I can't believe I'm the first Hound to have tried the new tasting menu. Went in June when they'd only had the new menu for a few weeks. I know Wylie's food can be very polarizing - many either love it or hate it - but DH and I have always been in the love it camp and we loved the new menu. I think DH and I preferred different dishes - my favorites were the pho gras, the root beer ribs, and the smores but everything was tasty. I think this menu is less focused on molecular gastronomy "tricks" than the previous menu but just my opinion. It was great.
I was in last week and tried four dishes a la carte at the bar - we were more just there for cocktails, not up for the whole 3+ hour tasting.
Veal Brisket, Za'atar, Mustard Wafers: a solid appetizer. Mighty tasty. Would have been a solid app on the old a la carte menu. Veal was crazy tender and flavorful, wafers fun and a great textural element.
Pho Gras: the only underwhelming dish we had. Elements of it were good - the foie was delicious, and the broth, and I especially liked what I thought was a chicharron but turned out to be a fried beef tendon for spreading the foie on. There were little dots of sauce for adding - some kind of mix of Asian condiments - but it needed more of that. Also, the noodles were... meh. They were just regular rice noodles. I mean, they've done noodles made of lobster dough, noodles made of shrimp, noodles made of peanut butter... but these were a bit bland. Why not make noodles out of oxtail, or marrow, or duck - or something that would fit the theme of the dish? Maybe infuse them with the traditional herbs and flavors one would add to Pho (the one element of Pho that wasn't really present in the dish) - basil, cilantro, mint, lime, etc. It felt like a lost opportunity. Overall, while it tasted fine, it was a bit one-note. It needed something-or-other to brighten it, to take it up a notch to WD-50 level.
Sole, Black Licorice Pil Pil, Fried Green Tomato: I surprised myself by ordering this, since I am decidedly NOT a fan of black licorice. But the other seafood dishes didn't seem worth ordering ALC - they were either smaller amuse / intermezzo sized ones, or ones I'd had before from the "Vault" menu. That said, this was delicious - perfectly flaky sole, and the licorice was there, but subdued, a present but background note. Very well-balanced dish.
Root Beer Ribs: delish, again. Start with 24-hour (give or take) sous vide ribs, succulent as any you'll find. Some rye spaetzle, and a fascinating relish involving seaweed, apricots, and preserved lemon. Really interesting group of flavors that worked together fabulously. This is classic Dufresne - root beer and seaweed on the same plate? Who'd have thunk it? But it all clicks.
On another night we had a couple of the desserts - the Yuzu and S'Mores. Can't say anything bad about either. (But then I honestly can't say anything bad about anything Pastry Chef Livingston has done in the last year... he's picked up where Stupak left off without so much as a hiccup.)
Cocktails I tried:
Remember-Me- Not: roasted red bell pepper infused gin, Dimmi (and Italian liquer I've never had or even heard of before) garnished with cucumber. This is a classic WD-50 drink - dry, complex, multiple layers of aroma and taste. Fantastic.
El Segundo: mezcal, lemon confit, honey, hefeweizen - another great one. Not too sweet, once again. I always add a splash of cerveza to my margaritas (and prefer them made with mezcal often) so this was right up my alley, a creative take on it. Again, not too sweet, even with the confit and honey - the hint of bitterness from the beer, though subtle, was a welcome addition.
Not sure which of the two bartenders came up with each drink - Jafrul (who's been there for years) or Kevin (I think that's his name? - the new-ish guy) but they're both solid additions to the ongoing roster of cocktails that have come out of WD-50, reinforcing my opinion that they've the best cocktail program of any restaurant in the city. (Maybe tied for best with Momofuku Ssar Bar, now...)
The only thing to be careful of if ordering a la carte is that plate sizes will, as tasting menu portions tend to, vary wildly. If you used one of your choices for, say, the mackeral, you'd be a bit disappointed that you got one piece of nigiri for your $12.50 - $15. So it pays to research a bit or talk to the bartender beforehand about which dishes are more proper "plates" and not just little amuses, intermezzos, pre-desserts, or mignardaises. You want to stick to dishes that are more appetizer / half-entree size.
Anyone tried yet?
When I reserved a couple of weeks ago, I was planning to do the A la Carte menu. Now, I'm looking at the Vault option instead of the 12 course tasting.
Will the Vault tasting be the same portion size per plate as the 12 course tasting? If so, I'm just worried we might still be hungry by the time we are done.
I guess the report kathryn linked to is more related to ordering à la carte at the bar, if relevant nonetheless.
I'm tempted to try the new, more accessible tasting menu at a table -- but I was maybe stupidly surprised to see that the current menu doesn't seem to have changed since it was introduced in May, especially now that we're getting in the midst of summer produce. I suppose the wd-50 cuisine is not particularly changeable/seasonal?