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Nov 15, 2010 02:54 PM

Stupak outshines Wylie?

I have been dreaming about this meal for quite some time now, about 6 months to be exact. I was promised a meal with a dinner budget of about $100 per person last year after getting good grades in school. I decided on WD~50 because it was different. I have eaten at amazing "classic" restaurants like Eleven Madison Park, Del Posto, and Jean Georges, but I wanted to try something new and different. Wylie Dufresne, the executive chef and owner, incorporates a special ingredient into all of his dishes that not all chefs use. The ingredient is humor and emotion. His genius food will most importantly taste sensational, but it will also make you laugh and make you marvel at his technique.
I was greeted by a very friendly wait staff who were very down to earth. My dad and I were seated at a booth and we both were able to see inside of the kitchen. Wylie Dufresne, Joe Bignelli (Chef De Cuisine), and Alex Stupak (Genius Pastry Chef) were all in house working their asses off. It is not usual for famous chefs like Wylie to be in house working the line, but he is and I really appreciated it. I ordered the tasting menu with my dietary restrictions due to my food allergies, while my dad just ordered a few things a la carte.

Just by eating the "bread" at WD~50 you see the genius of the restaurant. Instead of heavy, filling bread they serve light, crispy flat bread. The bread was as thin as a piece of paper and melted in my tongue. This was so delicious and did not fill me up, so I was able to enjoy the fantastic meal which lay ahead of me.

The amuse bouche I was served consisted of pickled radishes, tofu, and red pepper gel The peppery radish flavor was diluted by the other flavors and to be frank the dish really did not excite me the way I was hoping that it would.

Next came Cuttlefish, apple gel, watercress puree, and fresh watercress. After the disappointing amuse I was expecting to be blown away by this dish and I was not at all. The cuttlefish was very dense so the textures of the gel and puree were lost and their flavors were diluted. This was the worst dish of the night and I was starting to get really scared that this meal was not going to live up to my expectations.

(Sorry for the bad picture, however it was very aesthetic at the restaurant)

I was served aerated foie, pickled beet, plum, and brioche. To make this dish Wylie liquefies the foie, cooks it, takes all of the air out in a cyrovac, and then ultimately foams the foie in an iSi canister. This was the best foie gras I had ever had in my life. The rich, unctuous foie gras was incredible by it's own, but was complemented even more by the crispy brioche's texture. The beets and plums gave great acidity and sweetness to the best foie dish I have ever had. By now I had completely forgot about the two previous courses and was excited for what was to come.

Now it was time for the famous Eggs Benedict. Wylie absolutely loves eggs, particularly eggs benedict. On Top Chef Season 5 when he was guest judge for the "Last Supper" episode his last meal that he wanted was perfect eggs benedict. Wylie wanted to put eggs benedict on his menu because of his obsession with it, but he had to modify it so it worked with WD~50's philosophy. What he came up with is pure genius. The egg yolks were pureed and put in cylinder mold and poached very slowly to get the perfect texture. He then takes hollandaise sauce and coats it in English muffin and to the fryer it goes. He fries hollandaise! That is so cool. He garnishes the dish with ultra thin slices of crisped Canadian bacon and black Himalayan sea salt. This dish blew my mind. It was perfectly seasoned, had great texture, and expressed who Wylie is as a chef. I will dream about this dish for a long time.

I was given a dish of Cold Fried Chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, Tabasco, and some seed that had similar textures and flavors to caviar. The original dish has caviar in it, but I am allergic so they made a substitution. To make this dish the dark meat of chicken is "glued" together using transglutaminase, also known as meat glue. Next they cook the huge hunk of meat sous vide and then freeze it with liquid nitrogen. The meat gets coated with a special starch and fried. The coating is hot and crispy while the meat is still cold. I do not see a point in keeping the chicken cold. I believe in regards to taste the dish would have been better if the chicken was hot. I still loved the dish though. The Tabasco added a nice heat and the buttermilk-ricotta was very creamy and tasty.

I was then served Peekytoe crab roll, salt n' vinegar chips, celery mayonnaise. The crab was very sweet and worked great with the crispy roll and acidic chips. The celery mayonnaise added a pleasant richness. This dish was delectable, however it did not seem to work with the philosophy of WD~50. This dish seemed to be simple delicous food, which there is nothing bad about that at all, but that is not what Wylie does at WD~50.

My waiter brought out the next course which was "Beef and Bernaise". The dumplings were scrumptious. They were very moist and floavorful. However the consomme was very bitter and had no flavor of beef.

Them, I was served Roasted Squab with Pumpkin, Chinese Spinach, and Cornbread. The dish really did not look that good to the eye. It was all the same color except for the spinach. However, the squab was cooked beautifully, a perfect, rosy medium rare. The pumpkin and cornbread tasted very earthy and led the dish to bring you back to the Thanksgiving table. The spinach was blanched properly and seasoned well, but the kitchen I believe could have done something more than just simply blanch a green and put it on the plate.

Now it was time for desserts. My first dessert was a Licorice custard with sake sorbet, and Bartlett pear foam. This was the most clean and refreshing dessert I have every tasted. The sake sorbet was silky smooth. I believe that they had to use liquid nitrogen to make the sake sorbet so they could freeze the alcohol. The custard was rich and not overpowering. The pear foam was the essence of pear with the creamiest and lightest texture possible. This dish was extraordinary.

Next, I received Rainbow Sherbet with plum, tarragon, orange, and olive oil. After the probably the best dessert of my life I did not expect this dessert to live up to the hype, but it did. The olive oil cake was perfect and the olive oil jam added a great fruitiness and saltiness to the dish. The rainbow sherbet was inside a gossamer thin sugar tuille. This dessert took a ton of skill to make. There was nothing wrong with this dish at all. Perfection.

My last plated dish of the night was Soft Chocolate with beet, long pepper, and ricotta ice cream. The combination of the beet and ricotta was sublime. It blew my mind how good it was. The savoriness and saltiness of the beet went so well with the ricotta ice cream. The chocolate was tasty, but did not even need to be on the plate. The beets and ricotta ice cream together was the best bite of dessert I have ever had. When the chocolate was brought into the mouth it overpowered the other components.

By now my stomach was bursting with food, but I was going to eat every last bit of what was served to me. My dad an I received Cocoa Packets and Chocolate Shortbread with milk ice cream. The technique on the Cocoa Packets was very precise and the flavors were great. The Chocolate Shortbread with milk ice cream was decadent and extremely flavorful. It was the perfect last bite to a great dining experience.

After the meal we were asked if we would like a tour of the kitchen! They were asking me, I did not ask them. I was going to ask anyway, but they could tell I was really into food so they asked me first. The kitchen was pretty small, but they had a downstairs prep kitchen that I did not get to see. Wylie, Alex, and Joe were all extremely busy busting out food to a jam-packed restaurant so they really did not have much time for me. Wylie was working the whole fish station by himself. I find that great how he still actually works the line.

In my opinion Alex Stupak out shined Wylie Dufresne tonight at my meal. His masterful desserts honestly had no flaws. They were by far the best desserts I ever had in my life. The savory parts of the meal had very high points, like the eggs benedict and the foie gras, but also had some low points, like the cuttlefish. The foie and eggs benedict are definitely in the top 5 dishes of my life. WD~50 blew me away and I really hope I can come back for more soon.

Pictures are here

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  1. Do you guys think the desserts at WD 50 are better than the savory courses or vice a versas?

    27 Replies
    1. re: tldmatrix

      I thought Alex Stupak's desserts consistently outshone the non-pastry side of the kitchen. Now that Stupak is leaving to start his own restaurant, wd~50 has become significantly less interesting.

      1. re: hcbk0702

        he is still there, but leaving soon.

        1. re: hcbk0702

          and i agree that the desserts are perfection

          1. re: hcbk0702

            Does the new restaurant have a name and location?

            1. re: Pan

              It will be a mexican restaurant aimed for afterwork. The excact location has not been 100% confirmed yet

              1. re: tldmatrix

                Thanks. I'll look forward to hearing more about it.

                1. re: Pan

                  Yea I cant wait to see excactly what is

                  1. re: tldmatrix

                    honestly, at wd-50, when it comes to the savory courses, you have to pick and choose.

                    The pork neck, venison and duck dishes that I had last month were all really great dishes. I have heard that other entrees and apps are less sucesssful. I suggest picking and choosing savories at wd-50 and then jst getting a dessert tasting

                    1. re: wreckers00

                      i agree 100%. the foie and eggs benedict were perfect dishes, but the cuttlefish was not. All the other savory courses were really good, but not at the same level as the eggs benedict or foie gras. Desserts were perfect.

                      1. re: wreckers00

                        I wish i had the iberico Pork Neck. That Sounded so good on the menu.

                        1. re: wreckers00

                          Any thoughts on the 3- or 5-course dessert tasting? We're going in a couple of weeks, and are planning to go a la carte from apps/entrees and then do a dessert tasting. Very happy we snagged a reservation before Stupak leaves.

                          1. re: orthorunner

                            Another way to do it is just to order from the menu the things that look good to you and share a few different plates. I've done that before when some of the desserts didn't appeal to me.

                    1. re: squid kun

                      Every one needs to go to WD 50 befor Januray 1st to try Stupak's desserts. I wonder what the desserts will be like at Empellon. Does anyone have any ideas?

                      Empellon Taqueria
                      230 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

                      1. re: tldmatrix

                        I'm quite curious myself. A taqueria seems about as far away from wd-50 as one can get, but I'm sure Stupak will make it work. (Plus, it's about a block from my apartment, so if it's good, I'm guaranteed to be a regular!)

                        I'm dining at wd-50 for the first time this Friday, so I'm quite thrilled that I'll get to experience it with Stupak still around.

                        1. re: loratliff

                          You will love the meal. Get the dessert tasting menu.

                          1. re: loratliff

                            For your reference, here the current hits & misses - according to me, at least:

                            Hits: (apps) Eggs Benedict, Veal Brisket, Aerated Foie, Crab Roll / (mains) Char, Scallops, Cod, Pork Neck, Venison

                            Misses: (apps) Shrimp Spaghetti, Cuttlefish. I personally liked the duck breast okay but I know a couple people who weren't terribly thrilled with it - it has some very strong flavors fighting it out.

                            My more descriptive, review:

                            1. re: sgordon

                              Wonderful, thanks! Pretty sure we're doing the tasting, so I guess we'll see what he gives us!

                              The shrimp spaghetti just doesn't look appetizing to me, so fingers crossed it's not around. I've not yet read anything favorable about the cuttlefish so I'm surprised he's kept it. I'm very excited about the eggs benedict (even though eggs are not typically a favorite food of mine) and the aerated foie.

                              I'll post with my own update in a few days.

                              1. re: loratliff

                                The tasting generally is composed of completely different dishes than the a la carte menu - though if there's something that really grabs your attention, they're usually good about subbing things. Last time I went with a group, I wanted everyone to try the "everything bagel" off the tasting menu, but we were ordering a la carte - they were happy to send out a round of the EBs as amuses, though.

                                Make sure to try some of the house cocktails, too - the bartenders (okay, "mixologists" or whatever) are brilliant.

                                1. re: sgordon

                                  I'm a cocktail fiend, so that was definitely the plan. I've heard mention of a cocktail pairing but can't find a cost. Do you happen to know?

                                  1. re: loratliff

                                    There's no specific pairings, like with the wine on the tasting menu - but they'll be glad to suggest particular drinks to go with particular dishes. They vary in price - mid teens mostly. I generally prefer wine with the meal itself, cocktails beforehand while persuing the menu, maybe with the apps. A complex cocktail with a complex dish can be a little too much going on at once, flavor-wise.

                                  2. re: sgordon

                                    Do they tell you what the tasting menu is on the menu Or is it generally a collection that is at the discretion of the chef and changes nightly?

                                    1. re: steakrules85

                                      It changes now and then, but it's always listed on the website.

                                      1. re: sgordon

                                        I admire Wylie in many ways and really enjoy most of the food he has put out but I hate the fact that he rarely changes the menu (although way better than the lack of Le Bernardin menu-changing).

                                        I know he says his dishes take 4 months to come up with but I think he could really do more seasonal changes to the menu and it would make me want to go back more often

                                        Le Bernardin
                                        155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                                        1. re: wreckers00

                                          I've never been to Le Bernardin, however I check their menu regularly because I have it on my "to try" agenda. I think they actually change the menu quite often.

                                          Le Bernardin
                                          155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                                          1. re: wreckers00

                                            Well, three months is a season, so four months isn't terribly far off.

                                            Dufresne tends not to overhaul his menu once per season - dishes come and go. You might find from one week to the next one or two are replaced, then it'll stay the same for awhile, then a couple more will morph. Putting aside the menu staples I think over the course of a year he goes through as many changes as the average place.

                                            1. re: sgordon

                                              yeah that's probably true. I just like places that do switch up stuff a lot

                    2. Made a res next week after reading this thread. Looking forward to it!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: uwsister

                        You won't regret it! My experience last night was amazing—about to post my full review.

                      2. Returned to WD 50 this weekend to get the 5-course dessert menu before Chef Stupak leaves and was very impressed.

                        Since it had been around a year since we initially ate there (tasting menu), we started with two appetizers that were not previously on the menu. The famous "Eggs Benedict" was as good as everyone says it is, playful, yet retaining all the flavors of the classic dish.

                        The Aerated Foie was equally as impressive. We loved how the acid and sweetness of the beets cut through the rich foie, which was pleasantly light. While we experienced some hits and misses on the savory portion of the tasting menu we ate on our previous trip, we thought both of these appetizers were fantastic.

                        Dessert started with a pre-dessert of White Beer Ice Cream, apple, caramel and carraway. The ice cream contained the faint flavor of beer and paired well with the salty caramel gel and apple.

                        Since we previously had one of the current desserts we requested that our tasting include five original selections, a request the restaurant was more than happy to honor. Our first dessert, the Lemongrass mousse with brown sugar, jack fruit, whole wheat sorbet, was my favorite. I loved how the herbacious mousse combined with the jack fruit, brown sugar and interesting flavored whole wheat sorbet.

                        Next was the Grapefruit curd, campari, hibiscus, sorrel. Not really my thing, albiet, I openly admit I am not a huge fan of grapefruit. However, everything was very well executed.

                        The Rainbow sherbet, plum, tarragon, orange, olive oil teetered between being sweet and savory. The rainbow sherbet was presented inside a sugar shell and was visually stunning. The acid from the orange was a nice counterbalance to the sherbet and was offset by the salty olive oil cake underneath.

                        The fourth course was a Licorice custard, sake sorbet, bartlett pear. The dish contained strong sake flavors, in the forms of both sorbet as well as a gel, and was an interesting combination with the licorice.

                        The final dessert was Soft chocolate, beet, long pepper, ricotta ice cream and looked like a Pollok painting. We enjoyed the rich chocolate ganache with the ricotta ice cream and thought the inclusion of beet and long pepper kept things interesting. Exactly what one expects when they dine at a restaurant like this.

                        Petits fours included the standard Cocoa packets. Chocolate shortbread, milk ice cream.

                        Also should note, we tried four cocktails: pH (vodka, raspberry, lychee, rose), Wonderland (candy cane gin, clarified pear juice, carbonated), Kum All Ye (kumquat bourbon, canton ginger, lillet) and the Yule Flip! (rum-raisin, vanilla, egg yolk) and thought all were well balanced, innovative and tasty.

                        Overall, a great experience, capped off by another trip to the kitchen were we were greeted by Chefs Dufresne and Stupak.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                          Oh wow, they didn't have those Christmas cocktails when I was there a few weeks ago. I think I need to make a trip to the bar for a Wonderland and some aerate foie!!!

                          1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                            That report was fun to read. One question: What flavors are in the rainbow sherbet?

                            1. re: Pan

                              It was rhubarb, tarragon, and orange the night I was there, but I think he rotates between rhubarb and plum.

                                1. re: Pan

                                  @ loratliff: agree that you should go again for some cocktails, especially if you like seasonally themed ones. I try to visit at least once a year to try some of the newer dishes on both menus. In case you didn't already know former bartender/mixologist (whatever you want to call them) Eben Freeman is now at White's Ai Fiori...

                                  @ Pan: glad you enjoyed the report. There were about five-seven additional components to the ones listed for each dish, but I sadly forgot them. Needless to say, Stupak continues to create some of the most creative desserts in the city.

                                  Ai Fiori
                                  400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                  1. re: TheDegustationAsian

                                    Thanks for the report of your recent meal! We had much the same experience; we did a la carte for the savories, hitting up the mainstays (Everything Bagel, Eggs Benedict), but opted for a dessert tasting menu. I must say that the savories tended to be a bit unbalanced on the sweeter side, such as the freeze dried polenta that came with the venison, and the smoked salmon that came on the everything bagel, which had not only a smokiness but almost a candied flavor, perhaps from the preparation. However, from a texture perspective alone, it was nonetheless fantastic. The yolks of the Eggs Benedict had such dense flavor yet such a light, almost springy nature, and the freeze dried polenta, while a bit too sweet, had none of the graininess of a traditional polenta and a nice firm bite.

                                    As re desserts, we had the white beer/apple/caramel, whole wheat/lemongrass/jackfruit (one of my favorites as well!), and chocolate/beet/long pepper dishes that you had, and then my personal favorite, coffee ice cream with cocoa shortbread and argan oil. I had never even heard of argan oil, but its nutty, almost tannic flavor was an amazing contrast to the sharp, biting coffee flavor.

                                    Hopefully Stupak will continue to create his dishes at his new spot once he opens!