I've never posted a review here before since I can put them on my blog, but I had a really awesome time at wd-50 last week and hope that this review will be useful to others. It's the same thing I put on my site, edited down without photos to sound marginally more succint/less insane. Hope you like it.
At around 10 PM, Kathy and I only had a short wait before we were seated. Hooray for spontaneity and lack of reservations! We happened to be seated next to two majorly food-minded women from California who graciously offered us tastes of their end-of-the-meal ginger cotton candy.
"Holycrapthisisgood," I thought as the fluffy sugar melted into...well, less fluffy sugar. Saliva will do that, ye know. Sweetness and ginger smooshed throughout my mouth. Saliva will do that too. I was damn happy. It was a smidgen of what was to come in the next two hours, akin to the sauce smears on the five dessert plates of a gazillion flavors we would receive throughout the night.
Our first course was celery sorbet, peanut powder, and "magic" raisins that we decided to call magical because we couldn't remember what the exact description was. (The waiter would describe each dish to us, but we'd forget 99% of it in 5 seconds. Damn.) The first bite went somethin' like this:
"THIS IS SO GOOD."
That wasn't exactly what we said, but it's close. And if you ever wondered, yes, it's possible to speak in caps.
Celery sorbet is awesome. Obviously, it tastes like celery, which isn't something you'd associate with desserts. So why it is awesome? Well...have you ever had celery sorbet? It didn't make the cut at Baskin Robbins, but it's damn good. It tastes light, refreshing, and I daresay, almost cleansing. I would have liked it if the peanut powder had a stronger flavor (or maybe my taste buds were celery-ified), but it went nicely with the celery. The dessert was like ants on a log, but more labor intensive and with less insoluble fiber.
Our second course was manchego cheesecake in a crushed graham cracker coating topped with pineapple foam with a manchego cracker accompanied by thyme sauce and chopped quince. That sentence probably isn't grammatically correct, but you get the idea.
Of course, cheesecake at wd-50 is not regular cheesecake. It takes basic parts of a cheesecake and condenses them into this little block of joy. I don't recall that the cheesecake was strongly flavored with manchego, but the cracker was very cheesy. Also, as a testament to my inability to identify flavors, while eating the foam all I could think of was, "This tastes so familiar! I DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS. Jesus doesn't love me." I only realized it was pineapple when I looked over the menu.
Is it weird if the thyme sauce was my favorite part of the dessert? It's not as though the other parts were sub-par, but the thyme sauce happened to latch onto my taste buds more forcefully than the other parts of the dessert in a totally unexpected way. First off, who would expect thyme sauce with cheesecake? And who would think that they would go together so tastily? NOT I. I'm not even a big fan of thyme--the aroma of it tends to punch my brain in a way it doesn't like to be punched--but this sauce! THIS SAUCE. Like all the desserts, a little taste is all you need to be satisfied.
The third course was mustard ice cream on braised pineapple topped with a pinapple tuille and coconut foam with mustard sauce. [takes a breath] The mustard ice cream whacked my throat and made it tingly. Crap. And then, since I'm a masochist, I took another spoonful and endured another whack. It was less painful than eating straight mustard sauce, but...man, this was really mustardy. Although it was tasty, I wouldn't be dying to eat again. In my opinion, the strength of the mustard flavor drowned out any coconut taste in the foam. Actually, the mustard drown out everything else, except for the mustard sauce (or maybe it drowned that out too; it's mustard squared!). Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed the dessert, I just found it overly mustardy.
- Fourth Course--
For some reason, I don't remember what the ice cream was, but here's my description: (maybe) brown butter ice cream with French toast, raisin paper, raisin sauce and (maybe) brown sugar gelee.
French-ified toast is the best kind of toast. Part of the joy of French toast for me is when it comes in the form of a big, fluffy stack, but of course, there was no such thing here. Instead, we got bite-sized, crispy, creamy-innards French toast brick. Naturally, it was awesome and unlike any other French toast I've had, but nothing that would fulfill my craving for a French toast tower. (Not that wd-50 is supposed to fulfill any craving. Just sayin'.)
Kathy said that the ice cream was brown butter flavor. My tastebuds tend to be in the "off" position, thus I couldn't really tell what this was. Brown sugar? Butter? Brown? Tastes like brown? Well. It tasted good, whatever it was. Sorry for the vagueness, but...come on, everything tastes good and I back it up 10000%.
Once again, I feel in love with the sauce. It's just raisin! IN FRIGGIN' SAUCE FORM! And that raisin paper...whoa, what? Dehydrated to the max! I accidentally dropped it after picking it up (because as magical as this food is, it does not possess the power of levitation...yet) and it shattered. Wayward shards of ultra-thin raisin paper, oh no! Raisins paper is tasty and a little odd, like everything else we ate. (rubs belly)
Oh crap, it's THE LAST COURSE. NO! However, I think they saved the best for last: mole toffee-topped butternut squash sorbet with pumpkin seed cake on top of chocolate soil and toasted squash seeds with butternut squash sauce and mole sauce.
Butternut squash is majorly overlooked as an awesome sorbet flavor. While I like ice cream more than sorbet, that's because sorbet tends to taste icier, or at least less creamy. I like the texture of ice cream more than sorbet, but all the sorbets and ice creams at wd-50 were velvety smooth and creamy. This was my favorite, with celery coming in at a very close second. And the soil? THE SOIL? WHY WAS THE SOIL SO TASTY? It had a slight salty flavor and was somehow just very...good. And the seeds? THEY'RE JUST SEEDS! But perfectly toasted so that they popped in your mouth, thus unleashing the powerful fumes of unborn squash embryo. Delicious.
Once again, the sauce. Yes, the sauce...was awesome. Just licking the mole-sauce dipped tines of my fork made my throat tingle in a less pain-inducing way than the mustard imparted onto my mucus membranes. This stuff was strong. And excellent. I know "excellent" tells you nothing, especially coming from someone who only had mole sauce once before in her life, but...whatever. Don't you trust me?
My new dream sundae would consist of butternut squash sorbet topped with chocolate soil, toasted squash embryo and drizzled with mole sauce. I wonder if they'd fulfill a request like that. It'd probably cost $50.
We received an end-of-the-sugary-meal bowl of "looks like an exploded fluff ball" ginger cotton candy. More sugar? Hell yes! Imagine cotton candy. Imagine fresh ginger. Combine the two, and this is what you get. I don't think I need to describe what cotton candy tastes like; if you've never tried it, that kinda sucks. Find some!
If you eat the normal food (you know, not completely sugar-based), you receive a little bowl of chocolate-covered curry-dusted almonds. Although we only ordered desserts, Kathy really wanted to try them (and of course, I did too) so she asked if we could have a bowl. Thankfully, they granted our request. Just the right amount of chocolate and curry powder, if that means anything. Which it doesn't. BUT THERE YOU GO.
Since Kathy is 10000 times more passionate about food than I am, she asked if we could meet the pastry chef, Sam Mason. And so we did. He was really nice, although probably dead-tired since it was the end of the night, and possibly thought we were freaks, but it was great to actually see the person (or people rather, as one of his sous-chefs was there too) who made our desserts. We stood in the kitchen for a while to watch him plate desserts; I felt like my presence was a contamination hazard.
Here's a summation of my wd-50 experience:
It was awesome and I want to do it again. Now. I mean, soon. I've never had any food like this before (well, not five courses of it), so I have nothing to compare it to, but I have a feeling that every other comparable eating experience is just going to suck from now on. Also, since I love desserts I doubt that wd-50's normal food would make me anywhere nearly as happy. And happy, I was. The joy I got out of the dining experience exceeded some of my happiest post-concert highs.
The service was excellent. I think we had maybe four different waiters who were all nice, and not in an scary, overly-smiley way, but in a warm, comfortable way. Although the restaurant could have been pretentious, it didn't feel like that at all. It was just awesome and at no point felt uncomfortable. After Kathy and I left, two different waiters came out in succession with my shopping bag and camera that I had left under the table (if you haven't figured it out yet, yes, I am a moron); I felt so bad!
I should've tipped them more. You know, my predicting my stupidity of leaving half of my belongings under the table.
I can't say anything about the non-dessert food, but if you like desserts, I'd say this is a must-visit in NYC.