wd~50 for my birthday

31 May

Every year, I go to dinner at a restaurant of my choice for my birthday.  This year, after much indecision, I made up my mind that I had to go to wd~50.  Therefore, on May 30th, I embarked on a new dining experience, unsure if I would be a denier or embracer of the molecular gastronomy with which I would be faced. 

When I got to the restaurant, my mom, dad, and I were seated at a booth in the very back, and after we were denied a table in another location (it was for larger groups), I realized that our table was optimally located with a view of the kitchen through its wide doorway.  Not only was the kitchen visible, but so was Wylie Dufresne himself. 

First we ordered drinks, my mom choosing the “son of a preacher man” (a mixture of rye, ginger, and lime), and my dad deciding on the “pumpernickel,” which was a combination of molasses, beer, and rye.  While my dad felt that his was too heavy, I thought it was enjoyable, especially with the salty, pumpernickel-pretzel like rimmer.  It was even better when my dad added some ice to it from his water to cool it down.  While my mom’s drink was delicious, it should have been labeled as a drink for the “hard core,”  because one sip sent my head for a little spin, as if I were taking a shot.

I sipped my diet coke.  Diet cokey.

Because we were having such a difficult time deciding on our meals (we didn’t want to order the tasting; the full table participtation was necessary), our waiter suggested that we order an extra coursse as we pleased.  This quelled my apprehension that I would choose the wrong dish, and I was a visibly happier person as a result. 

What was the verdict?  I ordered the appetizer of bone marrow with chestnuts, field caviar, and pickled hon shimjei mushrooms; my mom ordered the corned duck on rye crisps; and my dad ordered the grilled octopus with avocado, juniper, and lychee-campari.  I loved the delicacy of the bone marrow and the way that it was reshaped into thin squares and dusted with allspice sugar.  However, I thought that for the abundance of field caviar in the dish, it was pretty bland and really only offered a contrasting texture.  My mom’s corned duck was delicious; it was velvety and rich.  Unfortunately, the only taste if it that I got had very little horseradish cream or mustard, and it seemed to lack the right amount of condiments.  My Dad’s octopus was a winning dish.  The octopus was tender, and the avacado sauce was fantastic.  The lychee-campari was bitter and interesting. 

When we ordered main courses, we each ordered one, but I added a shared portion as well.  First, I had the scallops in the spice bread consomme.  The scallops were cooked to perfection, and the consomme was reminiscent of my favorite time of year: the holidays.  Atop this wonderful symphony was a cranberry fruit roll, which contrasted the delicacy of the scallops with a tart astringency.  Also, my favorite mushroom, the hen of the woods, made a graceful appearance in the dish as well.

My mom ordered the monkfish with red pepper oatmeal, turnip, and black olive.  While the fish was beautifully prepared, we all felt that the red pepper oatmeal was an okay accompaniment, and even though the olive crispies were great, the turnips were slightly underdone for my liking. 

My dad’s dish, the wagyu flatiron steak with coconut, coffee gnocchi, and cipollini onions was great; the meat was tender with a complex (to the point of near-gaminess) flavor.  The coconut cream (similar to a shaving cream consistency), worked beautifully with the bitterness of the coffee gnocchi and the caramelized onions.  All three of our mains were tasty, but the last one we shared was maybe the best of all.

Our last savory dish was the pork belly with ancho chile pineapple, sunchoke, and caper emulsion, topped with deep-fried capers.  The pork belly was brined first, according to our waiter, and it had a succulence that was in perfect harmony with it vast planes of fat and crisped skin.  Underneath, the caper emulsion was briny and assertive, and the ancho glazed pineapple was a nod to the traditional sweet barbeque sauce served at porcine cookouts.

As I am expounding on my meal, I forget to mention that we were able to enjoy the pizza pebbles.  Ever since I began to hear about this creation, I have always wondered whether I would like them or not.  The answer? YES!  These were a reminder to every one of us that there is a kid in there who wants to eat hot pockets and ritz-bitz, no matter how silly they sound.  The pebbles were small balls of flavor powders, held together with garlic oil and garnished with  pepperoni and cheese sauce, dried mushrooms, and oregano.   While I have heard many complaints of these being too “junk food,” I adore them for being just that!

Alright, so let’s get down to dessert.

Also hard to choose from, the dessert menu offered tempting delights.  In the end, my dad ordered the coconut cake with the brown butter sorbet, smoked cashew, and carob fudge.  This was complex and whimsical, and I loved the combination of sweet coconut with smokey cashews. 

My mom ordered the passion fruit tart.  The small dots of meringue were both cute and delicious, and the sesame crust and argan oil gave a nutty element to the dish. 

My favorite dessert was the one I ordered.  I selected the cornbread pudding with prune and lemongrass.  Three rounds of pudding arrived cloaked in a corn tuile, atop a lucious lake of corn creme anglaise.  The sweet and tart prune was a great flavor as well, and the subtle lemongrass was soothing and delicious. 

Por ultimo, we were given yuzu ice cream with marcona almond crust and chocolate packets.  This petit fours course was delicious, and I was in blissful agreement when my dad likened the ice cream to a creamsicle. 

I finished the night with a shot of espresso, and I smiled as I left the restaurant, my stomach optimistically full. 


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