|Everything bagel with smoked salmon threads and crispy cream cheese|
The Restaurant Dieter’s spouse collects interesting and unusual restaurant experiences like a scout collects merit badges. If a restaurant has been featured on the New York page of Eater.com, it’s a must-do. Ditto for something on Food & Wine’s top restaurants list or the subject of a positive review in the New York Times or New York Magazine.
Two things motivated us to visit WD-50 on New York’s Lower East Side one recent Sunday night: Chef Wylie Dufresne‘s appearances on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” and his renown as a chef who engages in “molecular gastronomy.”
You’re probably familiar with the term if you’ve seen “Top Chef.” Its practitioners may be heavily gloved and wearing goggles, pouring a vat of smoking liquid nitrogen over something. Or they may be mixing up magic powders with food to create something that looks completely unlike food. The phrase “mad scientist” comes to mind. Molecular gastronomy makes use of substances such as transglutaminase (a protein binder called meat glue) and , for thicking, something called hydrocolloids. At Gastroarte in New York City, a deconstructed salad came to the table dusted with olive oil powder, which was likely created using something called maltodextrin.
What’s that they say about pre-packaged food? If the ingredients on the label don’t sound like food, you shouldn’t eat it! Tell that to the TRD Spouse.
My first brush with molecular gastronomy came on a visit to Chicago. The TRD Spouse had snagged a reservation for four at Alinea, a hilarious experience — er, meal — that I recounted in a previous blog post.
When it comes to hilarity, WD-50 served up an 11-course chef’s tasting menu that didn’t disappoint.
There was a miniature “everything” bagel that was actually ice cream with the flavors of garlic, onion and poppy seed, accented by a smoked salmon powder. A duck breast Reuben arrived looking like a DNA strand. Eggs Benedict consisted of a jelled egg yolk, English muffin chips and two deep-fried balls of Hollandaise sauce. One of the dessert courses was a paper-thin slice of mango, filled with a sake caramel (!), dots of sheep’s milk and again in powdered form, cashew.
|The duck “Reuben”|
Because there’s little control over what you’re served, it’s rarely a good idea for a dieter to order the tasting menu. But the house rules almost always require all persons at the table to partake. They figure that it will be awkward if somebody has three normal-sized courses and sits there while a parade of small tastes proceeds.
And so, for the sake of domestic harmony, I complied. Knowing that the caloric intake would be unpredictable, the rest of the day I restricted myself to high-fiber, low fat proteins and vegetables.
The funny thing about a meal like this: Even with 11 courses, nothing really satisfies. Each bite plays sight and taste games, but that’s it. They’re clever, but nothing sticks.
After a meal like this, I’d say there’s a very real danger of stopping off for a hamburger. I was tempted.
|Mango with sake caramel, sheep’s milk cashew|