Behind the Scenes of wd~50's New Tasting Menu
"The only single slight complaint we've gotten so far," says chef Wylie Dufresne about his new tasting menu at wd~50, "has been 'Where's the crazy stuff?'—which is sort of funny when you think about it."
Funny because, in a certain way, Dufresne's menu is nothing but crazy stuff.
The highly acclaimed chef built his reputation off envelope-pushing cuisine, earning attention for his particular brand of technical wizardry. But Dufresne feels he's toned his craft back—"Our approach has matured. It's not about 'Look what we can do!' anymore. We're more comfortable with what we do."
While Dufrense always felt that his techniques were in service of making an individual dish better—rather than a dish being a showcase for a particular technique—that's even more apparent in his current menu. Certain dishes appear downright simple, totally ingredient-focused, simply an excellent piece of mackerel served nigiri-style.... until you see what else actually went into the composition.
We spent a few hours with Dufresne in his Lower East Side kitchen, and no single dish revealed its components on first glance. Bright orange noodles were made of lobster roe. Delicate cured meat isn't a predictable cut, but veal brisket, whose path to the plate involved transglutaminase and cooking sous vide. It's not just an egg yolk on that plate—it's a duck egg yolk cured for 6 hours in a salt, sugar, and amaro bath, carefully balanced to match the neutral buoyancy of the yolk.
Last month, for the first time in a nine-year run, Dufresne overturned his entire menu; the restaurant now only offers two tasting menus, the main one (12 courses; $155) composed of entirely new dishes. Along with Jon Bignelli, his chef de cuisine; Sam Henderson, the sous-chef; and his pastry chef, Malcolm Livingston II, Dufresne walked us through his current longform tasting menu.
The whimsy might be toned back a little—no eggs Benedict with deep-fried hollandaise sauce, no ice cream bagels. But a few hours with Dufresne convinces you that his culinary imagination is as restless as ever.