder broth (which was good and had a smoky flavor), a New England Clam Chowder puree, oysters and then deep fried oysters that were rendered as crackers. The tilefish was perfectly cooked and not dry. The dish was a home run all the way.
Chef Dufresne came out after we'd finished our mains and asked how everything was. Hmm, other than excellent?
For dessert, we had the Liquid Churro and the Chocolate, each of which I can still taste. The churro was sweet, lemony and had hints of cinnamon, while the chocolate was served with beet, long pepper, ricotta sorbet. The chocolate ganache ribbon was decadent, the ricotta sorbet creamy and sweet. Beets and peppers were interesting choices as well. We were also served Rice Krispie Treats, which were crispy and had a yummy frozen marshmallow center.
After dinner, the manager gave us a tour of the kitchen, where we talked more with Chef Dufresne, who also signed menus for us and took pictures with us. He may only have one restaurant, but he's in the kitchen five nights a week and he actually cooks. How many executive chefs are in their kitchen and cooking five nights a week? We saw him preparing the majority of our dishes as well. People say the a la carte items are less experimental than the tasting menu, but if Chef Dufresne can blend his gastronomic techniques seamlessly to enhance his food, then more power to him. Flavor comes first here, not spectacle.
We also chatted more with the manager, Chris, for a bit after Chef Dufresne went back to work and took a picture with him for being so incredibly gracious and accomodating.
Sitting at the chef's table really made our evening and we were able to take a ton of pictures of the kitchen activity. Upon walking to the bathroom, I noticed how the vibe in the rest of the restaurant was completely different from where we were sitting We felt like rock stars for those two hours, with a front row seat to the kitchen's show. Chef Wylie meticulously poured over each plating and both he and Chef Bignelli were always tasting food before it was served.
Chef Dufresne also has a great sense of humor. At one point, another of the hosts came up to him and they were discussing something that looked important. Suddenly, Chef Dufresne points at us and says, "Well, would you like me to ask these people to leave?" We hadn't even had dessert yet and were like "Uhhh..." I was thinking, "Did I take too many pictures?"- but then he says "I'm just messing with you!!!" We all had a good laugh over it.
As someone told me, flavors here are polarizing and may not be for everyone. I'd never heard of swiss chard sorbet before. Just have an open mind and don't ready too many blogs on this place. We almost didn't come due to so many divided opinions. In the end, food and service were five stars.
After interacting with Chef Dufresne over the course of the evening, I'd like to suggest to some other chefs who are uptight and don't allow photos to loosen up! Maybe while eating a plate of figs... in San Francisco...
50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002