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As today is the 4th of July in some parts of the world, I think it is important to reflect upon the gains we have made as a human race. And, as such, I am exercising my freedom from having to carry a camera to every restaurant I go to. Instead, I have drawn you a picture:

Things I learned during my dinner at wd~50:

-Zach Braff is either a stoner or pretends to be a stoner in order to throw kids off his true, d-baggish scent. An anecdote was relayed: it involved peanut butter. (The interpretation is mine.)
-Sometimes a tear in the wallpaper isn't meant to be a commentary on modern life.
-A helpful waiter can make a meal.
-"Molecular gastronomy" is not a Jeru the Damaja song.

wd~50 is Wylie Dufresne's super-scientifical lab-slash-restaurant down in the Lower East Side. To a gourmand, this means that Dufresne embraces the techniques and possibilites of "science" in the kitchen, "science" denoting something other than intuition, feel, "received wisdom," etc. At a more basic level, it means that chefs will do weird things like dunking strawberries in liquid nitrogen, frying up butterscotch pudding and serving mayo in sugarcube-form. Blah blah blah, Welcome to 2003, Hua etc.

As we entered, a man waiting for his date overheard our eagerness to try the "wild South Dakotan quail pureed, then reconstituted into the shape of a virgin rabbit, then baked underneath a high-wattage desk lamp, and then infused (by a vintage syringe only available in Algeria--in 1952) with the flavor of a wild North Dakotan quail, all bathing in the juice of a speckled beet, topped with a dollop of gold foam." Instead he recommended the "Wagyu flat iron with coffee gnocchi, coconut and sylvetta." I confirmed that he was not an employee of the restaurant and decided to take his suggestion. It was apparently the first night this dish had appeared on the menu, and Dufresne was actually in the back, preparing it himself.

I began with the "foie gras, mole lentils and quince yogurt," pictured here:

I have eaten an unhealthy amount of foie gras over the past three weeks, and while this was good, it didn't quite melt my face. Parts of it seemed a bit sinewy, and one friend observed that it was slightly "iron-y"--she then confirmed that she meant "iron" as in taste, not "irony," or the utter relativity of all tastes. But the point, I guess, was to take the foie gras along with its complementary parts--a bed of lentils and an artful little gradient of Quince yogurt. The pairing of the yogurt's soft and refreshingly tangy sweetness with the aggressiveness of the foie gras was perfect, and the lentils were so delicate and flavorful. S and A shared the "smoked eel, blood orange zest, black radish and chicken skin," which was even more incredible. Our fabulous waiter explained that the chicken skin was made into a mousse. I have no drawing to illustrate this. But it was both fascinating and delicious. As I used one of the outer prongs of my fork to dissect my bite of eel, I recalled that the problem with a meal like this is that one is forced to examine and obsess over every tiny little shard of food. Then again, I suppose this reminds one that s/he is alive, too.

For my entree I chose the Wagyu flat iron. Or rather, I pretended like I knew what it was. I figured (correctly) it was some form of beef, though the possibility always loomed that it was "beef cured and dried into beef jerky form, then fed to a cow, then withdrawn from the second stomach, and then repeated once more, and then frozen, and then pounded into brittle pieces by a chrome mallet, and then melted, mixed with the brow-sweat of a baby pig, and then re-frozen in a diamond-plated ice cube tray, and then served inside a glass of fresh horchata." Thankfully this was merely conjecture. This is more or less what it looked like:

I got mine medium rare. As a lover of steaks, I was thoroughly impressed: the flat iron was really worth the hype; a tiny teacup tear formed. I have never cut my steak into such small, deliberate pieces before, but I just really had to savor every little pinkish cube. The portion wasn't intimidating, but it wasn't teasingly small either. A cloud of foamed coconut fringed the beef on one side, a salad of nearly microscopic arugula fronds, cipollini onions and coffee gnocchi on the other. The thumbnail-sized toupees of onion bore an explosive, almost overwhelming lemon flavor--they were delicious. The coffee gnocchi was interesting conceptually but a bit bitter--it fared better when dredged through the foam, but even then the tastes of the coffee and coconut felt too pronounced paired with a steak. The bites of steak paired nicely with either a dip of foam and embrace of onions, but never both.

The others ordered "Pork belly, smoked yucca, romaine, papaya" and "Duck breast, smoked hen o’ the woods, snow peas, rhubarb." I had a slice of the pork belly, which was so tender it just seemed to melt. The smoked yucca (mashed into cubes that resembled fried tofu) was tasty as well.

I was really looking forward to dessert. The tasting menu seemed like the power move, but the waiter said that the choices were arbitrary. My fixation with the "Fried butterscotch pudding, mango, taro, smoked macadamia" compelled me away from dice-rolling, and I ordered that on its own. The others ordered "Creamsicle, rooibos, persimmon, orange blossom" and "Yuzu curd, shortbread, spruce yogurt, pistachio." I enjoyed the delicate inventiveness of the first two courses; not so much for dessert. While all three dessert plates tasted and looked amazing, the moments of revelation--butterscotch oozing from a tater tot; the best lemon curd I've ever tasted, resting on a very novel done-and-then-redone shortbread; a perfect orange glowstick that bled cream--weren't quite necessary. This was sugar. All I wanted was more and more of it.

In summary: a very worthwhile experience. And by worthwhile I mean "worth the cost of a really, really good and rare record." I wish I could have reported more about other people's dishes, but this wasn't the kind of meal that compelled sharing.

Actually this drawing is a lie. It is supposed to look like Parmigianino's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" (more here). And just as Parmigianino is actually painting a portrait of himself, the subject of this drawing--the one who refuses to share--is indeed me. I'm usually much better about sharing, but my goodness that beef was simply stunning. Did I mention the sesame flatbread? It was amazing too--and this is FLATBREAD I'm talking about. If that isn't an endorsement of a meal--"So tasty it will transform a heretofore generous, well-mannered and considerate young man into a hoarder--a hoarder who likes flatbread"--then I don't know what more to draw for you.


  • what a thorough, well-rounded, fantasticalicious review! complete with Transformers, Zach Braff, Parmigianino, and our lovely friend Jeru. who knew that spruce is just another term for Prussia? fascinating.

    thanks for sharing your meal with us, Hua. or, ehem, not sharing. looks like Wylie did good and hooked ya’ll up real nice! coffee gnocchi and coconut foam with wagyu?? god, i love me some Wylie.

    your drawings make me want to get out my glowsticks and go ravin’. untz, untz, untz.

    kayoko on

  • Thanks for letting me exercise my imagination. Wagyu, or 和牛 it was probably Kobe beef or something you were eating… Mmmm.

    yoko on

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