Thursday, December 21, 2006

The REALLY fun side of food

Before the year comes to an end, I think I should finish blogging about NYC, my biggest eating trip this year, to close the year before I embark on another hopefully amazingly yummlicious year.

50 Clinton St., New York,
between Stanton and Rivington Str
Tel: +1 (212) 4772900

The New York Times put their finger on it when they selected WD-50 as the “Best Weird Food that Actually Tastes Good”. The man behind all this creative weirdness, which is currently conveniently lumped together with the category of molecular gastronomy along side names such as Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal is Wylie Dufresne, who like them incorporates a large element of science into their cooking. And his restaurant WD-50 is as straightforwardly named is where you come to meet Wylie Dufresne at 50 Clinton Street.

The weirdness actually isn’t that weird. I think the weirdness is actually fun! How many restaurants would serve you elements such as deep-fried mayonnaise, chocolate soil, a foie gras terrine that oozes beetroot or even get you to make your own noodles from a squirt bottle? The restaurant experience in fact is highly-entertaining and flavoursome, the only drawback from this place is that if you are a large eater, you might have to stop at a hotdog stand on the way back.

On to dinner itself… we nibbled on the paper-thin sesame flatbread before deciding to go with the tasting menu of 11 courses. The first course, which was smoked tuna, dried apricot, pumpernickel-licorice, had very gentle flavours, but I think the textures of the various ingredients were slightly more interesting.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting The carrot-coconut sunny-side up is one dish that I will probably remember for a long time. It looked like and egg and clearly behaved like an egg, oozing a rich and thick orange-coloured liquid when the ‘yolk’ broke, but tasted nothing like an egg. Instead, as its name suggest the flavours were pure and concentrated carrot and coconut, really fun! To continue the oozing (sorry that I keep saying oozing) liquid theme, next was foie gras, candied olives, green peas, beet juice, which was a round of foie gras terrine with a centre of beet juice and green pea powder. As we gently sliced our knives through the terrine, the beet juice poetically spilled out, and this dish was a wonderful combination of the rich foie gras, the sweet beet and the crunchy peas.

Next up was the shrimp cannelloni, chorizo, thai basil, which was for lack of a better word, shrimpy. The cannelloni skin amazingly (I was impressed) tasted like shrimp and this flavour was echoed by rolling another piece of shrimp in it. As if that weren’t enough to highlight that we were eating shrimp, the Thai basil leaves and stronger flavoured and spicy chorizo that was served with it lifted the shrimp flavour. It was good.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Moving on to the dish that got tongues waging, the next course was of beef tongue, fried mayo, tomato molasses was wonderful. Deep-fried mayo cubes are often associated with WD-50 and well, they are indulgently comforting and delicious. Along with tongue, bread crumbs and tomato molasses, it was very cute and delicious.

As for the cocoa-dashi, lemon yoghurt noodles, other than the theatrics of squeezing your own noodles from a bottle and it forming noodles the instant it hits the soup, this dish seemed really random and the flavours were really strange. This was my least favourite of all the dishes.

Moving on to main course, we had langoustine, celery root, banana-mustard, followed by duck breat, parsnip ricotta, spaghetti squash, black vinegar, which were well treated and well cooked, that being said, if you ate any of the elements on the plates alone, they tasted a little bland, but if you mixed it all up, it generally worked together.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI’m not too bid a fan of dessert, so this was quite an exception that I liked every single dessert that was served. So I think the (then) pastry chef, Sam Mason, deserves a mention. Before we hit the dessert courses per se, we had an interlude which was a tangerine sorbet, basil, olive oil. My initial reaction was, ‘eh, olive oil in ice cream?’ but it really works well. The fruitiness in the olive oil came out along with the refreshing nature of tangerine and basil. Very good! A good sign of things to come. The first of the two desserts was a manchego cheesecake, foamed pineapple, quince and the second was butternut sorbet, pumpkin seed cake, chocolate soil, mole. We all agreed that they were both delicious, but I liked the first dessert for its creamy block of manchego cheese that was coated with biscuit crumble and the feeling of the pineapple foam dissolving in my mouth. My favourite ingredient on the other plate was a no-brainer, chocolate soil! Despite the fact that is has a rather unsavoury name, conjuring images of worms and decomposition, the name made me laugh and the taste made me smile, think sweet chocolate sandy biscuits. The last ebilble delight that made its way to our table was the wild rice crispy treat was ok but nothing really to write home about.

My take on this whole molecular gastronomy thing, in reference to this new-style of cooking, is that it is about having fun. Cooking is all about science and the art of manipulation and so this fad about foams, soils, powders and all that is fun. Eating other than sustenance is also about entertainment, and this form of cuisine does that. In addition, it isn’t as if these ‘madhat’ chefs and cooks are simply throwing utterly random ingredients together, they put together flavours that do work together and do combine together to create something good and sometimes something spectacular. So, why not?

* To see the whole set here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEY. i'm glad you had a fun time at WD50. I was there for my birthday this year -- it was to be the highlight of our NYC trip -- but my hubby threw up in the early morning and we attributed it to something we had at the restaurant. To top it off, we were due to take the bus to Boston a few hours later so it turned out to be a horrible experience for us. I think it's fun for a one-time visit (if you don't get sick, that is) but the food is not good enough for me to go back. Merry Christmas everyone. Cheers.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. I cannot remember how and when i came across your blog. Anyway, hello =) i am interested in the subject of 'Molecular Gastronomy' at the mo. There are a few articles at the Observer (Sunday Edition f the Guardian Newspaper, UK... which i love), featured this same subject and highlighted a french scientist, Hervé This, who could 'unboil a cooked egg'. Thought it was fascinating and worth a read when you have time.

I spent quite a number of years in London and this monthly feature on food and this by far is one of the best.

Thank you for this wonderful blog which is a great read when i am tired from all the computer work and mundane design bull**** i have to deal with.



12:48 PM  

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