When I read Derrick's account of dinner at wd-50, I knew it was a place we needed to try. As I read C the description of the "carrot-coconut sunnyside up" and the "Deep friend mayonnaise cube", his eyes lit up and he asked, "we're going there, right?"
We sort of knew we'd end up doing the tasting menu, but I'd overindulged just a bit the night before, and thought it would be a good idea to share a wine pairing. At first, we encountered a bit of resistance over that, and later, our very sweet server explained that there are people who come in and order a pairing to share, and suck down the wine before they've even taken their first bite of food, and then expect an additional pour. Seriously, people, that's just tacky.
The wine pairing here puts one wine together with every two dishes (except for a couple of the courses) and our first glass was a Cava Rosado Avinyo, NV. A bright, off-dry, slightly deeper rose bubbly, we enjoyed this very much, particularly with the paper-thin sesame flatbread service.
Our first amuse, Oyster "Pearls", pickled cucumber, borage was not my favorite dish -- in fact, I was a bit worried that we might have made a poor decision going with the tasting. Essentially, oysters were pureed and steamed in droplets the size of salmon roe or Dippin' Dots.
Next up, though, was the famed "Carrot-Coconut Sunny-side Up". Texturally and visually accurate, the flavors were sweet and gently spiced and it was fun to scoop up the "yolk" with a bit of bread.
Next up came the foie gras that Derrick was marveling over -- and it IS something to behold. Runners advise you to split open the torchon, allowing the beet consomme to pour out of the center. Served with Sake Tedorigawa "Yamahai Junmai" Silver Mountain, this dish was so insanely rich that neither C nor I was able to finish it. The candied olives that accompanied the dish, though... yea, I'd like a bag of those to snack on, thankyouverymuch.
Our next two courses were my favorite and the most fun, respectively. With them, we were poured 2003 Tocai Friuliano Collio Doc Schipetto.
First was Shrimp Canneloni, Chorizo, Thai Basil. This beautiful little package was such a pure expression of shrimp, and why shouldn't it? Even the wrapper was made of shrimp, after all. The chorizo emulsion made an interesting counterpoint to the rich brininess of the canneloni.
The second pairing was what I'm calling the "deconstructed tongue sandwich" -- paper-thin slices of cured beef tongue, those adorable fried mayo cubes, tomato molasses and onion "strudel". I loved this dish for it's whimsical nature, but it tasted wonderful, too.
Our next course was the "interactive" portion of the feast -- Cocoa Dashi, Lemon Yogurt Noodles. The yogurt came in a cute dropper bottle, and we were to squeeze it into the steaming dashi. The agar-agar in the emulsion reacted with the heat of the soup to solidify. This was fun, and while each element worked well together, the combination somehow staggered -- there was a pleasant bitterness to the yogurt on its own that was negatively accentuated by the broth. Additionally, the 2004 Agiorgitiko Notios Red Gaia from Peloponnese, Greece was an abysmally poor pairing with this dish.
Chef Dufresne was utterly redeemed by the two final savory courses and wine pairings, though.
Langoustine, Celery Root, Banana-Mustard was sublime. The shellfish was cooked gently, and until it was just warmed through, while the banana mustard was so freaking good that I have been inspired to try my hand at it for all future BLT sandwiches.
By this time, we were badly craving meat and we weren't disappointed. C's favorite dish of the night was this Duck Breast, Parsnip Ricotta, Spaghetti Squash, Black Vinegar. With this course, we were served 2004 "House Wine" The Magnificent Wine Co.
It was about this time that I asked one of our waitrons about another table's dessert -- Smoked Chocolate Ice Cream, Stout Foam -- and told that it was available only as part of the dessert tasting menus. Though saddened to hear it, I was no less excited to receive our palate cleanser.
Do you see how utterly clever Celery Sorbet, Peanut Butter Powder, Poached Raisins is? It's like the ultimate after-school snack, all grown up. That celery sorbet is a flavor that has stayed with both of us, and we promised each other we'd make a batch for summer.
Manchego Cheesecake, Foamed Pineapple, Quince was easily one of the best desserts I've had all year -- the savory, tangy manchego brought such an amazing depth to this most ubiquitous dessert, and I'm begging my favorite pastry chef to create her own version.
C's final dessert was Butternut Squash Sorbet, Pumpkin Seed Cake, Chocolate Soil, Mole, which he polished off easily, and seemed quite pleased with. Imagine my joy, though, when I got my coveted smoked chocolate dessert instead of the sorbet! The only way I can describe that ice cream is "seductive".
Over our mignardise of Martini Cotton Candy, C and I tried to put our finger on the experience at wd-50. Ultimately, it came down to food that was delicious AND intelligent, whimsical but not so precious that it was no longer fun.
50 Clinton Street
Lower East Side, Manhattan
All Photos Courtesy wd-50 Restaurant