Having dined at WD-50 a few years ago, we returned to the restaurant after a few favorable reviews from friends, but with expectations in check. Our previous visits had yielded dishes that sacrificed deliciousness for science, or just plain tasted gross!
This time around, I was pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed the meal. The key difference may have been ordering a la carte and choosing our experience, as opposed to putting ourselves in the kitchen's hands.
Started with an Awesome, Brother! cocktail (rum, saint germain, passionfruit). Nicely tart and well-balanced. My There and Back Again (Sake, raspberry, suspension of disbelief) was nice but not nearly as good. I wasn't quite sure how the floating globules really added to the drink. The Shades of Jade (shiso tequila, cucumber, lime) was more my style. Very vegetal.
For our appetizers, I chose the aerated foie, pickled beet, mashad plum, brioche, which was insane. First off, the portion size appeared to be giant. Secondly, it was as if I had an entire coral reef of foie on my plate. A friend had previous made the observation that it looked more like a sponge to him, but my impression was coral. Three big sections of coral, with a brioche chip, dabs of plum sauce here and there, and tubes and rods of pickled beet. The texture of the foie gras was magnificent (rich but fluffy and airy), and while I'm not a huge beet fan, the plum sauce balanced out the earthiness of the beets quite well. My only complaint was that it is a little difficult to cut up "pipes" of beet to have just enough beet in a single bite of foie.
My husband's cold fried chicken was even better. Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar. Also delicious: a brick of light and dark meat, held together by what I assume was transglutaminase, breaded and fried. Served with a few generous dollops of salt caviar, on top of creamy buttermilk-ricotta "mashed potatoes," and a delicious yellow sauce infused with tabasco. And chicken skin chips on top! Salty, creamy, crunchy, meaty, and spicy, all at the same time. Wonderful. Very jealous that he ordered this and I didn't.
My entree, while tasty, wasn't as adventurous as it sounded on paper. I chose the duck breast, black sesame dumplings, red cabbage, parsnip consommé. It was shreds of red cabbage, plus duck breast with the skin on, carefully sliced, sitting in a clear parsnip broth. The dumplings were actually filled with meat and only had a hint of black sesame. They tasted a little spicy and smoky, but not really of sesame. I was expecting something more like a mochi or Chinese bun dessert -- black sesame paste inside. This dish didn't really read "molecular" at all. It tasted good, but not really what you go to WD-50 for.
My husband's entree was a notch better. Lamb skirt steak, pistachio ‘polenta,’ endive marmalade, spiced apricot. Perfectly cooked lamb, paired with a few toasted bricks of deliciously nutty pistachio polenta. The endive marmalade was reminiscent of onion soubise in texture. And the apricot sauce was beautifully plated in swirls on the edge of the plate. Gorgeous, delicious, and all the flavors sang in harmony together. I was really impressed with how well this dish came together and how beautiful it looked. Here's a photo on their web site:
For dessert, we shared the Tri-star strawberries, brown butter, pinenut, kaffir, elderflower. This was also very good. Slices of fresh strawberry, a few "rocks" of a crunchy strawberry "strusel", a quenelle of brown butter ice cream, a swirl of pinenut cream/puree, elderflower foam, and elderflower gelee on top. Excellent and very well balanced though I wish there had been a few more strawberries on the plate as I do love Tri-stars.
All in all, a very memorable meal, and I'm glad we decided to give WD-50 another chance.
50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002
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