At wd-50: The French, They Came


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Walking into wd-50 early Monday evening, you couldn’t help but notice the distinct stillness.

It felt almost like entering a temple — the air was plump with reverence, laced with frissons of anticipation.

The dinner about to happen wasn’t just any dinner, after all — Michel Bras, one of France’s most highly regarded chefs, was manning the kitchen for just one night. And New Yorkers had been working themselves up into a lather over trying to get in.

Having had the good fortune of seeing the announcement of this dinner the moment Eater.com posted it (and also being in possession of fast fingers and a cellphone nearby), there we were, quietly filing into the dining room — hungry.

The meal that lay before us was a nine-course vegetarian tasting menu. Bras, a three-star Michelin chef, has made his name on dishes with inventive treatments and combinations of ingredients — powdered fruit, crushed seeds, sprinklings of whole flowers for added flavor — that are carefully orchestrated to taste anything but pedestrian. (It’s also worth noting that Bras, who also has a restaurant in Hokkaido, is also known for dishes that are presented with a tinge of Japanese artistry.)

Now, in his little restaurant overlooking Laguiole, a picturesque town in
the mountains of Aubrac in southern France, fresh fruit and
vegetables that grow wild in the region are the stars of the dishes. In New York, Bras applied the same strategy to his menu — from the moment he arrived three days before, he’d been scouring the city’s greenmarkets to come up with this meal after seeing what produce he could find, according to our waiter. In fact, Luc Dubanchet, one of the organizers of the meal along with three others featuring other French chefs at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants this month, told the New York Times that Bras said he is “incapable of doing it any other way.”

And so it was that we arrived with open minds and eager stomachs.

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