Editor's note: Sadly, WD5- closes at the end of November 2014.
WD 50 is a buzzy, casual, lower east side dining room serving cutting edge modern food. Chef Wylie Dufresne trained originally with Jean Georges Vongvichteren, and then was chef at a small Manhattan restaurant called 71 Clinton Fast Food before opening WD 50 in 2003. There are no tablecloths and it is mostly a young crowd. Bonny Doon Cigare Blanc 2004 was listed at $58 for a wine that costs about $19 retail, and Fritz Haag Auslese was $105 for a wine that is about $45 In the shops. We had the tasting menu, with which was served some simple crisp flat bread to share throughout the meal, a sensible enough choice as it in no way distracts from the food being conjured up from the kitchen. The tasting menu itself cost $140.
First up was a simple dish of squid “linguine” (just thinly cut squid) with brown butter, carrot yoghurt and tamarind cubes. This was well seasoned and the squid was in no way chewy (16/20). Grilled corn pebbles were offered with little blobs of lime mayonaisse and shaved scallions (spring onions). The pebbles were crumbly and very dry indeed, and badly needed more of the good lime mayonnaise, which was refreshing (14/20).
Aerated foie gras was not successful, in my view, served with crisp brioche and tamarillo molasses. The aerating process caused the foie gras to lose most of its flavour and be “less rich”, but surely this is the point of foie gras – just call me an old fuddy duddy (12/20). Scallops with beef tendon were poached and grilled, served with endive, yeast crumble, parsley puree and hazelnut oil. This was much more successful, the scallops and the beef combining surprisingly well together (17/20).
Eggs Benedict came with deep fried Hollandaise with an English muffin crust, a slow cooked yolk and crisp Canadian bacon; this was quite fun but rather heavy (14/20). Crab tail was served with soybean noodles and cinnamon dashi as well as Thai basil and this dish was enjoyable and refreshing (16/20). Chicken liver spaetzle with pine needles emulsion, radish and cocoa had good liver flavour, which worked well with the simplicity of the radish (16/20).
Braised beef tongue was served with a cherry miso puree, palm seeds, oyster mushroom and fried kumquat – the beef was tender and the sauce balanced the rich beef taste well (16/20). Ricotta cheese with capers and frozen honey was rather mushy and a little bland (15/20). Jasmine custard, black tea powder and banana was refreshing (15/20). A grape sorbet with black sesame also worked well (16/20).
There is no doubt that this is original, carefully thought out modern cooking. Flavours are generally well balanced, and only on occasion did the desire for an original technique detract from the dish itself. The atmosphere is lively and the waiting staff clearly show passio about the food. The bill was $270 per person including tip (tasting menu plus wine pairing).
My favourite "funny food" restaurant by a mile. The chef would hate me referring to it as such, but, just like The Fat Duck, it is what it is. I've had a few great meals here and have sent others who feel the same. Despite the "On The Road" setting, this is seriously impressive food. The best of the modern breed, in my humble opinion. Dufresne is a great chef.