It’s rare that I find cooking with a sense of humour, but here I was, eating eggshells. I’m thinking – this chef really thinks he’s funny… The New York restaurant scene is very competitive and just about every chef of some repute has a presence there. So, it was with eager anticipation that I started planning the food destinations after the NY Skating Marathon. For the fine dining experience, I land at Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50. It had the combination of availabilty, innovative cusine, and a tasting menu that, while expensive, didn’t break 2-bills.
As a geek who cooks, I enjoy the application of science and technology to make our lives better (and more fun). With food, we normally think of growth and preservation technology, but it also applies to preparation. As Alton Brown puts it, cooking=application of heat. With molecular gastronomy, this is taken to a whole new level at wd~50.
I have three expectations from a “fine dining establishment”. Tasty food. Good looking food. Excellent service. wd~50 scores well on two of these, but gains bonus points elsewhere.
First, the service is outstanding. Our table is delayed, but the staff keeps us updated on the tardy party’s status, and offers us a bar table if we wanted. Plates and utenils are changed for every course; water is kept filled. This is the doting service I expect in a proper restaurant. Moreover, we are handed a written list of courses for our tasting menu. A preview of what’s to come. The servers often rhyme off the dishes and ingredients with variable accuracy and accents. It’s nice to have a scorecard to keep track of the myriad of ingredients and it helps the blogging and picture captions after the fact.
We start with the first course, which appears to be a fairly stanard sashimi dish. It includes fried cheese. Fried=good. Cheese=good. Combo bonus points! There is a gel sauce underneath, whch is a good pairing, as it matched the fish marinade. It was surprisingly warm, but maybe I’m expecting too much from the sashimi-ness of the dish. A good amuse-bouche to warm us up for the main event.
The second course is really the opening volley. It’s advertised as bagel and lox. It lands with what looks like a minature “everything” bagel, some orange powder, and a sheet of something white, with brown micro-noodles underneath. The orange bits are powdered salmon. The white sheet is crunchy plate of cream cheese. The noodles are sauteed onions. The bagel is really sour cream, formed into a ring, frozen with liquid nitrogen and festooned with seasome and poppy seeds. Insanity!
The dance card merely denotes dish #3 as “foie-lafel”. Cleary, this is the obligatory foie gras course that graces most tasting menus these days. Apparently, truth in advertising exists, as a miniature falafel in a pita appears. The falafel balls are made of foie gras, expectedly. It also comes with directions from the chef to pick up and eat it. Fair enough, although I can’t really stuff the second foie-ball in to the baby pita. The dish tastes like a falafel, except for the exploding molten goose liver in the middle. The second ball, I pop into my mouth, like the best… Timbit… ever.
Course #4 is an egg. Conceptually, that’s fine with me. Many of my friends find it surprising that I likel eggs better than chocolate. The egg is soft boiled with a yolk that is meta-solid on the edge and liquid in the core. Perfect, as it should be. The crackpot bit is eggshell. That, we’re told, is edible. I question our server about the composition; he prattles it off, clearly having fielded the question hundreds of times. Sugar, cornstarch and edible modelling clay were the ingredients that stood out to me. Then, I start to ask about processing – is it molded and baked? He then retreats to the “if I told you, I’d have to kill you” position. Oh well, I suppose they must keep some secrets. The rest of the dish consists of flat sheets of pumpernickel, sprouts and ceasar dressing. It reads like a rearranged ceasar salad, with the pumpernickel sheets like the croutons.
Stay tuned for the next installment – the entrees. More craziness to come!