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My night at wd~50...

Well, my mind was blown last night. Seriously. wd~50 exceeded all my expectations. I knew I would like it, but I didn't know just how much. From the addictive flatbread at the start to the kitchen tour at the end, it was a flawless performance by all involved.

I had read a few complaints about the dining room previously, but I personally thought it was great. I don't want to eat cold fried chicken in a dining room like EMP or anything like that. wd~50's space is simple, tasteful and modern without being stuffy. We were seated in a corner booth right by the fireplace, which was perfect for the chilly Friday evening.

The sesame flatbreads they give you to start at addictive and amazing—they remind me of the most perfect dessert tuile, just in a savory, sesame form.

I started out with the pH cocktail (vodka, raspberry, lychee and rose) and wasn't disappointed in the least. My boyfriend thought it was a bit too much like fruit punch, but i loved the rose-lychee combination. He had the Royal Beeting (clear whiskey, beet, lemon, champagne). I wasn't expecting to like his, as I'm not a huge beet fan, but the lemon balanced things out.

Then the real fun began...

Our first course was Spanish mackerel with sweet potato-coconut soup, pecans and thyme. YUM. Mackerel is my least favorite fish, but this rendition was absolutely fantastic. By this point, my boyfriend was already asking if we could just spend the night and have Wylie cook for us everyday. The sweet potato-coconut combo was sweet without being cloying and balanced out perfectly with the clean fish.

Second was the famous everything bagel! I don't even feel the need to describe this one in depth, as most people who know anything about Wylie are already familiar with it. Needless to say, it was fantastic—and we laughed from the first bite onward.

Third course was the favorite of the night. The foie gras terrine (in cylindrical form), filled with passionfruit, and dried chinese celery. Our jaws dropped. We were silent. We ate this very, very slowly, as we didn't want it to go away too quickly! This was, without a doubt, the most fantastic rendition of foie I've ever had. The buttery richness of the foie was cut by the sweet-tart passionfruit flavor and the dried chinese celery added a little crunch and sweetness.

The next dish was the only one I was reluctant about: the scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado and kindai kampachi. My boyfriend detests eggs; I only dislike them. When we were initially asked about allergies/dislikes, I thought about mentioning eggs, but I sucked it up. Boy, am I glad I did. This was quite possibly my second favorite dish. The scrambled egg ravioli was not eggy at all, just fluffy and flavorful and well-balanced with the cool kampachi and the avocado.

Since my boyfriend really truly does hate eggs, he was served the peekytoe crab roll with salt 'n vinegar chips and celery mayo. This was great too, but I only had one bite so I'm not super qualified to extoll it's virtues. ;) Although, the salt 'n vinegar chips are in miniature form—about the size of my pinky fingernail—so they were fun to eat.

At this point, we each ordered our second cocktail—our favorites of the night. I had the LES Lassie (lemongrass gin, dry vermouth, yogurt, lime) and my boyfriend had the Brown Town (bourbon, amaro, sweet vermouth, bitters), their take on a Manhattan. I love cocktails with yogurt, so the Lassie totally impressed me. The Brown Town was equally impressive, for a "manly" drink.

The other star: the famous cold fried chicken, buttermilk ricotta, honey tabasco and caviar. Leftovers on crack. The hi-brow/lo-brow combo was phenomenal. I swear I heard angels singing when I got a perfect bite of salty caviar, creamy ricotta, and chicken, with just a hint of heat from the tabasco. The buttermilk ricotta was mashed potato-like in texture, which made me feel ever more like I was in the south having a big plate of fried chicken.

Sixth course: bay scallops, bone marrow, parnsip and black sesame. This was served in a small bowl with five or six bay scallops, perfectly seared, topped with the parsnip-black sesame puree and nestled in with two black sesame wafers and two little chunks of parsnip. I was curious as to how Wylie was going to serve the bone marrow: he shaved it over the top, which was a perfect application. I thought anything else might be just too rich. This was another star dish. I think it ended up being my boyfriend's second favorite.

I had the beef and bernaise next, while my boyfriend had the cod, peas and coconut, nori pasta and carrot dashi. Our waiter, who also dislikes eggs, said he felt the gnocchi in the beef and bernaise was eggy, so he subbed in the cod for the BF. I loved the beef and bernaise and thought the consommé truly stole the show—I could drink a gallon of it! The cod was great, but the other flavors were not my favorite. My boyfriend quite liked it, but I think if I had to pick a least favorite dish, that would be it.

The finally savory dish was like Thanksgiving on a plate: squab breast, a cheese pumpkin puree, and a mini-cornbread stuffed with pickled cranberries. Another home run. Just the smell took me back to holiday dinners, but they never tasted this good!

Then, onto desserts! We each ordered a glass of the Cava Rosé ‘de Nit’ Raventós i Blanc 2007, which was actually suited perfectly to the following courses.

The pre-dessert of white beer ice cream, apple, caramel and a caraway cracker, was the standout for both of us. The rainbow sherbet (apple, tarragon, orange) with olive oil gel and a sponge cake was also a hit, especially since it's served in a crispy, spring roll-like wrapping paper, but the flavors of first dessert (made with Allagash white ale) hit it out of the park. My least favorite dessert, as if I could choose one, was the soft chocolate, beet, long pepper, ricotta ice cream. Still lovely and I enjoyed the mild hints of heat from the long peppers. The cocoa packets finished us up, but the condensed milk ice cream in the chocolate shortbread balls were my favorite.

Afterward, we took a kitchen tour. Wylie was in and came over and introduced himself, thanked us for coming and invited us back. He struck me as incredibly humble, gracious and passionate about his work. The kitchen was shockingly small and hotter than hell! Stupak was in as well and waved to us and said welcome.

It was a great experience. I highly recommend the tasting menu for the first time, and then perhaps order individual courses on subsequent experiences. We will be back without a doubt.

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WD-50
50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

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  1. It's a pretty amazing experience. I am surprised how some of the dishes I had a few years ago seem to be mainstays on the menu, but that's perhaps b/c of their overall popularity. The foie with the liquid passion fruit center remains a course I will never forget, as is the everything bagel.

    1. Great report!

      I'm actually unfamiliar with the "everything bagel." What is it?

      21 Replies
      1. re: Pan

        It looks exactly like a miniature bagel, complete with poppy and sesame seeds and a nice toasted finish, but it's actually bagel-flavored ice cream served atop smoked salmon threads, along with pickled onions and "crispy" cream cheese. Together, it's not different than a lox bagel you'd grab down the street. Truly remarkable. Here's a photo: http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-a...

        1. re: loratliff

          Thanks for the explanation and photo. So it tastes just like something much cheaper?

          1. re: Pan

            Sure, but I think that's exactly the type of attitude that does not play well at wd~50. He doesn't dump truffles and caviar on everything like Thomas Keller, but I knew I wasn't paying for that: I was paying for fresh, simple food prepared in exciting ways—and I got that.

            1. re: loratliff

              So it's really the coolness of the method you're paying for?

            2. re: Pan

              If you can get a miniature everything bagel ice cream with crispy cream cheese and freeze-dried smoked salmon threads cheaper somewhere else, then yes.

              1. re: linguafood

                I'm reacting to what loratliff posted about it tasting just like something much cheaper. Do you feel it doesn't taste just like something much cheaper, or that it does?

                1. re: Pan

                  Taste-wise, yes, it tastes like something cheaper, but cheap doesn't have a negative connotation for me... Pan, what *should* it taste like? Does something have to taste like foie gras and truffles to make it worth money?

                  To answer your first question, I believe I paid for method, execution, and quality of the food. I couldn't have prepared any of that at home or gotten most of it anywhere else, so I was happy to shell over $140 for Wylie to do it for me.

                  1. re: Pan

                    I understood that. What I am saying is that I have not had everything bagel ice cream with aforementioned 'accoutrements' anywhere else or cheaper.

                    I also don't think that the wd-50 version tastes like a bagel with lox and schmear. It's an elevated idea/execution of a pedestrian food. The bagels with lox and schmear I have had in NYC were decidedly un-ice cream-ish, the lox not in threads and the cream cheese not a small pane of crispiness.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      That would make it different to me, too, and would make me feel like it's more appropriate to pay a premium for the dish.

                      In answer to loratliff, if it really tasted _exactly_ like something much cheaper, I probably wouldn't think it was worth the money, not because "cheap" has a negative connotation but because it's less money out of my wallet!

                      1. re: Pan

                        Of course it didn't taste *exactly* like something much cheaper. I think you're reading too literally into what I've said. It tasted like a lox bagel in that, if I were blindfolded, I could've identified what I was eating. Is that a better explanation? I feel like you're trying to nitpick something that's not there.

                        Like linguafood said, even the best lox bagels I've had in the city do not taste like ice cream! ;)

                        1. re: loratliff

                          I'm just trying to understand what the experience might be like, having never done it.

                          Actually, the main reason I have yet to visit WD-50 is that it's a lot of money for me, and I am not sure it's more than a 60-40 shot that I'd really enjoy the experience.

                          1. re: Pan

                            You're not paying just for the food - you're paying for the service, the ambience, the nice acoutrements, the wine cellar, the skill and training of the chefs...

                            I also want to add that it's very difficult to "understand" what WD-50 is like without experiencing it. It's unusual, and it's not everybody's cup of tea.

                            1. re: gutsofsteel

                              I totally understand that you're not paying for the food only, and also that I won't be able to fully understand that experience without having it.

                            2. re: Pan

                              I'm not a WD-50 fan (because I find some of the stuff too forced -- being different just for the sake of being different) and think that you'd probably be better off saving your money to go to a place like Alinea if you ever find yourself in Chicago one day. Not only was Alinea super creative, it was just really damn tasty.

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                              WD-50
                              50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

                              1. re: Pan

                                I think that if you have any doubt at all, you probably wouldn't enjoy it. I was confident that I would like it; I just wasn't sure if my feelings would be more than that, but luckily for both me and my boyfriend, we loved it, and since we live here, we will return for just first courses and entrees.

                                One issue I think is that some people do not get the tasting menu on their first trip. I don't think I would've been all that impressed had I eaten just two courses and dessert. Experiencing the full range of Wylie's techniques is what made me ultimately want to return in the future.

                                Miss Needle mentions Alinea (still on my list) as being creative and tasty, but I found Wylie's dishes to be both creative and tasty too. Nothing was forced in my opinion, although that could just be the particular tasting menu that we had. I also felt, from meeting Wylie, that he is extremely humble and genuinely wants people to like his food first and foremost.

                        2. re: Pan

                          Yes, and Scott Conant's Spaghetti with Tomato & Basil tastes similar to a can of Spaghettios. It costs much more, but it's still the one I'd rather eat.

                          I don't know that the Everything Bagel is more expensive than the one you'd get at Russ and Daughters, either. Ounce for ounce, I suppose. But it's one course out of nine(?) - and really an amuse, at that, which would put it in the lower "costs" of the individual dishes that make up the meal, were you to break it down. In fact, I've had it thrown in as a freebie amuse when ordering a la carte. In that case, it cost nothing.

                          1. re: sgordon

                            If Conant's dish really tasted like Spaghettios (which I can't believe, based on the other food I've had in his restaurants), I would never order it.

                            1. re: Pan

                              It's as much like Spaghettios as Wylie's everything bagel is like the one you'd get at your corner deli, was my point.

                                1. re: Pan

                                  Methinks thou doth protest too much, Pan.

                    2. As always, full review with photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

                      I had my meal back in early November, but didn't get around to writing up my review till now. I found it interesting how different some of my views were from yours. For example, I did not like the foie gras as I thought the passionfruit was too tart and overpowering. I also would have preferred a stronger beef broth to the consomme in the beef and bearnaise. Which leads us back to what we both do agree on, which is that repeat visits should be focused on a la carte courses that worked, and not another tasting menu.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: fooder

                        Looks like we definitely enjoyed a few of the same things—namely the scrambled egg ravioli and the cold fried chicken. I'd definitely go back and have just those two!

                        What did you drink? Cocktails or wine?

                        1. re: loratliff

                          We started with champagne and had a really nice Barolo with the meat courses.

                          I'm not a big drinker, but I can imagine how the creativity follows through to the cocktails.

                      2. My husband and I went to WD-50 for the first time last night in celebration of NYE. We were initially disappointed that they were not serving their standard tasting menu (I've heard so much about the everything bagel) but rather a special 9 course tasting for the occasion for $160 (including champagne at midnight). In a nutshell, the night was flawless. The menu was interesting but accessible, the service was warm and friendly but professional and the ambiance was perfectly suited for a night of celebration. We also happened to be seated at a wonderful corner booth right near the open kitchen and got a kick out of seeing Wylie and Alex doing their thing. I was throughly impressed and don't think we could've picked a better spot for NYE. Looks like now we'll have to head back to try their regular tasting menu!

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                        WD-50
                        50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002