Eating the whimsical and unexpected at wd~50
August 10, 2011
NEW YORK, USA – Until last week, I had never been starstruck. Until last week, I had never tried everything bagel ice cream. Or eaten an eggshell. But I was, I tried, and I did—all in one night at wd~50, Wylie Dufresne’s restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side.
Season one of Top Chef aired when I was midway through high school, and as a budding foodie I followed every season eagerly. That’s where I learned what molecular gastronomy was, and where I was first introduced to chef Wylie Dufresne (I’ll never forget the episode he guest-judged, the season two finale showdown between Marcel and Ilan). Last week, I finally paid the restaurant a visit—and was relieved to find that the food is as good as it looks on TV. I was there with family for a special occasion, and we ordered the tasting menu—12 courses, 4 of them dessert (full disclosure: I have a giant sweet tooth)? I couldn’t wait.
Three hours later, I was happy and full. I’d finally tried the famous everything bagel, which is everything bagel flavored ice cream, sprinkled with sesame seeds, served with smoked salmon threads and crispy cream cheese. Each component on its own was just OK, but when I put it all together and took one big bite, the flavors were explosive. I’d also gotten to eat sweetbreads in pickled-ginger udon (I love offal), to-die-for lamb loin with chayote squash and beans, and one of the best poached eggs I’d ever eaten—as well as the eggshell on the plate! Artificial, of course, but with obvious novelty-factor. Another standout was the foie gras with passionfruit and Chinese celery—as a foie-lover, I was nervous about how it would taste with all these added components, but my worries were needless. The passionfruit was sour, sweet, and intense, and cut the creaminess of the foie flawlessly. Naturally, I devoured all of the desserts, my favorite being the last: soft chocolate ganache, beet, long pepper, and ricotta ice cream. It looked like a piece of art (see photo above), and was so mouthwateringly delicious.
At the end of the meal, I asked the Maître D if we could meet the chef, and he informed me that kitchen tours were allowed (and that I’d meet Wylie if he was there) once the bill was settled. So there we were, standing in the kitchen at wd~50 and learning the story behind the custom stove-top that Wylie had the walls ripped down to install, when our waiter introduced us to the man himself. For a second, my mind went blank—he was standing right next to me, smiling and looking exactly like he did on the small screen, long hair and crazy sideburns and all, and I couldn’t get it together to compliment him on his food. At that point, my cousin interjected to ask him for a photo, which I was (luckily) able to smile for. Later, I was made fun of the whole way home—forget Hollywood stars, apparently all it takes to get me starstruck is a celebrity chef. If I ever meet Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern, I feel sorry for whoever is stuck with me!
Read more about wd~50 in Our New York Guide.