Wylie Defresne opened up WD-50 in 2003. His unique approach to melding flavors and creativity in his kitchen continues to make an impact in NYC. He recently revamped the menu at WD-50 and opened up a more simple restaurant called Alder. Think of Alder as the cafe arm of WD-50.
Alder has a great vibe. The bar is packed and seriously loud. The volume goes down a notch when you take a seat. The walls are painted white brick and the ceiling has hanging wooden slats that appear to be from an old barn. None of this makes for great accoustics but it does look good.
Even the bottle of water with a New York ribbon wrapped around it is just a nice touch.
We went with friends who are always game to try everything and share. That is the perfect thing to do here. Most of the plates are for sharing even the larger portion main courses. We ordered everything on the menu except the clam chowder and stuffed kumquats. The four of us left content and not stuffed. Kind of perfect. Each time they brought out four things at once so the kitchen is on it. The first thing out was a small chopped bowl of spicy pickled vegetables. It is more of a condiment that kicks off the meal. Cleans your mouth.
I am a total sucker for pigs in a blanket. They are my absolute fave. This is pigs in a blanket Defresne style. Chinese sausage wrapped tightly in a crunchy pastry that can be dipped in a Japanese spicy mustard and a sweet chili sauce. Perfect. If someone was passing these at a party I'd probably follow the person around.
The grey that is pulled across the plate is pub cheese. I do like how he is seving these appetizers on slate. Did he get them from Brooklyn Slate? Not sure what pub cheese is but it is delicious. This is served with pistachio fig brittle so it is savory yet sweet and also a few Martin potato chips on the side. I am a sucker for brittle too.
Really creative Caesar Salad. Pieces of romaine salad with a topping of an egg yolk Parmesan mixture and a slice of buttery hamachi on top. Delicious.
They sat down a perfectly sliced and layered ball of avocado. We sliced it in half and inside was the salmon tartare mixture. Mix that with the horseradish cream on the side. To go for the full flavor explosion take the Parmesan cracker and top it with everything. The first four flavors were all clean and fresh so each different flavor stood out individually. Each simple yet innovative in presentation.
Next out was a squid salad. Thinly sliced pieces of buttery squid mixed with thinly sliced red onions and watercress. The cashew pesto that is smashed into the side lets you mix it up yourself. A nice touch. Really good.
Open faced foie gras sandwiches. An english muffin topped with a poached apple, chartreuse yogurt and a chunk of foie gras. I am a fan of foie gras so it worked for me.
Fried cauiflower over a lemon almond puree and topped with lardo and some cocoa powder. You kind of can't go wrong with lardo. An interesting flavor combo. The cauliflower melted in my mouth.
Soft poached egg set in a sherry consome with mushrooms, celery and a touch of tarragon oil. Loads of flavor yet subtle at the same time.
I am also a sucker for chicken livers. Chopped chicken livers smothered over a toasted cornbread with a grapefruit marmalade and some crispy chicken skin on the side. A twist of a classic Jewish dish.
The flavor in this dish were spectacular. These little pieces were fried quail wrapped in a pastry over a banana curry. The Indian flavors just came through on every bite. You could smell them.
Lot has been written about this dish. Rye pasta over pieces of shaved pastrami. Again an interesting take on a pastrami sandwich. The creativity gets a serious nod. I found it a little salty and just heavy but then again so is pastrami on rye.
Oxtail stew was also loaded with flavors. Tasted as if the dish was just shipped in from the Caribbean. Pulled oxtail sitting on top of plaintains and a carrot slaw on the side. Nice.
The last three were probably my least favorite. Again we tasted everything so now I know what I would order again. Smoked artic char sitting over barbecued lentils. The lentils were similar to baked beans you migth serve with a bbq dish. On the side were slices of napa cabbage. I found this dish too smoky for my taste.
This is not what I was expecting based on the description. Saffron spaetzle mixed with chunks of pork ribs and a green apple celery root hash. I expected ribs. That is the genius behind Defresne.
Simply poached black bass over a nori salsa verde and Asian pears sliced. The best thing I liked were these dense jasmine rice balls that were a combination of puffed rice and dense rice mixed together.
For dessert we had the root beer pudding with smoked cashews. I wanted more root beer.
The tart is delicious. Caramelized milk, sour cream and banana nougatine.
That and a few bottles of wine and we had a great time. A place absolutely worth going to if you are into food. Some things were better than others but that is to be expected. The menu is not too big and it really gives everyone the ability to taste the brilliance behind the dishes. Creativity that is touchable and that is a talent.