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Feb 22, 2011 05:23 AM

Lame Meal at Wd-50

Having dined at Alinea in Chicago, I have been waiting to try Wd-50 and have unfortunately, ignored many of the bad reviews in favor of the good, simply assuming the naysayers did not appreciate the molecular gastronomy movement. Boy was I wrong...

It is not to say anything was bad. We started with the corned duck and rye combination which was actually tasty, but somewhat one dimensional, especially for what I came to expect. We had the peeky toe crab roll which didn't strike me as exceptionally tasty - nor did it have much depth to it either.

Knowing the craze over the "Everything Bagel", we asked the kitchen to allow us to try it a la carte. I know this is probably blasphemy but - it just wasn't as mind blowing conceptually as I thought. Yes - it is in ice cream form; but again, I think the form over function argument is a huge issue here. I didn't find the taste to be as promising as I had hoped so the playfulness of the forms and textures did not work for me.

The entrees provided some comfort - with the Bass itself very good (though the fried forbidden rice sloppy and dense) and the duck flavorful (though I didn't care for the "cheddar cheese broth" and I think the duck needed some more time to render down the huge layer of fat beneath the skin)...

I'm upsets I didn't try the desserts before Stupak left, but my desert of "Milk Chocolate, Black Beans, Plaintains, Peanuts, Soy" was very tasty and the flavors worked. My dining companion's Coffee Ice Cream on the other hand, seemed bland.

The cocktails were tasty, but nothing spectacular. Besides the addicting sesame seem paper thin bread, I'm left confused over the hype....

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  1. Unfortunately, wd~50 wasn't going to compare well to Alinea by any stretch of the imagination. In terms of avant-garde cuisine, you'd have to look to Europe to match or surpass Alinea.

    I liked the aerated foie gras dish at wd~50 quite a bit.

    1. If there is a negative to dining at Alinea (besides the hit on your wallet) it is that it sets the bar extremely high for avant garde/molecular cuisine. I would agree with your assessment that WD-50 in no way compares to Alinea though my one dining experience there was better than yours. I had the tasting menu and was generally pleased with it though I haven't rushed back. Comparing it or virtually any other similar restaurant to Alinea will only result in disappointment.

      9 Replies
      1. re: MVNYC

        Since we enjoyed our creative meal at Corton, we're thinking about trying WD-50. How does WD-50 compare with Corton. (Nothing compares with Alinea).

        1. re: ellenost

          I have not been to Corton yet. It is on the list.

          1. re: ellenost

            The food at WD-50 is more playful and creative, but Corton is a lot better than WD-50 in terms of taste.

            I find it amusing that people assume that the WD-50 naysayers don't like it because they're not into the molecular gastronomy thing. Aside from a few posters who say they refuse to eat "lab experiments," I find that most of the detractors are fans of MG -- they're just not fans of WD-50. Couldn't it possibly be that they just don't like it?

            1. re: ellenost

              I think the only thing I've had come remotely close to Alinea was Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain (had never gotten into El Bulli but not for lack of trying, El Cellar de Can Roca is on the todo list for the next trip).

              The core issue is that Alinea's flavor combinations are always spot on but still in the "safe" zone, whereas WD-50's flavor combinations are way out there sometimes.

              I appreciate the thought and craft that goes into the dishes but if doesn't taste delicious, you've lost me already. At Alinea I have never had anything there that I thought tasted bad.

              But props to WD-50 for actually doing their thing in NYC and surviving all these years. Tailor, 71 Clinton, and Varietal all closed after all.

              50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

              1. re: kathryn

                For the record, I lked Momofuku Ko better than Alinea.
                Only by a little, but still....

                Momofuku Ko
                163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: pauliface

                  Wow, that's some compliment to Ko! Curious why you liked Ko better than Alinea; I want to try to get a reservation at Alinea for October to treat my sister for her birthday (she's been to Ko with me in the past).

                  1. re: ellenost

                    I'm sure that everyone else is right, and Alinea is technically better, and should be recommended to everyone over Ko.

                    And if you have a chance to go to Alinea -- go go go!

                    But on a subjective level, I just preferred Ko. I have a history with the East Village, and something about Ko just hit me on all levels to the core.

                    It also has to do with expectation. I expected less from Ko and got more than I expected. I expected more from Alinea and it disappointed ever-so-slighlty on a couple of points.

                    Maybe, now that I've been to each once, I need to go back to them both and see what I think!

                  2. re: pauliface

                    I've done Ko four times and Alinea two times, and while I love Ko,
                    Alinea is in a league of its own.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      I would have to agree, especially when you're talking about dinner at Ko. Lunch gets closer, but I haven't found anything like Alinea in the US.

                      Ellenost, hope you get your reservation at Alinea. Aside from Alinea, Chicago really has some terrific eats that you and your sister would enjoy.

            2. I have to agree with you. I went to WD50 with high expectations. While the food was inventive, I was surprised at the lack of flavor. Expecting flavor complexity at the beginning of the meal, by the end, I would have been happy with any flavor other than the slight chemical taste that sometimes accompanies molecular dishes. The wine pairing was lackluster as well as I didn't appreciate having the same wine over multiple courses. I left feeling like I had been ripped off.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Mlm2011

                I have never been offered the same wine over multiple courses with the wine pairing, and I am especially puzzled by your report as the wines matched with each course are shown on the menu.

                Did you ask why you weren't being given the wines on the menu?

                1. re: Wilfrid

                  I don't recall whether the wines were listed or not but they definitely poured the same wine for at least two courses. This was back at the end of 2008 during the financial crisis. Perhaps they were trying to cut costs?

                2. re: Mlm2011

                  While my husband wasn't crazy about the wine pairing, he definitely did not receive the same wine for two courses, let alone multiple courses - very strange.

                  IMO almost anyone who go to wd-50 with high expectations will be disappointed. I'm not trying to diss the restaurant - I actually liked the experience for what it was.