With its focus on molecular gastronomy, WD-50 was considered cutting edge when it opened back in 2003. Ten years later, the restaurant is still popular and while looking for a unique meal in NYC, I decided to add WD-50 to my itinerary.
WD-50 is brought to you by Wylie Dufresne who has worked at Jean-Georges and has multiple James Beard nominations. The restaurant was awarded one Michelin star back in 2006 and still has it to date.
The restaurant has a very casual and laid back atmosphere. Not pretentious at all! It’s definitely not a place you’d expect to spend a lot of money.
They changed their menu format about a year ago. They used to have an a la carte menu but they now only offer two tasting options – a twelve course tasting for $155 ($95 for wine pairings) or a shorter “From the Vault” five-course tasting for $90 ($65 for wine pairings) which features classic dishes from past menus. If you opt to sit at the bar, you have the option of ordering 2 courses off either of the menus for $25 (an extra $15 per course). We didn’t feel like another marathon tasting menu so we decided on the shorter five-course tasting.
They started us off with some thin and crispy Sesame Flatbread. While I appreciated the fact it was a nice change from bread, this wasn’t anything special in my opinion.
Our amuse bouche was a poached oyster with white chocolate powder and sake. The white chocolate powder was an interesting combination but it surprisingly worked. I wouldn’t eat all my oysters this way but I liked the small bite.
The first dish of the tasting menu was the Beef Tongue – with cherry-miso, quinoa fries and king oyster mushrooms. There were a lot of flavours going on – sweet, salty and sour. The slices of tongue were thin, tender and just melted in our mouths. The crunch from the quinoa fries, which were more like crackers, gave it a nice textural contrast. Overall, it was a tasty dish to start off the meal!
Course number two was the Popcorn Soup – with shrimp, shiso and jicama. Like the name indicated, it certainly did taste like popcorn in soup form. I like popcorn and I like soup… I’m just not sure I like them together. I just didn’t love it.
Next up was the Monkfish – with red pepper oatmeal, black olive mochi and turnip. The fish was fine on its own but it was a little on the bland side. I didn’t particularly enjoy the red pepper oatmeal either but I did like the black olive mochi. They were salty, chewy, crunchy and delicious!
Our fourth dish was the Smoked Duck – with parsnip “ricotta”, cocoa nibs and black vinegar which turned out to be my favourite dish of the evening. The smoked duck was tender, moist and tasted incredible with the thick black vinegar. It was accompanied by parsnip and spaghetti squash which was just as delicious. While it was a great dish, I was still expecting something a little more inventive from WD-50.
The fifth and final course was a Passion Fruit Tart – with sesame, argan oil and meringue. It’s a little deceiving since it looks like there’s a shortbread crust around it but there isn’t. The tart itself had a very intense passion fruit flavour which I enjoyed. I liked the bits of meringue which added some much needed crunch.
The bill arrived with what they called “blueberry cheesecake” which was essentially a blueberry fruit roll-up with crunchy bits of what resembled meringue. Now this was something I was looking for the entire meal – something interesting and creative!
So, I found our “From the Vault” 5-course tasting a little hit and miss and overall, I was just expecting more from a restaurant like WD-50. I wanted to feel like I was in a science experiment but nothing really shouted “molecular gastronomy” or “cutting-edge” to me. If this is what you’re looking for, skip the 5-course tasting.
At a glance:
• Brought to you by Wylie Dufresne
• Open since 2003 to many accolades; earned one Michelin star in 2006
• Famous for molecular gastronomy
• 5-course tasting menu for $90 or 12-course tasting for $155
• An “At the Bar” option – $25 for two items from either tasting menu if you sit at the bar
• The 5-course tasting had some hits and misses
• Overall, felt a little disappointed – nothing cutting edge
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 2.5 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 3 stars