Had an amazing meal at WD-50 last night. First of all, the ambiance is great. Beautiful wood paneling when you walk in and great light fixtures. Also, lots of space, which is a nice change from 71 Clinton. Unfortunately I didn't have a cocktail while waiting at the bar for the rest of my party because they sound great. I'll just have to go again. On to the food:
Squid linguini with Asian pear and Serrano ham in a yogurt/sweet paprika sauce: perhaps the star of the evening. The linguini is all thinly sliced squid (as most avid chowhound readers know by now). This dish should be served as entreeI could just keep eating it. The salty bite of the ham vs. the sweet crunch of the pears was a wonderful intro to the texture/flavor combinations we would see all night.
Octopus: This was confited in grapeseed oil and then lightly grilled. Super tender and real great octopus flavor. Just enough crispness from the grill. The fingerling potato salad was very good, although I felt a little heavy on the mustard (Wylie likes mustard it seems). He also clearly likes cephalopods as these were two of the best dishes
Corned Duck: These lower east side restaurants love to play on the local cuisine, and I say more power to them. This was great deli meat. Once again, a little too much mustard, but I can live.
Foie Gras: I really wanted to like this, but there were two problems. One, I don't love foie gras terrine. Two, Not sure if I bought the combination with anchovies. Though once again, the salt, sweet thing with the cocoa nibs on top was nice. The whole table thought this was the least favorite item of the night.
Loin of Lamb: Ding Ding Ding, we have a winner! Three large slices of a perfectly roasted loin of lamb (with a lovely crust of crispy lamb fat!) resting in a pear consomme. The consomme could be served on its own. It is fabulous. Nuanced flavors of pear, fennel and coriander. Julienned cucumbers and a tangle of mushrooms rounded out the dish. Who thought loin of lamb could be light. Well, this was and I could eat it every night.
Monkfish: Another great broth, this time bonito, daisho, and mint oil created to complex flavors. The monkfish was nice and meaty and the black trumpets added to the earthiness of the dish (yes, a "earthy" fish dishdon't know how he does it). Finally, a disc of monkfish liver added a nice touch of richness.
Rabbit loin: A lightly cured loin of rabbit stuffed with pickled cranberries. Absolutely delicious. This is one rabbit that did not just taste like chicken. The Ssian celery spaetzle were also great. As a nice touch, the dish is served with a frenched rack of rabbit. I didn't taste that, but it sure looked pretty.
Skate: A perfectly crisped wing (although a few complaints of over salting) resting on shaved asparagus and smoked scallions. Only had one taste of this, but liked what I had. But not thebest dish to me.
Gianduja Parfait: Like one big gianduja truffle. The winner in this category. The richness of the parfait was perfectly halted by the tart kumquat coulis.
Parsnip cake: Very good, not outstanding. I guess I just felt it was a little boring.
Caramelized banana Tart: A close runner up to the parfait. Not too sweet bananas on a lovely butter cookie served with dense, rich chocolate ice cream. The licorice sauce was an interesting touch, and I like the idea of salt in my desserts, but I just felt it didn't go well.
Milk chocolate-saffron creme brulee: I am not a creme brulee guy, but this was an outstanding rendition. Real strong chocolate flavors, but right when you think it might get boring, you are hit with that saffron to make it more interesting.
We had two great bottles of wine from the lower end of the price spectrum. In all, bill for 4 came out to $150 before tip. The waiter was great and offered good descriptions of the food. We waited a bit between courses, but that was a nice change of pace from feeling rushed, like one does at many NYC restaurants.
Conclusion: I would definitely return. Still a few items I want to try (artichoke soup, oysters, pork belly). Dufresne's incessant desire to mix and match salty/sweet/sour flavors and soft/crunchy/crispy textures makes the whole experience exciting and different. Too many times I feel that restaurants in this price range get a little boring. WD 50 should perk the lot up.