Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is It a Meal or a Prank?

Although restaurant critic Frank Bruni has several positive things to say about WD-50 in New York City, he reminds us all of the potential peril of dining at a purveyor of "molecular" cuisine. Bruni writes:

. . . what makes WD-50 and Mr. Dufresne, its chef, so amusing, important and rewarding . . . (is that he) pushes hard against the envelope of possibility and the bounds of conformity to produce food that’s not only playful but also joyful and even exhilarating, at least when the mad science pays off.

It pays off more frequently now than in the past, when his attitude was cheekier, his judgment wobblier and too many of his creations gratuitously perverse.

. . . Avant-garde cuisine or molecular gastronomy (two of the labels attached to Mr. Dufresne’s style of cooking) sometimes . . . get[s] so wrapped up in audacious flavor combinations, the unlikely transmogrification of ingredients and other cerebral shenanigans that they neglect dinner’s highest calling: to taste great.

What’s gained by turning a mushroom-and-pepperoni pizza into sandy pebbles, brittle shards and a creamy swish? Nothing at all, and this dish, on the same recent tasting menu at WD-50 as the revelatory eggs Benedict, is a reason many visitors to the restaurant understandably feel that what they’ve experienced isn’t so much a meal as a prank.

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