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WD-50 is disgusting. Right? Anyone?

oops. without curse words this time.

i wrote the below note to eater a few months ago but they didn't publish it. i want to post it here in hopes that at least one person will be saved from this tragedy of a restaurant.

wd-50 fans dismiss detractors by assuming they don't get molecular gastronomy, or are tourists with unsophisticated palates. in my case, i've eaten at aliana in chicago and loved every minute of it... the unique flavor combinations and presentation were outstanding. i'm also not a tourist, and like to think i know at least a bit about good food and good restaurants.

and no, i'm not an angry waiter who got fired.

so bring it on chowhound, agree or disagree?

hi eater.

i have a great idea for a new feature. it will be called “WD-50: are you f*cking kidding me?” and it will be a weekly column from now until the end of time.

some colleagues and i needed to schedule a work dinner this week. since i am the one who reads the blogs and gets all emotional about good restaurants, they let me pick. i settled on WD-50, making sure to share the menu with them upfront as it is fairly unusual food. everyone was into it.

we decided against the tasting menu [thank you, jesus] and ordered a range of appetizers. my squid noodles were okay, not much flavor, but the foie gras was poorly cooked and flecked with “dehydrated basil seeds reconstituted in ginger water” or some such horseshit. completely tasteless. the tartare was fine; the accompanying béarnaise ice cream was not even remotely fine.

as the waiter cleared our appetizer plates, everyone tried to remain positive: “at least the salmon threads were well seasoned.” “my mayonnaise was perfectly fried.” alright, i thought. not a great start, but maybe the entrees are where dufresne really comes through.

the entrees were an abortion. in fact, they were probably less appetizing than an actual abortion. my scallops were paired with some sort of grain (quinoa, i think) that may have been cooked with a handful of tropical starburst fruit chews. the lamb tasted like it was boiled in a bag, and the red pepper tart just tasted like someone made a mistake. if i were being fair i would say that the mediterranean bass with cocoa and brittle peanut was actually pretty good, but i am not being fair so f that.

desserts were no reprieve – the saffron cream, paired with shortbread, tasted EXACTLY like windex (i have tasted windex). the yogurt parfait was served with pine, apple, and pineapple. get it? isn’t that fun? no, actually, it is not fun. it is gross.

i have certainly had my share of disappointing meals; i have even had many outright bad meals. but i have never been to a restaurant where nearly everything i ate tasted like a dare.

you guys don’t usually publish unsolicited reviews, but i didn’t know where else to turn. WD-50 must be stopped. the emperor has no clothes, my friends, because wylie dufresne has stolen his clothes and put them in an immersion circulator with powdered elderflower and shrimp sheets.

kindest regards.

jason k.

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  1. Excellent review. Thanks for you honesty.

    1. Highly disagree.. But, you might not like it..Not for lack of sophistication or anything like that, maybe you just didnt like the food.. I have never had windex but, maybe some windex spilled in it or something.. Did you return the dish or the dish that tasted like a mistake..

      The first time I went to WD-50 was a few weeks after they had opened.. It was super modern but, I did not think the food worked at all.. Since then I have been back 3 or 4 times and thought the food had gotten increasingly better to where it was excellent.. \

      I too have been to Moto in Chicago, Alinea in Chicago.. I really disliked Motto and loved Alinea.. My preferred style of cooking would lean more to the Slow Food Movement and am not impressed by whistles and bells.. To me, taste is the most important thing..

      I have only gotten the tasting menu and have never ordered off the menu.. But to say that everyone on here who likes it does so because of the hype isnt right..

      1. That is absolutely hilarious, yet sad. I'm sorry for your horrendous experiment, er, experience...

        1. You are hysterical and should consider writing! I COMPLETELY agree with your review, as I had a similar experience.

          1. You are aware that the person doing desserts now at WD-50 used to do the desserts at Alinea, right?

            I had the pine-apple-pineapple dessert a while ago and thought it was great, really fresh flavors and essence of apple. Different strokes, I guess.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn

              yeah, i heard he used to work there. i went to alinea after he'd already left, so i'm not sure if i just picked wrong (3 wrongs among us) at wd-50 or if i just prefer the new guy at alinea.

              i definitely wanted to like the pine-apple-pineapple thing, as it sounded really intriguing, but the consistency was really off-putting and the pine taste was overpowering. it was like chewing on a mushy air freshener.

            2. Baloney. Fans like me dismiss detractors of WD-50 like you as having different preferences. Nothing more, nothing less.

              1. Bass with cocoa and peanut brittle? Ugh! I don't THINK so!
                I detest places that try to be cutsie with weird ingredients and pairings.
                I don't want my lobster to have a vanilla/thyme sauce.
                I have an aversion to ambitious menus.
                It drives me crazy when I see a baked halibut (yum) with spinach and lyonnaise potatoes (STOP right there!! That sounds delicious, I'll take it!)
                But NO! On top of that now comes the avocado and artichoke sauce and frisee and arugula garnish sprinkled with peanuts and cranberries. (You get the idea!) Ruined.
                Anyway, I am sorry for your experience but I must say that if you had first perused the online menu, you never would have ventured there in the first place. There wasn't one thing I could have ordered on that menu and been happy!
                I think you learned a hard lesson.
                Look to the menu first!

                2 Replies
                1. re: idia

                  I just read your post again more carefully and see that, in fact, you did see the menu first.
                  Once bitten twice shy, they say...

                  1. re: idia

                    Errmm, these things are the entire reason for this place's existence - how could someone end up there without having any idea what they were getting themselves into? These posts sound like people who want a steak and then get all pissed off when the vegetarian restaurant they've gone to can't help them...

                  2. I have to agree with A_and_W. I like WD 50 a lot. I was that weird kid who liked saltines and peanut butter in their ice cream, and went through a peanut butter, pickel and tuna sandwich phase. WD 50 is the adult version of playing with your food. I think it has a great sense of fun, is always interesting, and is almost always tasty. Not everything works, but enough of it does that I'll keep going back.

                    Not sure how much this counts for, but I've only had the tasting menu. The first time, I drank a little more than I should have--but the second, third, and fourth times, my tastebuds were wholly unimpeded. I'm certain that I like this place.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: cimui

                      Count me into the WD 50 supporting camp! I agree with cimui. While I didn't think every single thing work (for the record I am very against "sand" and partial to "foam"), but I have some very pleasant dishes with great flavors and textures. I don't think I recall anything being "bad", definitely nothing as terrible as the OP described. I think the desserts were wonderful!

                      I have been to Moto in Chicago once - hate it! But I like WD 50!

                      After all, WD 50 is very bipolar. People either love it or hate it. But I do respect the OP's comments. That's what make Chowhound fun!

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        Well how many people who like this place have eaten there more than twice in the past year??
                        Hands up??
                        This place is lame.
                        Dufrense is beating a dead horse.
                        Maybe he will serve it poached with a pickled grape white chocolate cilantro
                        mousse, powdered lobster tail sweet potato brulee and a guinness mocha sauce.

                        1. re: scars

                          How many people on here love Per Se and have been more then twice this year?

                          1. re: scars

                            *holds up hand*
                            and i think a guiness mocha sauce would be lovely, actually. =)

                            1. re: cimui

                              Guinness ice cream sandwiches (I think the huge cookies were mocha or chocolate) . . . where did I have those? Someplace downtown years ago. Sometimes the unexpected and unusual excites, surprises and even tastes very good. Sometimes it fails. IMO, still beats uncreative and boring every time.

                              1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                they didn't do it in sandwich form, but mas on downing street has (had?) guinness ice cream and it was unbelieveable.

                      2. WD-50 is like atonal music. Academically interesting, yes. Accessible, no. Who was it who characterized Shoenberg, Berg, and Webern as "weidos making creepy music"?

                        Some folks claim to actually like the stuff. More power to 'em. And certainly subjective opionions can change, becoming more sophisticated--and tolerant of dissonance--with exposure to new sounds and tastes. Or maybe some of this stuff is just too experimental for all but the most intrepid (or tonedeaf) to enjoy.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          I think WD 50 more akin to acid jazz, actually... Freeflowy with its own internal logic. and *some* people like it! =)

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            This is EXACTLY how I felt when I ate there. It's food as an intellectual experience rather than a sensual one. It was disorienting to eat this way, since I generally eat with a purely sensual approach. Instead of being about flavor, it was about mixing different elements and textures and recreating flavor ideas or even flavor memories.

                            I enjoyed my dinner there, but on a purely abstract level, the same way I'd enjoy reading Lacan on art. Maybe I'll go back, but then again, I haven't picked up Lacan again since college...

                            My husband, on the other hand, LOVED it and has been pestering me to go back.

                            1. re: oolah

                              I think anyone who decides to try WD-50 is going there with an intellectual curiosity and that is probably a good way to think about it. I have been intrigued by WD-50--if I went my attitude would be that it will be a bonus if the food is actually delicious and satisfying as well as being intellectualy interesting. If it didn't cost so much I would have been there by now.

                              So far, though, I guess I just haven't been ready to both sacrifice that much cash and *potentially* sacrifice one of the meals of my life to satisfy my curiosity...that day will probably arrive but I am not sure when.

                          2. I went to WD-50 shortly after it opened. I still remember what I ate: venison tartare with edamame ice cream (good), pork bellies (delicious), celery root-date cake (very good).

                            However, it's illustrative that, even though I enjoyed my meal there, I haven't returned and probably wouldn't consider it for a while. It's almost like, "Okay I did it and I liked it--now I'll retire, undefeated."

                            I still think everyone should try it, though, since it's so polarizing. Half of you will like it.

                            1. I disagree with you on this particular restaurant, jason k., but I have to give you a shout out for a fantastic, well-written review. Do keep 'em coming. They don't have to be solicited. If you feel the need for any solicitation, take this as an open-ended one. =)

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: cimui

                                The original poster submitted that review to Eater, a different blog, but they didn't publish it--thus the bit about it being unsolicited.

                              2. I have been there at least 1-3 times a year since it opened. I agree that it has been getting better. However, I disagree that its esotericism is getting boring or akin to beating a dead horse. Perhaps the clearest analogy is with Max McCalman, the preminent authority on searching for cheese/wine pairings that in combination with each other are more satisfying in taste than either on its own. In the case of Dufresne, his enthusiasm to search for exciting combinations of flavor and texture in a single bite is unparalleled. I suppose one can be bored by it as a diner, however, I love it. I have had numerous dishes where the balance in acidity or bitterness may have been well off the mark when one or two components are tasted alone. However, when 4 or 5 components are tasted in combination, the dish has complex balance, flavor, and texture.

                                While brittle or sitcky painted sauces are negatively alluded to in other people's responses, I think Dufresne is one of the key contemporay American innovators of texture. He was one of the first chefs in this country to adopt sous-vide as a cooking method. He practically pioneered using chemicals to create textures. I'm not going to claim that all of them are necessarily the most pleasing of textures for sauces to take on, but I will say that there is no reason not to contemplate different textural forms to deliver taste to one's taste buds. I find it exciting.

                                While others have claimed they would prefer "halibut with Lyonnaise potatoes" over some concoction out of Dufresne's kitchen, my only response is that I know what traditional bistro fare tastes like. I know what Luger's porterhouse tastes like, I know what grilled lamb chops aux herbes tastes like. However, I don't know what Dufresne's sous vide cooked lamb loin with dehydrated aged goat cheese crumble and arugula sauce (made with zanthum gum) taste like, and that's why I go.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: ghsu

                                  it's interesting reading everyone's experiences at the restaurant; the fans seem really thoughtful and pointed about what they liked about it (and the enemies equally as indignant as i was). i agree 100% with ghsu above about the search for exciting new dishes and textures; that's why i was so excited to try wd-50. and why i got this pissed when it was so gross. thank God for alinea or i might have been put off this genre of food forever.

                                  i'm glad some people like it; more power to you. i'll just be saving my money for another plane ticket to chicago.

                                  1. re: bluestone

                                    I'm sorry, but I have to dissent from the praise being showered on your review. I find it really disingenuous the way you characterize fans of WD-50 as dismissing "detractors by assuming they don't get molecular gastronomy, or are tourists with unsophisticated palates." In fact, I find that the sentiment you cite gets expressed most often by WD-50's critics, not its fans, as a kind of straw man. I hope our measured response will make you think twice about taking such provocative swipes in the future.

                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                      well, up until this post that was exclusively the response i would get from wd50 fans when i talked about my experience. like, five of them. this board did give me a different, more measured response from people who dug it. that being said, however, i would not think twice about "taking such provocative swipes" again. it's just a food blog, and i just offered my opinion. no one died.

                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        I never tried to stake a claim that anyone on this string of blogs didn't or couldn't understand molecular gastronomy or were unsophisticated in their palates. I simply tried to disaggregate types of restaurants and food: that when I feel like I want rustic, simple bistro food, I don't go to WD-50. I tried to make it clear that when I go there, I plan on being excited and lured into unexpected combinations of flavors and textures. I never made a sweeping statement that all combinations were successful. I did say that I agreed with those who are in the belief that in general, the dishes have been improving since the restaurant opening.

                                        If we keep this to NYC-area, let me flip this question around to everyone on this blog. Where else is there to go in this genre of food that you think is better than WD-50?

                                        To a_and_w, I'm sorry if you found my comments offensive. It was never intended that way. My comments reflect how I think about the restaurant and how I decide why or why not I'd eat there. I also tried to show my train of thought by using the simpler analogy of Max McCalman's undying quest to find cheese and wine pairings to help shed light on the matter for those who may not have understood what I was saying. Furthermore, the aim of a blog is to be provocative and to share thoughts that provoke interesting responses, or perhaps I've just started particpating on the wrong blog? (I joined last week)

                                        1. re: ghsu

                                          ghsu, i think he was talking to me. and was offended by my comments on the original post, not your response.

                                          and to answer your flipped question... nowhere, right? unless i am mistaken i don't think anyone else in the city has a restaurant dedicated solely to molecular gastronomy.

                                          1. re: bluestone

                                            Spoke too soon... Sam Mason, WD50 alum, is soft-opening his new restaurant Tailor tonight. Check out the menu on eater.com; looks pretty interesting. I'll give it a shot with my fingers crossed...

                                            1. re: bluestone

                                              Menu looks fantastic - more Alinea than WD-50 (as in, it gives you a fighting chance at figuring out how the chef came up with the ingredient combos). I really enjoyed the desserts at WD-50 because they *did* make sense to my palate, even when they were novel flavor combinations (although I didn't have either of the ones you tried, bluestone), so I'd expect Mason's savories to make sense as well. It just jumped to number one on my list for my next NYC trip...

                                  2. I loved WD-50 (one of the better meals of my lifetime). Also loved MOTO is Chicago. But then, I appreciate adventure, conceptual art, and things that push the envelope. I know it's not for everyone, but perhaps you're being a little too harsh?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kayonyc

                                      We are tourists from Portland, hardly a food backwater, and we loved it!
                                      We will most certainly return on our next trip.
                                      We went having first read the vastly differing opinions and deciding we would enjoy what was liked about it, and wouldn't share the taste of the detractors.

                                    2. I LOVED wd-40. We were chatting a bit with the waitress who said 50 percent of people eating there fall in love with the food; 50 percent are horrified. So the place just wasn't for you.

                                      1. I disagree with you. I really enjoyed the oddity of WD-50 and thought (most of) the food was delicious.

                                        That being said: that was seriously one of the funniest posts I've ever read and I'm SO happy you ended up sharing it with us! Very dark humor - my fave!

                                        1. I agree with you on WD-50 - I ate there a few months ago and was entirely disappointed.

                                          1. Put me in the camp who mostly disagrees with the OP. I've been there three times. First two times were outstanding. Then I went there about a year ago and had the tasting menu. I was disappointed in that. I felt like the dishes on the tasting menu were an order of magnitude more strange and not particularly tasty. Oh sure, I can appreciate the cleverness of putting beet juice inside a perfectly milled puck of foie gras. Cool effect. Didn't taste good though, and that's why I'm there.

                                            I'd go back, but I'd probably order off the regular menu and most likely interrogate the waiter a little more carefully.

                                            1. I consider myself pretty open to different foods and eat A LOT! I went to WD-50 when it first opened and was horrified at the food. The decor was great and the space was awesome, but the food was crazy! It was like eating a David Sedaris novel. Funny and interesting to read, but horrible to eat. They try too hard. I mean, the tastes are just too overwhelming. Because of the reviews, I decided to try it again. Yet again, my taste buds just gave out. It's great to flavor and season your food, but after 20 ingredients, you have to stop or else you ruin the entire point of a fish or a meat...

                                              1. I am so totally in agreement with you. Here's a LONG detailed review I posted elsewhere:

                                                WD-50 was maybe the most disappointing meal of my life. I used to live in Manhattan and I don't get back to New York nearly enough. It's been two years since my last visit, and every meal has to be maximized. We hit tons of spots in three days on this trip, and Wd-50 was the only one that was less than excellent, and it was so much less than excellent that I can't even believe the place has supporters. They're either in a rut right now with the current menu, or the emperor truly has no clothes. I can't say which is the case given this was my first visit, but my choice to go to WD-50 seemed easy given the many accolades it has received and my love of that type of creative cuisine as practiced in Atlanta (where I now live) by Richard Blais.

                                                We had a 9:30 (post theater) reservation on Saturday night. Me, my wife, and two other couples from Atlanta. The small, pleasantly modern decorated restaurant was not quite full. We were quickly seated, and the waiter assured us that tasting menu was the way to go, offering the best dishes the chef had to offer (none of them on the a la carte menu). We also decided to go with the wine pairings to complement the meal to the max.

                                                The evening started on a good note, with a nice pour of Spanish cava, and some very good, ultrathin sesame crisps to munch on for the table. (see http://flickr.com/photos/santheo/1219... for a photo - all photos below are swiped from a random flickr user, my camera died on arrival in New York
                                                Then the food started arriving. I should note that the waiter didn't provide the menu until midway through the meal when I finally had enough sense to ask for it.

                                                The first dish was "Squid noodles, sunflower seed, prune, fresh coriander seed" paired with the Cava Avinyo Reserva Brut, Penedes, Spain. This was a boring first course actually, subdued flavors, nothing exciting going on (I’d give it a 5 out of 10, with 10 being an incredible dish all around. There were no 10's at WD-50, nor 9's for that matter).

                                                Next plate arrived, "Pizza pebbles, pepperoni, shiitaki," lots of wow factor, nice combination and interesting form (small spheres of “pizza”), though it tasted kinda like packaged cheese and crackers. An interesting and clever dish certainly, but not the kind of thing that delivers the type of satisfaction a great dish provides – 6/10. http://flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotni...

                                                Next up, the so-called "Knot foie" - foie gras pate extruded into a long rectangle and tied like a pretzel, dusted with, something, crunchy, that didn't quite work, and dotted with a kimchee puree that did add an interesting kick. The wine pairing was Riesling Maximin Grunhauser 2004, Mosel, Germany, which did work nicely as a pairing, but the dish itself was merely passable as foie gras goes. The form made for a sub-par texture, and the crispies added another distraction. It could have used a sweet component for further balance – 6/10.

                                                Next dish really brought out the haters at the table - "sweetbreads, cabbage-kafir, water chestnuts." The sweetbreads themselves were decent, lightly fried, but the accompanying mousse of cabbage/kafir was almost nauseating – 4/10. The wine they initially brought out was a Pax Rose Syrah 2006, Sonoma. The entire table agreed the wine was "off" - it was highly unpleasant - but our waiter insisted that was how it was supposed to be. He did bring us another rose, which was not bad.

                                                Then - the famous fried mayonnaise? Beef tongue, fried mayo, and tomato molasses - can’t complain, but nothing great. The tomato molasses was rich and flavorful, but didn’t complement the tongue particularly well at all. Another diner at our table brought up that it should have some mustard with it, and he was right. Some interesting components, but again, not working together very well, and nowhere near as good as the tongue Element was serving up last month - 6/10.

                                                The table was restless at this point. No one was really enjoying the food, despite the creativity. The flavors were simply not coming together properly. Nothing was satisfying. And then, something that worked, simply. A French onion soup dotted with floating balls of liquified gruyere. Broth, cheese, crisps, and a smattering of onion puree. Simple, robust flavors, uniquely done. Maybe this is what WD-50 has served up consistently in prior times??? Best dish of the night - 7.5/10. The wine was a decent Valtellina Rosso Sandro Fay 2003, Lombardia, Italy. Not memorable.

                                                Had the tide turned? Not so fast. Going out with the tide was "Surf clam, watermelon, garlic chive, fermented black bean." Eh. The black beans were not pleasant, put there mainly for the visual reference to watermelon seeds. Great in theory, not so great in practice. 4/10.

                                                Something I had never had before - lamb belly "bacon" with black chickpea and "cherried cucumber." Not bad, but covered in "grass" (was it lemongrass tips?? very thin and grassy, not lemony) most likely for the clever idea of pairing lamb and grass. It didn't work. 6/10 (bacon can never be too bad). The wine was a Faugeres Jadis Leon Barral 2005, Languedoc, France. Like the dish, not bad.

                                                Finally, on to the dessert courses. I had heard great things about the dessert chef, so again was hoping the tide could turn. First up was "Plum sorbet, feta, marjoram, red wine vinegar." Interesting, not quite refreshing, not quite enjoyable, the marjoram was a bit overpowering. We were thrilled though to finally be past the savory dishes. 5/10.

                                                Then, the famous "Fried butterscotch pudding" with mango, taro ice cream, and smoked macadamia. The butterscotch itself was excellent – at least the part inside the “fry” which frankly took away from the butterscotch itself. Nothing else really worked together, too disjointed. The mango was thinly sliced and possibly pickled, very little sweetness/juice, disappointing. 5/10. The wine pairing was very nice though, and a bit of a surprise given its origin - Muscat Efreni Emery Wines NV, Rhodes, Greece. Very enjoyable.

                                                Another dessert - "soft chocolate, avocado, licorice, lime" - was actually pretty good. The chocolate itself suffered from a similar texture issue as the “knot foie” in that it was not quite firm, not quite soft – I did finish this dish, which is saying something compared to other courses. 6/10.

                                                Last up, "peanut butter and jelly" cookies. Not bad, but far inferior to the French Laundry riff on PB&J (which I've made at home as well). Another letdown in a long line of letdowns. 5/10.

                                                The bill for all of this? $400 per couple sharing a single wine pairing. I wouldn't do it again for even $100 a couple. We did walk by the kitchen at the end to peek in and say hello to the chef. He asked how it was, and the best I could offer was "we had a lot of fun." After all, it was a meal among friends. We did have fun. But we'll never be back. And I'll actively discourage anyone from ever going there, there are too many much better places to eat. Thank goodness we were able to dine at Babbo the next evening and had a fantastic meal that was memorable for all the right reasons.

                                                3 Replies
                                                  1. re: biskuit

                                                    Personally I disagree on WD-50 (I have not tried it but can't wait to go and have loved avant garde spots like Alinea, Schwa and Moto in Chicago). However I wanted to note that giving the menu at the end of a meal is sometimes part of the charm of eating at a resturant like WD-50. For example, each dish is described to you at Alinea in Chicago but then you don't get the menu until the end so that you can take it home with you. It's sort of nice to just let you enjoy the food on its own rather than keep looking at the menu.

                                                    1. re: progressivenewamerican

                                                      You can't disagree until you try it yourself (then you can!). I love avant garde spots as well, and was equally eager to try WD-50.

                                                      Fair point on the menu, I can go either way on that front. If each course had been delightful, having surprises might be nice. As it was, we wanted to get some clues on what suffering might await us or, like I said, if the tide might turn from disappointment to happiness.

                                                  2. Granted, I went to WD50 years ago, but the pork belly was the most ethereal, moist, quivering sensation that has never been equaled in the pig fat dept. Bear in mind, this was well before this item became something served at the local diner. (in my case, the Milford NH diner) Another dish that sears my memory is oysters pounded into a thin film--wow. Perhaps this kind of food is a passing fashion--but I would not dismiss it.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: whs

                                                      I loved the post of the person who compared WD-50 to atonal and 12-tone music.
                                                      There should be a restaurant for everyone's tastes (including my bland and boring one, which prefers fresh and simple with no sauces and no crusts on my lamb chops or halibut, etc. (and I was kidding about the lyonnaise potatoes which are actually much too rich and creamy for me). I prefer to KISS (keep it simple, sweetheart!)
                                                      I'll stick with David B & Donatella, thank you.

                                                      1. re: idia

                                                        LOL! Enjoy those flavored cooking sprays...

                                                    2. TOTALLY AGREE!!!!!!!!!!! I am not a tourist and have a sophisticated palate. Knew it was going to be a huge disappointment from the moment we walked in. They crammed eight of us at a tiny table; the service was abominable and the food was bizarre and actually inedibile. All eight of us concurred, that it was one of the worst meals for all of us. For years I had been wanting to eat at WD-50. NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: LifeisGood58

                                                        Another point I had to add after someone suggested that "the difference between what Wylie is doing and his avant-garde brethren are doing is that Wylie is really pushing the boundaries of flavor, not just toying with form or contriving new ways to present dishes."
                                                        I think that's probably right, but the downside is that I don't think many of the flavor combinations "worked" (subjective I know) at my meal at WD-50. Just because something's been done before (like onion broth, gruyere cheese, and toast) doesn't mean you can't be creative about it (clearly WD-50 can), and just because something is new doesn't mean it will taste good or should be done (watermelon and fermented black beans).

                                                        I looked back at some of my favorite dishes at Element in Atlanta, and for the most part, they do follow tried and true combinations of flavors in a unique way. Like a BBQ duck sandwich with cole slaw sorbet that was magnificent (BBQ with slaw), or "ravioli" made from thinly sliced summer squash stuffed with goat cheese atop intensely dried tomatoes and a touch of truffle oil, or sous vide then seared pork belly with "lettuce and tomato" and smoke mayonaisse (BLT with mayo), or a yuzu tart with sweet tea ice cream (citrus and tea, classic combination), or taro chips with salsa gelee cubes that explode with intense salsa flavor in your mouth, or vanilla panna cotta with freeze dried coca cola syrup rocks and homemade cracker jacks. The flavors simply work together. They make your mouth swoon. And they are prepared in ways that are entirely unique and that typically enhance rather than detract from the experience.

                                                        I want food that makes my mouth swoon and my mind whirl. Jarring/strange flavor combinations may be unique, but a happy adventurous diner they do not make.

                                                      2. My, my... I've not met a convention of WD~50 dissenters like this. Honestly, it's a little refreshing.

                                                        Although I don't support unsubstantiated/unvetted disparaging of anyone (chef), I have to agree with many of the observations noted in this thread. I have only been to WD~50. It may have been an exception to the norm, but I did not care for most of the dishes I sampled. I wouldn't go so far as to say that any of the food was "disgusting," by any means, but my meal left me cold (and disappointed, as I had been really looking forward to experiencing Dufresne's cooking). Of the three "molecular gastronomy" chefs I've dined under (Cantu of Moto and Achatz of Alinea), I'd have to say that Dufresne's food is by far, my least favorite.

                                                        That being said, I would be willing (in fact, I should) to return to WD~50 to give it another shake. After a disappointing meal at Alinea, I returned for a second.

                                                        You can see/read about my dinner at WD~50 (last year) here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulterior...

                                                        1. A friend was in town and eager to go to WD-50. I'd been there before, each time leaving unimpressed. I hoped this time around the experience would be different.

                                                          Our waitress was charming and lovely but, yet again, the food read better on paper than it tasted in the mouth, and the mediocre (and wicked expensive) wine left us all underwhelmed.

                                                          I won't say the food was disgusting; there were a few good confections, but nothing divine or even memorable.

                                                          We went out for kielbasa and beer afterwards. 'nough said.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: RoseLokoum

                                                            Dear me! It does seem that the emperor has no clothes.

                                                            1. re: idia

                                                              The emperor has clothes, you just don't like the style. Just like I don't like the tacky style of David Burke. Different strokes for different folks...

                                                          2. it's a year since i've been but i had the tasting menu and loved almost everything on it. i wouldn't recommend it to people who don't already eat out a lot, but WD provided a lot of pleasure and interest - wild combinations, textures and sensations that shouldn't but mostly did work. might be that WD's pleasures are more intellectual than many other purely opulent luxury restaurants, but there's room for that kind of experience in my repertoire, at least every so often.

                                                            1. i've been twice (tasting menu both times), and had a very good meal both times.

                                                              NOT all dishes worked for me. i saw the person who didn't like the crab/watermelon/bean dish - it knocked my socks off. the squab (not there any more) was amazing. i wasn't as blown away by the fried mayo/tongue dish as others, but thought it was good.

                                                              i can see how and why people might not like some of the food.

                                                              although the comment "wd-50 is disgusting right?" really isn't conducive to friendly chatter...

                                                              1. ok..greatest review ever. really.

                                                                1. wd-50 was absolutely the most disgusting restaurant i have ever been to. everything tasted and smelled similar... i could go into detail about the different dishes (disgusting with a hint of lemon; disgusting with black sauce) but that would require devoting time to several hours of my life that i wish that i could have back...

                                                                  i'm a dessert addict and will generally see a meal through... but, after appetizers and bites of several of their main dishes... all laced with wd-50's unifying disgusting flavor, i couldn't bring myself to try their desserts and i couldn't wait for them to bring the check.

                                                                  i really wanted to like wd-50... heck i even wanted to love it... but it was a big disappointment.

                                                                  the only positives--- service was pretty good. my cocktail was decent. the place was crowded and the pretty people seemed (??) to like it.

                                                                  1. WD-50 was a waste of my time on my last visit to NYC. Hostess was not very polite to begin with as we waited 1/2 hour for our reserved table while open tables were visible. Only after mentioning this fact did she say, "Oh, those are for parties of 4". Management was invisible . . . fairly uninteresting meal although I was really finished with this place after they brought out my relatively expensive, fairly young bottle of wine decanted? I did not request this nor did I oversee the decanting process which was unnecessary on such a young bottle. First and last visit.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: themaddiner

                                                                      I just went to WD-50 last night, and I also just went to Alinea to do the 27 course dinner the week before (which was overwhelming but nonetheless impressive) so I appreciate the whole molecular gastronomy thing, but I have to agree with this post... WD-50 was pretty dreadful... technique aside, shouldn't taste and flavor come first to any meal?

                                                                      We had the tasting menu (imagining that you can only put your best foot forward in a tasting menu, right? WRONG), I actually couldn't finish each and every dish... the flavors, taste and ingredients were all wrong and didn't work together at all. Both the fish (hamachi) course and the king crab course was actually fishy. On top of all that for $140, it's one of the more expensive tasting menus in town, and it wasn't worth it at all. None of the ingredients were especially fresh or special, guess the price was all for the labor...

                                                                      I desperately wanted to like the place as my bf loves it but it just didn't work. Sorry. Will prob give it another shot as the a la carte menu did sound more promising, but definitely pass on the tasting menu if you're ever there.

                                                                    2. Couldn't agree with you more...the most overrated restaurant in the city. Not only did none of the concepts make sense, the food itself tasted terrible.

                                                                      1. I thought the food was largely unappealing -- except maybe for the "eggs benedict" (the "eggs florentine" for us vegetarians), and for the desserts, where I thought the culinary wizardry yielded awesome dividends in terms of presentation and even enhanced the flavor. The plastic "ketchup packets" that you can eat and that ended the meal were not that great, though they were novel, but the main desserts I thought were largely excellent.

                                                                        The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: shivohum

                                                                          Oh yes, must agree that the eggs benedict dish was pretty delicious, which makes me think that when the concepts work it must be pretty brilliant... but if you think about it, the eggs benedict was about already established flavors, the course was more about the technique. The rest of the courses which were more original and experimental in flavors were just plain incoherent. Unfortunately, guess it's a bit of a hit and miss when they choose to be so adventurous.
                                                                          Also agree, the desserts were pretty decent, especially the toasted coconut cake.

                                                                          1. re: vbabe

                                                                            I think the problem many have with WD---and this is a hunch only, as I've experienced this issue myself---is that you really have to make an effort to get a bit of every flavor in the dish onto you fork/spoon in many cases. Which isn't always easy and some people just don't want to be bothered to do.

                                                                            The tasting menu when we were there--which we generally enjoyed entirely--had one such dish, which on first taste or two, didnt really do anything for me and didn't see to come together. The next taste, I had absolutely everything on my fork, and suddenly, miraculously, it worked and came together beautifully.

                                                                            That's a lot of effort to ask of the customer. But it's also a place I wouldn't choose to dine at more than a couple of times a year, it's just that sort of meal you dont do frequently, when its far more about paying attention to your food than it is about paying attention to your company. And so when I go, I have no problem with making the effort.

                                                                            All I can say is perhaps some of you who did not enjoy, had that sort of issue.

                                                                            The eggs benedict dish was one of our favorites that night btw...so was the pizza pebble dish, first time I've been compelled to laugh out loud at food (and the brilliance of it honestly).

                                                                            1. re: Nehna

                                                                              I think that was precisely my problem, I felt that the flavors failed to work together as a whole (hence the incoherence). But then again, maybe we just went on an off night ;-)

                                                                        2. We really loved both of the meals I had at WD - once last year, the tasting menu for our anniversary and once earlier this year ala carte as a group of 4.

                                                                          We also went back last night for desserts only at the bar and once again had a wonderful time. And despite just ordering a dessert each to share, we were brought some incredible yuzu ice cream treats while our check was brought out. I would have loved a half dozen of those amazing ice cream nuggets to go, incredible....

                                                                          to each his own I think, in the case of WD. you'll either love it or hate it IMO.

                                                                          1. I TOTALLY AGREE WITH U...WENT THERE LAST NIGHT AND THE FOOD SUCKS never again!!!!....i tried the tasting menu and was embarrased while eating it...i love tasting menus most especially megu(midtown east...awesome flavor/portions) but WD50 was a disgrace to food and food lovers...the experimental tries were horrible! who came up witth such disgraceful chemistry....i mostly believe the buzz about the place comes from the fact that its run by some famous chef on bravo's top chef..(who cares..give me good food..datz all) which might excite fans but not meee...if that is how food tastes or is judged on top chef....i'll cut off my cable...yuck!!!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: ivory177

                                                                              Could you be more specific about what you ate and why you didn't like it?

                                                                            2. So much emotion!

                                                                              I love a good screed as much as the next guy, but re: WD-50, I beg to differ.

                                                                              Went there last Thursday night for the first time (after almost being frightened away by this discussion thread). After all, if you're gonna drop that much cash, you want more than a science project -- you want SATISFACTION.

                                                                              We did the tasting menu with wine pairings. And left happy and sated.

                                                                              Was every dish perfect? No. But some were (particularly "scallops, tendon, endive, parsley, hazelnut oil" in which the textures and flavors were in ravishing counterpoint, "lobster legs, brussels sprouts, lily bulb, banana kimchee" in which the legs evoked the Platonic form of lobster flavor, "rabbit, wild rice polenta, cassis, kale, black olive" that just simply worked, and "ricotta, caper, frozen honey" that was the ideal hinge between dinner and dessert). Even the stuff that didn't work perfectly for us, had enough wit and cleverness to bring a smile to your face (e.g. "everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese" and "Truffled carbonara").

                                                                              The place was packed (even in the midst of the Great Recession) and everybody seemed to be having a great time both eating there and being there. Staff couldn't have been nicer or more playful.

                                                                              I'd absolutely go back.

                                                                              1. I completely agree. Joined Chowhound pretty much just to agree with you. I'm a fan of molecular gastronomy; a big fan, actually. Tried the tasting menu at WD-50 and found it horrifying. Couldn't get over it. Spectacularly unpleasant, almost disturbing. (I will admit, my experience there was years ago. Still haven't gotten over it, clearly!)

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Homerdavis

                                                                                  Well since there is this resurrection, I will say that I disagree with the resurrector. I think WD-50 is fantastic. I love the dishes and the creativity. I also think the kitchen works like a well oiled machine. I was amazed when I was invited into the kitchen to observe how perfect that place gets the orders out.