Having not been back in far too long we dropped in to WD-50 for the summer tasting menu recently. If there's a more fun place to eat in town we've yet to find it. Any hint of fussy service has evaporated - this was a careful but relaxed meal with a cornucopia of new combinations and experiments. The space seems to have grown into its bold orange and royal blue, and bustled Friday night so much that the noise pretty much impeded conversation, at least until we got them to sit us in front at a table where others didn't seem to be shouting directly at us. White noise machine, perhaps? Two bottles of wine between the two of us surely hampered our recall, but dinner proceeded somewhat as follows, in courses plated with WD-50's characteristically ever more lapidary DaDa plating.
Amuse, in a tiny white bowl – clam in a broth with cucumber 'pasta,' a gin and tonic gel dollop'd on the side & a tasty dehydrated lime chip atop. Savory, subtle, playful, fun; so many layers of flavor here and none screaming; all rather at once simple and symphonic in combination.
The first (and a terrifically delightful) course was yellowtail (hamachi) with coffee-infused water chestnuts, chorizo powder, plantain gnocci, a bright orange puddle of nasturtium flower soup and strips of light spicy nasturium leaves. Again, none of these were overpowering flavors but the nasturtium and plantain were both homey and novel; strangely harmonic too with the meaty intimation from chorizo dust - and the coffee! A small symphony here as well, tiny bites none thrown off kilter by any other.
The newest variation of WD's foie gras inventions - from the first we tried, a chocolate and pickled anchovy foie (the only that we found wanting; anchovies in oil rather than vineagar would have been our choice); to the nori-caramel filled foie bon bon (which we loved) - now Chef WD is turning out foie torchons filled with beet juice, which he serves on bright green dehydrated pea 'soil' with incredibly delicious candied olives. Worked really well; quite fun to eat, and again an impossibly sexy plate as when you slice open the torchon it oozes beet red. The olives here were phenomenal and it all worked as an ensemble. Neverthless, to pick among the three foie dishes, the saltier nori approach we prefer to this sweeter beet's.
Next was a new and improved (ever prettier and better plated) version of WD's fairly famous beef tongue with fried mayo deconstructed sandwich. It arrives sporting the closest thing to salad on the menu - minced iceberg lettuce, albeit in a tiny strip - and onion streusel. We continue to find ourselves rather indifferent to this dish: the mayo cubes feel a bit kitschy, but that may have always been the point.
Squab breast followed, fairly raw, which made it feel as if you were eating something fabulously young and taboo. A delicious pumpkin seed ricotta and mango thing somehow registered as its bath and while we don't remember the last time we had squab, this we found quite tasty indeed. Well-matched with its pumpkin seed ricotta hominess.
A non-dairy channeling of warmed ricotta was next, divine in its combination with artichokes - what had been done to them we don't know but lo, was it tasty! Also, preserved cherries, Thai basil and a drizzle of lemon oil.
Lamb belly was perhaps the last of the savory courses. Wonderful distillation of lamb flavor here, in a form indistinguishable from a crispy strip of bacon. Served with another of the evening's culinary highlights: the quite phenomenal carrots confit, all lightened by a hibiscus sorbet.
Which brought us to the end of the meal, sort of. Everytime we're on Clinton (often, as Alias is another beloved CQ haunt) we dream of dropping in to WD for dessert, because yes, these are likely the coolest ever. We usually manage to abstain. Tonight though, included were three of Sam Mason's geniously none-too-sweet sweets:
1. A mini-football of grapefruit foamy mousse with two separate grapefruit intensities, neither terribly sweet but an effective palate cleanser with no dearth of charm on its own.
2. A chocolate hazelnut torte draped with a beeeautiful if tragic-looking chocolate bird wing fallen to earth, burnt and lacey that afforded much pleasure.
hilarious dish of the evening arrived last: ice milk gelatto rolled in
corn flakes, to end the meal as it were with breakfast. Made us long for
a Sunday morning with Tweety, Sylvester and Bugs.
Marcona almonds in chocolate to close, though Wylie's pa dropped by and insisted we have a sip of a Spanish sherry, which was delicious but a bit lost on us after two bottles of wine: a white 2002 Gruner Veltliner, Karl Lagler's Smaragd ‘Ried Steinborz’; and the 2003 Morgon Beaujolais.
A new New York institution that the Quarterly heartily endorses.
* pix hijacked (as usual) from various pages we might be able to find again should you need to know.