Archive for July, 2006

WD-50 (NY) – You Aren’t This Creative

WD-50 was my designated “fancy” meal for this NY trip.WD-50 was the most famous experimental cook in the US before the Alinea & Moto PR machines kicked into gear. Wylie (the chef) cooked for Jean Georges (my favorite US restaurant) and used that fusion experience as his point of departure into the netherworld of experimental food. The fusion aesthetic is still very much a part of his cuisine, but it’s been put through blenders, dehydrators, and countless other devices whose original purpose was probably chemistry or medicine.

Alinea and Moto are coming up soon, but if you want to see one vision for the future of food – book a trip to WD-50. I ordered the tasting menu and of my 3 meals here, this was easily the best. Everything worked, and it worked very well.

1. Peeky Toe Crab, Pine, Chocolate, & Pea Blossoms
Wylie’s surf & turf – the chocolate, with little to no sweetness, enveloped your mouth with its very earthy taste; slowly, the salty crab peeked (no pun intended) through and took over. At the end, a faint floral taste.

This reminded me quite a bit of Can Roca’s “oyster w/ earth distallates” – same concept, similar tastes, but Can Roca’s was definitely a step ahead. This was probably my least favorite of the night. Good.

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Bar Masa (NY) – Give Me Anything that’s Not Fish

I had a night to kill, was in the mood for some sushi, didn’t feel like fish overload @ Kuruma Zushi, and Sushi Yasuda just isn’t for me. For some reason, Masa fit the mood but i didn’t feel like spending a million bucks. Didn’t feel like trying a new place (Ushi Wakamuru comes highly rated) and the Sushi Gari’s weren’t exactly what i was looking for.What does that leave? Decided to give Bar Masa a shot hoping I could get some very good fish from its big brother (Masa) but still stay on some semblance of a budget.The place was dead – 2-3 tables plus me @ the bar.

1. Sashimi – White Salmon, Shimaaji, & Toro
Decent quality fish of miniscule portions. The fish might have even been great quality but before you can taste it, it’s gone. Ephemeral in the worst way. Good.

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Momofuku (NY) – Redux

The European trip was over but a NY trip was already planned. Considering the expense of the European adventure, I wanted to keep NY “downscale” (it’s all relative) and eat at a few of the cheaper places that have been garnering attention. I’ve already eaten at Momofuku and, based on that one meal, it’s a must-go every time I visit NY. I always recommend this place to everyone visiting NY b/c it’s excellent food at an affordable price point. You can’t not like the food here – it’s impossible. In fact, this meal was so good, I’m making Momofuku a mandatory twice-go for future NY trips.

Had a very large lunch b/c I wanted to try different things. My recommendation – skip the noodles (they fill you up) and stick to shellfish & appetizers. This is 3-4 star NY cooking – eat as much as you can for this price.

1. Pork buns – as good as ever

2. Charred octopus salad w/ some asian veggies
Grilled, and i think some fried if i remember correctly, octopus, perfectly charred and crisp. This is what i expected the Cafe Boulud octopus salad to be last spring. Very Good.

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Tom Aikens (London, UK) – Master of Nothing

All good things must come to an end; unfortunately, the European adventure came to a crashing end. After an excellent meal at Fat Duck the night before, it was time for the often misunderstood Tom Aikens. He trained and excelled under Joël Robuchon, a modern French legend, so his technical skills should not be in doubt. Aikens is often criticized for his controversial plating methods (think Jackson Pollock reborn as a chef) but many have said the cuisine shines through with his distinct signature. Michelin has awarded him one star.

If i were Michelin, I would give him one big black hole – or a laughing Michelin man. Our meal was so bad that after 2 courses the sick niche1 left knowing his evening would not improve. His wife & I braved the remainder of the courses, although i’m sure we both wonder why today. We could have saved $300-400 if we left with him.

1. Amuses
We were served a plethora of amuses, none of them remotely memorable. My notes, illegible, have adjectives like “salty, oily, greasy” – the remainder i can’t read. Not Good.

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Nobu (London, UK) – This is Fish?

I really knew better. I only had 2 hours sleep the previous night and suffered through a plane from San Sebastian to London so Nobu sounded like the easy lunch choice considering it was on the 2nd floor of my hotel. Matsuhisa in LA 4 years ago was an awesome meal. Nobu in NY 3 years ago was a train-wreck culminating with an expensive serving of over-cooked kobe/wagyu beef. Since then, I’ve always been wary of Mr Matsuhisa’s empire of homogenous fish.I walked down and got a seat at the bar. The fish looked ok, nothing special, but considering the horrors of fish in France the previous month, serviceable.

- Toro – I pointed to the one i *really* wanted but i got stuck w/ this piece of crap. Communication barrier – I could not get the decent looking piece. This piece was more maguro than toro.

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