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Feb 1, 2012 07:03 AM

wd-50 - any recent reports, ideally from those who've been to other modernist spots.

Coming to New York at month's end and trying to firm up dining plans.

To anyone who has been recently, how is wd-50 - both savories and sweets - these days? Still novel or kind of losing its edge? I've heard mixed things.

Second, to those who've been to Alinea, moto, The Bazaar, Volt, ink, schwa, or other places using varying degrees of molecular technique how does wd-50 stand up? It clearly has the "looks" but does it have the taste? Does the experience justify a $200 price tag after tax and tip?

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  1. I have done Alinea, Moto, Schwa, and WD-50 from your list. The flavors and presentation at WD-50 exceeded those at Moto (though I have only been to Moto once and it might have been just an off night). Alinea and Schwa are two of my favorite restaurants, and the price of the former is substantially higher than WD-50, so I wouldn't think it a fair comparison. But I don't think it holds up.

    If "recently" means 8 months ago, I would offer the following: I enjoy WD-50 on its own merits; think it stands up well to other restaurants in its price-range, and generally offers fun (and sometimes still exciting) food, that tastes pretty darn good. I found the desserts particularly exciting during my last visit, and soon-to-be-mrsnmprisons, who is a pastry cook, concurred.

    50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

    1. Dufresne has always been experimental on two fronts - both with techniques and presentation, but also with flavor pairings. So it differs from the some of the others in that sense, where the chef might have a particular flavor profile, just gussying it up with interesting techniques. Wylie takes from the city of New York - everything from diner food to Italian to Chinese to Korean, often overlapping in one dish.

      As with any place of their ilk (or of any ilk I suppose), some dishes work better than others. There always seems to be one dish on the menu that maybe shouldn't have left the laboratory. But there've also been some of the most memorable dishes of my life - his "ham & cheese on rye" (braised then seared pork belly with rye spaetzle in a swiss cheese consomme) is sorely missed, and his scallops with spice bread consomme (so he's big on consommes) and cranberry fruit leather I can still taste in my mind, some two years after it left the menu.

      Of the current menu, for the most part the apps are more adventuresome than the mains, at least in terms of the gimmickry (for lack of a better term - I don't mean that derogatorily) - I think he realizes that when it's entree time, most people doing a three-courser want a nice hearty plate of food. He doesn't dumb it down - there's still interesting, unexpected things going on, especially in the accoutrements than surround the main protein - but said main protein will usually be prepared pretty straightforwardly. Your lamb chops won't be dehydrated and reconstituted with chamomile tea or anything.

      Those doing the tasting menu will get more of what you expect, a parade of smaller bites showcasing fun culinary ideas. I'm guessing based on your $200 price tag that the TM is what you'd be doing.

      Does it have "the taste" - ? Everyone's flavor profile is different. Dufresne's will either speak to you or it won't. I mean, Daniel Boulud's food doesn't speak to ME.

      As to desserts: Malcolm Livingston is doing great, IMHO. I mean, he had some tough shoes to fill, following someone who some considered the best pastry chef in the country, but he'd worked as Stupak's sous for some time, and he's very much on the same page - not afraid to use savory herbs and vegetables, and very deft at balancing them. I think he's awesome.

      Also, the cocktails are smashing. Jafrul & Tona, the two mixologists, totally own it. They're just as playful with technique and flavor as their cohorts in the kitchen.

      Comparing them to Alinea or Moto, I'm not sure it quite works. Those restaurants do tasting menus only, and at this point, only ONE tasting menu each. In some ways it's easier for them to make it work, since every person walking through the door is having the exact same thing. Also, the price point of Alinea is much higher - for the cost of dinner, you could have the tasting menu at WD... and come back the next night for a regular three (maybe even four) course a la carte meal, too.

      50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

      2 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Well, that would explain why I haven't seen him behind the bar in awhile!

      1. Well stated by you both - thanks.

        I personally was uninspired by moto and found the rest of the ones I mentioned to vary between good (volt/ink/The Bazaar as all were Voltaggio) and outsanding (Alinea and schwa.)

        In regard to the $200, I was indeed thinking the tasting, though perhaps a few courses and then the dessert tasting would be a better call.

        11 Replies
        1. re: uhockey

          My preferred meal at WD is two apps, entree, dessert - though I'm satisfied belly-wise with a regular three as well. I just want to try more stuff, usually.

          I'm not generally a big fan of tasting menus, at least not when I've a dining companion. Just not as exciting to me if everyone is getting the same dishes. Were I dining alone, I'd consider a TM though.

          1. re: uhockey

            Looking at the current menus, the tasting doesn't appeal much to me. Thus, my preference would be to go a la carte along the lines sgordon suggests: a main and two apps for each of us + the 5-course dessert tasting.

            For the "eggs-centric" person that you are, I see "Eggs Benedict" on the a la carte. But, then, there's the Poached Egg on the tasting. If you want that, maybe they'd be willing to serve it to you a la carte.


            1. re: RGR

              Sounds entirely do-able to me. Gives more variety and choice, plus different folks can order different things. In all reality the desserts there matter most to me anyhow and I guess the tasting could always change between now and then (admittedly the current one does not do much for me.)


              1. re: uhockey

                "Liquid churro, bitter cocoa, chilies, meyer lemon"

                That does something for me :-)

                1. re: uhockey

                  LOL! All those desserts sound great to me!

                  I find it interesting that this is one of those occasions when the tasting menu does not pull its dishes from the regular menu. Normally, I like that idea. But in this case, the regular menu holds far more appeal to me.


                  1. re: RGR

                    I believe Chef Dufresne uses the tasting more as a staging ground for new dishes. Eventually if they pass muster they end up on the regular menu.

                2. re: RGR

                  Two apps plus main plus five desserts would probably do me in. I'd be tapping out well before the mignardaises arrived...

                  I've never done the dessert tasting, but I was under the impression it was full desserts for each course - I could be wrong though, they might be scaled down a little, or incorporate a couple of the smaller desserts from the regular tasting menu with a couple of full ones from the ALC.

                  They're pretty good about taking dishes from the tasting and getting them to you ALC, and vice versa - making tasting-sized portions of ALC items if one of them strikes your fancy in lieu of one of the pre-set options, or you can add a course - IIRC, they'll add a tasting-size portion of any dish from the main menu for $14. Last year a group of friends and I went - we did the 2/1/1 thing, so we had lots of food coming already, but I wanted them all to try the "Everything Bagel" - the kitchen was happy to send out a round for the table. Granted, I'm a semi-regular and some of the staff know me at this point, but I think they'd have done it for anyone.

                  And about two years ago, Ulterior Epicure - who appears to have no job, unlimited money, and a ridiculously fast metabolism - did a "full a la carte menu" tasting with a friend: - more than I could handle in one night, I think!

                  uhockey - are you dining solo or do you have people(s) with you?

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Okay, first off I chuckled at the UE comment as he is quite forthcoming about his job (and who he ate with) on his site. Personally I really enjoy his site, though I've not had the chance to meet him. RGR has had the opportunity to dine with him and I've had the chance to dine with RGR multiple times - she and ellenost will be joining me at wd50.

                    Regarding portions - my gestalt is that I could eat the wd-50 tasting menu and add a number of courses. I don't know that I'm "proud" of my capacity, but I can eat as is indicated in the blog (back to back tastings at EMP and Corton, Charlie Trotter's and TRU, Les Nomades and Next......I'll just stop now.) A friend and I also cashed the entire menu at ink. in Los Angeles. FWIW, I'm rather sure I could split the whole ALC and a tasting with someone and leave (poorer, fatter, but alright.)

                    I'll be fine with a few apps, main, and dessert tasting. The good thing about New York is that if I'm still hungry I can always go for more (the Baked Alaska at DBGB has caught my eye.)

                    I'm definitely looking forward to wd50, just want to make sure my money (and my companions) would not be better served by a return visit to Corton. :-)


                    1. re: sgordon

                      "...Ulterior Epicure - who appears to have no job, unlimited money, and a ridiculously fast metabolism....

                      LOL! LOL! LOL!

                      I will say this. uhockey can eat him under the proverbial table. Mr. R. will be at WD-50 as well, so there will be four of us at the table.


                      1. re: RGR

                        To be fair, uhockey is about twice my height. :)

                        I have been to wd~50 thrice in the course of the past six years, twice in the last two. My last meal there was about a year ago, in May. Have you never been, uhockey? That sort of surprises me.

                        I think wd~50, like Corton or Gagnaire, is a gamble. When you hit it on a good night, as I did on my second meal (the epic one mentioned above), it can be truly extraordinary. Otherwise, you might leave scratching your head a bit.

                        Dufresne's version of "molecular gastronomy" is a bit different, I think, from some of his peers' versions. Whereas Achatz (I've been to alinea thrice) and, to some extent, Cantu (I've been to moto once), approach it from the standpoint of eliciting emotion, I think Dufresne is more concerned with flavor combinations, and morphing forms. I hesitate to go too much further down this line of thought until I've given it some more time in my grey matter.

                        I have not been to ink or VOLT (but that will soon change). But I have been to Bazaar, and have had José Andres's food in multiple settings. From what I can tell, he comes dangerously close to xeroxing Ferran Adria's food.

                        You asked about schwa. I've been twice, once before Carlson's "hiatus," and once after he reopened. In my opinion, it doesn't belong in this discussion for many reasons.

                        But restaurants like l'Arnsbourg, The Fat Duck, elBulli, and el Cellar can Roca do belong in this discussion. Having been to all four, I can safely say that I'd rather eat at any one of those restaurants than at wd~50. For me, those are the best exemplars of this school of cooking, because they most clearly and most effectively convey a philosophy, namely, that what we call "molecular gastronomy" is, above all, a way of thinking, not a way of cooking (see what I wrote in my blog post about Next elBulli.)

                        So, is a tasting menu at wd~50 worth $200? Probably. I can't guarantee you'll walk away doing backflips (it makes me sad that you missed the Stupak days; his desserts were killer). But, considering it as an investment on your "culinary education" as a diner, I think it's a fair exchange. Even though I can't say I LOVE wd~50, I do think it's one of those "essential" restaurants, especially if you're someone who is particularly keen on the molecular set.

                        You've been to Corton, right?

                        1. re: ulterior epicure

                          We went - this is an old thread - I went with RGR, Ellenost, and Mr. R. Overall I agree with everything you say above and while the savories were good the desserts that Malcom Livingston III is putting out are outrageous.

                          Since this time I've also been to El Bulli at Next, EL Ideas, and Atelier in Ottawa - all clearly fancying the concepts of "mg" and overall I enjoyed my meal at WD-50 as much or more than all except EL Ideas which I truly do feel is one of the best experiences currently in Chicago.

                          As to Corton - I've been - I need to go back - I should have gone back on my March trip.

                          I'll be interested on your thoughts on VOLT as I wasn't terribly "wowed." I'll be going to minibar and Rogue24 in May so it will be interesting to see how they compare. I'd also be curious about your comments on Schwa and why it doesn't belong in the discussion.


                3. The original comment has been removed
                  1. I'm new to the NY dining scene but was just at WD-50 last week so this may be helpful. Had the tasting menu and it was fortunately more hits than misses (though barely). Food aside, it was a fun place to eat.


                    32 Replies
                      1. re: ellenost

                        I thought the main courses (monkfish, quail and lamb) were very good, some of the desserts (the menthol and ginger ice cream and the peanut and milk chocolate) also. Felt that the appetizers (especially the bagel, falafel, and rock shrimp/yuzu) were somewhat gimmicky.

                        1. re: Smilinglion

                          Well, to be fair part of their concept is tongue-in-cheek and "gimmickry" so I don't find the bagel or foie-lafel to be that offensive.

                          All things being equal I'll probably just go with a few apps, a main or two, and the dessert tasting.


                          1. re: Smilinglion

                            Thanks for the insights and excellent photos, though.


                            1. re: Smilinglion

                              Smilinglion, Thanks for linking to your excellent, detailed review and superb photos! Very helpful as Mr. R. and I will be dining there with uhockey and ellenost towards the end of the month. I was already inclined towards going the a la carte route -- as uhockey said, a couple of apps, a main, and the dessert tasting -- and your report has convinced me.

                              Welcome to NYC and to the Manhattan board. I hope to see a lot more of your reports here. :)


                              1. re: RGR

                                I prefer the a la carte menu too. I'm having trouble deciding among 3 appetizers (corned duck; eggs Benedict; aerated foie), 2 main courses (smoked char; duck), and 2 desserts (soft meringue; liquid churro). Wish they would create a tasting menu from my picks. Probably won't do the dessert tasting menu since the chef picks.

                                1. re: ellenost

                                  All these dishes sound fantastic! I wish we knew about it before we ate there. All in all we had a good time (love the vibe), though we're still more classical eaters than big fans of molecular cuisine.

                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    Pretty sure it is required by all, though I can't tell.

                                    Also pretty sure if you didn't want something specific they could leave it out.

                                    As to 3 apps, 2 mains, dessert tasting.....I could see that. :-) Duck/Chicken/Foie, Duck/Lamb. Also interested in that Poached Egg in a shell.


                                    1. re: uhockey

                                      Just kidding about creating a Tasting Menu since it would be required for everyone at the table; only trying to show how many good-sounding dishes on the menu. The egg dish also sounds good. Maybe I'll get 2 desserts when you get the Dessert Tasting; are you thinking about the 3 or 5 desserts?

                                      1. re: ellenost

                                        Sorry to butt into the conversation, but I'd also recommend the Cold Fried Chicken from the app section. It was my favorite dish when I ate at wd-50 a couple of months ago.

                                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                          Thanks Cheeryvisage! Now my choice among apps get even harder!

                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                              I mentioned the chicken above. I've had on good word it is the best dish on the menu and has been for some time.


                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                lol, just wanted to make sure Ellen tries the Cold Fried Chicken. If it were me, I'd want all of it for myself and not share. :)

                                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                  Sounds like I'm now going with (almost) RGR's menu: cold fried chicken and aerated foie gras for apps; duck for main course; and 2 desserts (meringue and liquid churro). I know RGR and uhockey want the tasting dessert menu, but I'll be happy with 2 desserts :-).

                                                  1. re: ellenost

                                                    So basically we'll all be ordering the same thing. I'll just be ordering more.


                                                      1. re: ellenost

                                                        Duck pastrami, asking about the egg in shell, dessert tasting for sure.


                                                        1. re: uhockey

                                                          I'm also interested in the duck pastrami and the egg in shell dishes; I didn't want to create an imbalance at the table if I was ordering more dishes than everyone else.

                                                          1. re: ellenost

                                                            Maybe Wylie can plate a few dishes "family style" for you guys... ;)

                                                            1. re: sgordon

                                                              That would be wonderful! This way the entire table would be able to try different dishes without worrying about getting too full. Of course, that's never been one of my problems.

                                                              1. re: ellenost

                                                                ...and yet you are anti dessert tasting? ::confused::


                                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                                  I don't think I want all of the desserts; right now only 2 are "wowing" me. I'm sure they're all delicious.

                                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                                I was thinking about that egg. Normally, I'm not an egg person, but sgordon's description made it sound delicious. So, if you and ellenost are going to do three appetizers, I'll go along and add the egg. And I'm certain Mr. R. would have no objection to doing the same.

                                                                I think the idea of dishes "for the table" is a good one.

                                                                For sure, I'll never out order you, but I'm going to try to keep up. :))


                                                                1. re: RGR

                                                                  Gosh, I hope WD-50 doesn't make any changes to the menu otherwise we'll have to figure out a new plan.

                                                                    1. re: RGR

                                                                      Meh - change is fine. There isn't anything on the menu I'd not eat - some things just sound better than others.


                                              2. re: ellenost

                                                I think you know the answer to that. ;-)

                                                I'll e-mail them to inquire whether the tasting is required for all.

                                                EDIT: They don't have an e-mail addy. I guess calling would work.


                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                  I believe their website asks that the entire table participate in the Tasting Menu. I'm sure I'll be "fine" with 2 apps, 1 main, and 2 desserts ;-). My problem is deciding on which 2 apps and which main. Any recommendations from those who've been to WD-50 would be greatly appreciated.

                                                  1. re: ellenost

                                                    I'm not having much difficulty deciding. So as not to lose my Foie Gras Queen status, I'm having the aerated foie gras as one of my apps. For the other, the cold fried chicken. For my main, the duck breast. Dessert: the 5-course tasting.

                                                    uhockey, We should order whichever dessert is not included "for the table."

                                                    I have no idea what Mr. R. plans to do with regard to course selections. He's not as obsessed with this sort of thing as we are, i.e., planning way in advance what he will choose. I doubt he's even looked at the menu yet.


                                                    1. re: ellenost

                                                      Of the two "classic" apps that'll likely never leave the menu - the duck pastrami & the eggs benedict - I'm more of an Eggs Benny fan. I find it both tastier (but then I'm a big fan of regular eggs benedict) and more fun. The duck pastrami is good, his little twist on the flavors of Katz's, but... the Benedict is fun AND decadent. The texture of the yolk is almost like fudge, and, y'know, "deep-fried Hollandaise Sauce" just tells you all you need to know.

                                                      That said, the duck pastrami has been on the menu as long as I can remember - it could be I'm just a bit burnt on it.

                                                      The Aerated Foie is another one that's been on there awhile - he always has one foie gras prep, though it used to change about once a year. This one he's stuck with for awhile. I'm more of a hot seared foie guy personally, but WD's foie preps, even though he does cold, are always pretty great. One of those ingredients he just seems to have an affinity for.

                                                      I think, especially given that you guys are doing an "extended" meal, the kitchen would probably (but don't quote me on it) be cool incorporating a dish or two from the tasting menu for you. Like, if two of you wanted foie gras, they might sub the "foie-lafel" for the aerated on one for you. Or you could "pair" the eggs benny with the poached-in-a-shell for an egg course.

                                                      I find with Wylie's cooking there are a couple of rules I go with - bigger flavored proteins - mammals, duck, shellfish - tend to be the more exciting entrees, while white fish I've found, for the most part, to be "safer" in terms of flavor pairings. But there are always exceptions - the Cod with Nori from last year was fantastic, so go figure. I also find that anything Wylie does with octopus I love, yet anything I've had there with cuttlefish or squid I've been kinda "meh" on.

                                                      Anyway... assuming you're all sharers, I'm sure you'll all get to try lots of different things. Were I to walk in tonight... well, when you put the words "pork" and "cheek" together it's a done deal for me, let alone adding "Iberico" to the mix. So I know what ONE of my apps would be...

                                                      50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002