Mike told me he was taking me to WD~50 for my birthday dinner a few weeks ago. I was quite excited, but also worried that it wouldn’t live up to its hype. Well… it lived up to its hype… and THEN SOME! WOW!
The front of the restaurant was so unassuming. A small green awning on a brick building with a little neon wd50 sign in the corner. It was in the Lower East Side on Clinton Street between Stanton and Rivington Streets.
In the basement, by the bathrooms, was a wine cellar. While I was there taking pictures, I was jokingly accused of “being a spy.” Oh if only I could get past humble notions and think that some day, Wylie Dufresne would be worried that my blog would be some sort of threatening enterprise.
WD~50 was made top of mind famous (at least from my perspective) with Wylie’s appearance on Top Chef. I had read many blogs, articles, and foodie fan write-ups of Wylie’s perspective on Molecular Gastronomy and his amazing food, however, it was really his appearance on Top Chef that amassed my guilty pleasure notion of wanting to try his restaurant. I knew my boyfriend knew me well when he made reservations about a month in advance to take me to WD~50 for my birthday.
We began with quite an offering… with the Tasting Menu order, there was a 50% discount on any bottle of wine. While there was a wine pairing with the tasting menu, the waitress told us that the 50% discount was “quite a deal” so we went for it. With a lot of help from the Sommelier and browsing through the vast menu (that had an odd pair of vertical lips below the cover of the menu), we selected a white and a red.
The white was the Malvasia ‘Selezione’ Edi Kante 2000: Friuli, Italy ~ malvasia
caramelized peach, white currant, floral ($105.00… aka $52.50 with the deal). We chose it because the description from the someliere referred to it being made in a “cave” and reminded us of our favorite wine discovery, a Domaine du Viking Vouvray that described to us as being brewed by a crazy man only during full moons. It was a GREAT selection and we thoroughly enjoyed it (though the smell was sour-ish, we loved the taste).
We chose the red early, even though we decided to wait until more than halfway through the meal for the more “hearty” dishes to start drinking it. This wine was an absolutely incredible winner. It was a Syrah ‘Kalen’s Big Boy Blend’ Eric Kent Wine Cellars 2006: Sonoma County, CA ~ syrah- roasted bramble fruit, fennel, cocoa powder ($125.00… aka $75 with the deal). This ranked in the top 5 of wines I’ve ever had. It was so flavorful and complemented anything salty (and probably would have complemented anything with red meat or tomato sauce). It was a big wine, and we loved it.
We went with the tasting (because for a birthday dinner, it’s worth the big splurge) and it was $140 each… and COMPLETELY worth it. The staff was incredibly accommodating, even to my allergy, and I was a little excited and star struck to see Wylie Dufesne in the visible kitchen, fully invested in the preparations that night.
The meal was supposed to begin with Striped bass, peach, paprika, and sake lees, but I’m allergic to peppers (which is in paprika) so I had an amuse bouche of a mushroom broth with some form of yam or sweet potato and celery (the details are fuzzy after the two bottles of wine). It was quite good.
Mike had the correct starter, and thought it was delicious. I trust his opinion, and was quite jealous of the fish + peaches.
Next up was the Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese. What we didn’t know from the menu, however, was that the “everything bagel” was really ice cream. It was a standout dish of the night. The dish came together so well and all the flavors just blended in a great way. The ice cream was an exciting surprise and I did not want the dish to end.
Next up was the Foie gras, passionfruit, chinese celery. The surprise here was that the foie gras was actually stuffed with passionfruit, so as you cut it open it just oozed deliciousness. It was fantastic, although I expected the foie gras to have a bit more flavor (though the passion fruit was AM.AZ.ING.)
I was excited upon reading the next dish: Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, hamachi. A quick iPhone look up told us that hamachi was fish typically used in sushi. It was AMAZING fish. The scrambled egg ravioli was actually entirely made of egg (outside and in) and the charred avocado was the second best avocado I’ve ever had (after the Fishtail octopus app I had just this past week). Mike absolutely LOVED this dish. I thought it was great, but I preferred the previous tasting of the “everything bagel” with “smoked salmon.’
The next dish was something I also had to have substituted. The dish on the tasting menu was Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar. The tabasco was the problem here. So instead I was served smoked eel with some sort of homemade tofu that was incredible. I’m not sure what the thinly sliced veggie was on top (perhaps some sort of turnip) but I wasn’t a huge fan. The rest of the dish, however, was amazing.
Mike received the fried chicken and said it was amazing though spicy. I tried the buttermilk ricotta with caviar (since it was safe) and though it was absolutely great.
Next up was Crab tail, kohlrabi, ‘dirty’ grape, cocoa nib. This was an absolutely fascinating dish for me. It was “spicy” without having peppers. When I inquired, I was told that it was the “angel food cake” (the spongy looking things on either side) that had some sort of black or green (?) pepper in it. I was shocked that I enjoyed it so much without having a reaction, and was pleased as punch that I could taste “spice” for pretty much the first time ever. The rest of the dish was great, though not quite what I’d expect from crab. I was just so taken aback by the spice without allergy thing that I couldn’t stop gabbing about this plate.
Our next treat was Duck leg, popcorn pudding, kalamansi, lovage. Now it’s very hard to pick a least favorite dish, but this may have been mine. It had all the workings of a best of (I love duck, popcorn, and according to our iPhones kalamansi is a fruit from the Phillippines and lovage is a spice that is a cousin to celery), however, it somehow fell short. It was great, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t quite have the “wow” factor of the other dishes. I think that the lovage may have been the ehh-ehh part for me personally.
The next dish sounded amazing, and I was a bit bummed that I was given a substitute. My dish, however, was probably the best “entree” of the night: Wagyu skirt steak, long bean, tamarind, peanut butter ‘pasta’. The peanut sauce was incredible, and the beef just tasted perfect.
Mike got what was originally on the tasting menu: Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, pickled ramps, dried soybean. Turns out it was the dried soybean that I was allergic too (I think), however, it wasn’t quite enough to give me a complete allergic reaction, so I got the chance to sample a wee bite. It was really good, but not Wagyu beef with peanut sauce good.
The epic dessert journey began with vanilla ice cream that was filled with balsamic (the best I’ve EVER had) and raspberry. This tiny dish with few ingredients tasted like a complete tart in my mouth. I do not know what they did, but it was one of the most satisfying bites of food I’ve EVER had.
The next dessert was Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory. I think the foam was chicory, though I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it was sensational. In fact, the entire thing was. So many textures and flavors. My favorite dessert of the night. (Which is hard to say since all the choices were so amazing!)
Up next was Carmelized brioche, apricot, buttercream, lemon thyme. I honestly cannot tell you what I was eating, but I enjoyed it to the utmost degree. The “sorbet” like portion (I’m guessing lemon thyme) was so-so, but the carmelized brioche looked like a scallop and tasted like heaven.
We (sadly) ended our adventure with Cocoa packets, chocolate shortbread, milk ice cream. This was definitely one of the more confusing descriptions. We actually had to ask the waitress her advice on how to eat this. Turns out it was “milk” ice cream balls that were rolled in chocolate shortbread. It tasted like the best oreo I have ever had. Our waitress advised to save the “packets” for last and turns out, you can eat the outside AND the inside. It was a chocolate explosion in my mouth. It left me so happy and so satisfied (without any aftertaste) that I just was in complete bliss as the meal ended.
I’ve had a lot of great meals in NYC and, as much as it is hard for me to say, this was the best. There were little surprises along the way and everything just had phenomenal flavor. Combined with the amazing wine, it was beyond a great meal… it was an experience that I will not soon forget. What a birthday dinner! Every single course left us thinking “WOW!” It takes a lot to make me say “wow” even once, let alone with every single new bite. I was impressed. Very impressed.
Total Nom Points: 9.5 out of 10