Monthly Archives: August 2009

WD-50

Ruth and Doug with chef Wylie Dufresne.

We have eaten at enough restaurants to be able to say that it is not important that the chef be in the kitchen every night. The best restaurants have the best training and the best staff overall. To a point, it’s almost expected that if a chef is busy being featured on TV, they won’t have time to be in the kitchen.

We were thrilled just to see Chef Dufresne on the Saturday night we dined at WD-50. It wasn’t so much that he was there, but what his presence represented. WD-50 is still small. It’s the chef’s only restaurant. Tucked away on a quiet street in SoHo, WD-50 still has the feel of a neighborhood eatery. Maybe it will stay that way, or more to the point, will remain the only one. It’s nice to have eaten there before it gets franchised.

View from the bar.

Wylie, as it turns out, is a really nice guy. Or at least he knows how to make his customers happy. After consuming the tasting menu with wine pairing (meaning, after drinking a lot of wine), we worked up the courage to ask for a picture. Really, we wanted only to take his picture. It seemed fitting since we had just photographed our whole meal.

While trying to sound respectful and not too touristy, as if there was any hope of that, we asked a waiter if pictures we allowed. We were immediately ushered into the kitchen. After a short time, Wylie looked up from his work, shook our hands and posed with us. It was obvious that he had done this a million times before.

So it was a nice end to the evening, but how was the food? For the most part, excellent. But we have pretty high standards.

Octopus, lily bulb, pickled mulberry, and tahini with Hubert Clavelin Cremant du Jura ‘Brut-Comte’ NV (Jura, France)

There should have been a picture here, but we ate it before attempting to use Ruth’s iPhone to take pictures.

The octopus was very good. A nice combination of unusual flavors and a not-too-chewy texture. The sparkling wine selection complemented the starter well.

Incidentally, we did not take pictures when we ate at the French Laundry. We went in thinking that photography would be an unwanted distraction from our meal. It was the right decision.

WD-50, however,  is not the French Laundry. WD-50 is notably short on space. While the service was attentive and exacting, the tables are right on top of one another. The waitstaff at times has to climb over you to clear each course. After eleven courses, we became very aware of the servers. If a comparison must be made, we will say that the staff at the French Laundry was so smooth there were times we failed to notice that the silverware had been changed.

Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, and crispy cream cheese with Hubert Clavelin Cremant du Jura ‘Brut-Comte’ NV (Jura, France)

This course was cool – literally. The “bagel” was formed of ice cream. It was served on a bed of freeze dried salmon. Odd to be sure, but tasty. Clearly the most unique presentation of the evening – somewhat iconic in what we expected in terms of molecular gastronomy.

Foie gras, passionfruit, and chinese celery with Muller-Thurgau ‘Pur Mineral’ Weingut Rudolf Furst (Franken, Germany)

A favorite of the night, this unassuming disk of paté, when cut open, reviled a sweet passionfruit center. The wine was very light and well matched. Perfect for a hot summer night.

Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, and hamachi with Chinon Rose ‘Rive Gauche’ Cchateau de la Bonneliere 2008 (Loire, France)

This dish was simple to the point of being confusing.  A log of scrambled egg in the shape of a stick of butter, tuna and avocado. Kind of like decomposed sushi. Eat it separate? Mix it together? We weren’t sure. It was what it was.

Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, and caviar with Chinon Rose ‘Rive Gauche’ Cchateau de la Bonneliere 2008 (Loire, France)

This looked really good. Sous-vide chicken, pressed into a little block, then batter dipped and deep fried. Sadly, it was served cold which caused the chicken to lose it’s flavor up against the caviar and the wine. The caviar and wine were paired well and should have been served as a separate dish.

Crab tail, kohlrabi, ‘dirty’ grape, and cocoa nib with Bourgogne Rouge ‘Les Pince Vin’ Alain Burguet 2006 (Burgundy, France)

Puffy crab with puffy marshmallow-like blobs. Not very tasty and the texture was unfortunate. Unique, but not in a good way.

Duck leg, popcorn pudding, kalamansi, and lovage with ‘Pape Star’ Kunin Wines 2007 (Central Coast, California)

The duck, sliced paper thin, was delicious. The kalamansi and lovage provided excellent flavor contrasts without overpowering the duck.

Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, pickled ramps, and dried soybean with ‘Pape Star’ Kunin Wines 2007 (Central Coast, California)

This was another good one. Perfectly cooked with a good amount of fat on it, the lamb was complimented with dried soybeans that had a nice crunch to them. Nicely  paired with a full bodied wine.

Vanilla ice cream, balsamic, and raspberry.

As with the foie gras, an unassuming disk of ice cream with a liquid center. Cute.

It should be pointed out that WD-50 offers the dessert portion of the tasting menu as its own mini tasting. We thought this was a great idea. If we return, we would get one entree and the dessert tasting. It would be great to see this in other restaurants. The implication being we would rather have three little sweet treats than, say, death by chocholate.

Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, and chicory with Commandaria St. John Keo NV (Lemesos, Cyprus).

A nice combination of flavors and a really exceptional wine, similar to port, but more figgie.

Carmelized brioche, apricot, buttercream, and lemon thyme with Chenin Blanc ‘Off The Rack’ Plantagenet 2006 (Western Australia).

Another nice combination of flavors without being too sweet.

Cocoa packets.

An interesting experiment. Chewy exterior with a crunch interior. Unnecessary.

Chocolate shortbread, milk ice cream.

A kind of crunchy ice cream sandwich sphere.

Obligatory shot of the bathroom.

So was it worth it? Maybe. Once. We always find the wine pairings educational. WD-50 made some excellent choices regarding wine. Not all the food choices are as good. There were effectively only three hot dishes, so while meticulously constructed, the meal left us wondering if the kitchen was playing it safe.

Safe or not, the courses came out at a regular interval without any interruptions or mistakes in service. On the whole, the staff was accommodating and professional. The food was very good and met our expectations. A nice evening overall if not a bit overpriced.