Wine & Food

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Whym in NYC

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 9, 2008.

I had a small wine dinner last night at Whym in NYC. Located just south of Columbus Circle at 889 Ninth Avenue, 58th cross street. It's a lovely room with decent spacing between the tables. My party of five was actually seated in an alcove with comfortable banquets and padded ways that kept the noise level exceptionally manageable, a very nice surprise!

The wine glass provided were acceptable but nothing special. I travel with my own bowls, not only BYOB but BYOG!, so this was not a problem and truth be told the glass would have been fine for many wines. The alcove where we were seated has two table which could be combined to make a great space for 10-12 people.

Our waiter was professional and competent but no more though he was very gracious in exchanging glassware, tracking down a decanter for us and making sure we were ok with everything.

For my dinner I started with the "Sexy Mushrooms" which are sauteed mushrooms in a bit of creamy mascarpone sauce topped with a few sprouts and a touch too much truffle oil. For a wine dinner this worked well, and after we asked for bread we had nice chewy/crusty rosemary rolls delivered to the table to sop up the creamy goodness but this was a pretty rich starter.

For my entree I chose the Balsamic Free Range Duck Breast. It's was an interesting dish, looking much like a salad. A smallish duck breast was presented under a mound of green papaya/watercress slaw. The duck was perfectly cooked with a nice edge of gaminess to it if a bit small. The slaw was refreshing and offered a crisp contrast to the slightly chewy duck. Also part of the dish were miso roasted potatoes. I do not know what type of potatoes were used for the dish, perhaps some exotic peruvian breed or large fingerlings but the quarter rounds were small, dense, earthy and a not particularly appealing shade of dark brown. Weird.

For dessert we shared a banana cream pie that had a thick, tough crust, rather tasteless cream, and a few banana slices. Unfortunately a cheese plate was not available.

The tab including a nice tip and $15 per person corkage came out to a reasonable $80 per head.

I give Whym high marks for the space and our alcove in particular. The service was fine and the location ultra-convenient for me. They accommodated out unusual wine-geek needs well. The food was good but not special.

I give Whym a 3 glass rating.


Reply by Pymonte, Oct 17, 2008.

Sounds like a good time, though I don't think the food would be up my alley. It sounds like a step down from the restaurants that I like to spend that kind of money on. It is New York, though, so I'm not sure how it compares with DC in terms of price.

Have you eaten at Ducasse's Adour? I just took the wife to the sister restaurant down here and it was fantastic on all levels.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 17, 2008.

I have not been to Adour. Even this $100 dinner is somewhat unusual for me. I have a handful of places I frequent and most average about $80 per person. The real key for me is the corkage policy of a restaurant. With a cellar full to bursting I tend to not buy wine of lists but rather bring my own. It can get difficult, not to mention pricey to head out to very high-end restaurants. Once in a while for a special occasion it's a splurge I'll indulge in. Perhaps for a truffle dinner for example. My other problem is that I worked professionally as a chef for a long time. I'm pretty handy in the Kitchen on one hand, and have a terrible habit of analyzing the cost of the plate in front of me on the other. Makes high end dining difficult sometimes.

I have been to DC in a few years but it was always my impression that dining was less expensive in DC and frequently better. Perhaps it's getting near time to revisit.

Reply by Pymonte, Oct 17, 2008.

Ha! I sit there and analyze food cost too, as well as prep and production time. That's actually what intrigued me about Ducasse- the plates weren't incredibly intricate (a la Alinea in Chicago), but the ingredients were spectacular and everything was prefectly executed.

Here's a link to the tasting menu.

And lest you think that is a common occurrence for me, it is not. I've been to three such restaurants, Susur in Toronto (now closed, with a restaurant opening in NYC), Citronelle in DC (Which wasn't really that expensive, as they graciously gave me a discount after driving 300 miles to stage the previous day), and now Adour, which was a celebration of getting setlled in DC as well as scouting for places to work as a second job/ as Citronelle is closed for renovations. I like to go to places like that not just for a meal, but for professional stimulation. For me, experiencing a beautiful dinner like that is a fantastic cure for being burned out and dispassonate after a rough week at work. It's an inspirational assimimlation of ingredients, techniques, and flavor pairings that remind me of the bigger picture.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 17, 2008.

I got you. It's rare to find such a place here and to be honest my cathartic moments come more frequently at the great ethnic restaurants in the outskirts of NYC. I've been blown away by some of the Asian meals I've had and thee was one memorable beef orgy at a Argentine steak house that was amazing. The meat was excellent, and expertly cooked, but each course had a sauce tailored to the cut of meat and two small sides, a veg and a starch, that seemed to be an after thought. The combination of flavors, but more importantly textures, elevated the meal to an entirely different level. I can cobble together a pretty good facsimile of much of what passes for fine dinning here in NYC but those ethnic dishes require a different mindset.

The Adour menu looks very enticing and, if I dare say it, looks pretty reasonably priced!

Reply by Pymonte, Oct 24, 2008.

Yeah, the whole churrascaria concept is fantastic. Well, really any place that's all-you-can-eat of good quality meat is a favorite in my book. Or was this another type of restaurant?

Asian food is so fantastic, but everyone and their mom has some sort of asian influence. It's only a matter of time before you see Asian-Italian bistros popping up. All of the ethnic cuisines have such high potential but there are so many people that think elements of them can be transposed into other styles of cooking and do so poorly that it's almost a red flag to see asian influences in non-asian restaurants. Of course there are exceptions (Alinea, The French Laundry, hell, even the olive oil-poached cod at Adour was in a soy-based sauce, and we serve miso-marinated seabass at Citronelle), but there's such a tremendous margin for error that I generally hesitate to spend a lot of money on Asian food.

(goes and reaches for Peking Duck in the fridge)

nom nom nom...


Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 24, 2008.

It was a similar style of service except the meats came as platters, 2 or 3 cuts at a time, 4 platters over the course of the meal. Spectacular!

I am all for fusion food, I don't really eat it or like, but am all for it. Somebody seems to like it

Of course certain touches, element, flavors make work brilliantly. I made a crudo, raw Tuna, last year. Wonderful fish tossed with exceptional olive oil a few shavings of scallion, a sprinkle of sesame seed, a pinch of crushed red pepper and sea salt then finished with a spritz of verjus. I don't know if this really qualifies as fusion but it brought together Italian and Asian/Polynesian influence and was brilliant. Maybe I'm a hypocrite or some sort of snob or reverse snob. Not sure but I forgot my point and now am hungry. Damn.

The asian food I was referring to would definitely not qualify as expensive. In most of the places they haven't even bothered to translate much of the menu!

Citronelle? A restaurant on my list to do!

Reply by Pymonte, Oct 24, 2008.

"Maybe I'm a hypocrite or some sort of snob or reverse snob. Not sure but I forgot my point and now am hungry. Damn."

We need an emoticon for the wry smile that this statement evoked.

I guess I should clarify a bit.

I don't like the term "fusion," or a restaurant that would readily use it to describe what they do. To me that smacks of "Hey! I just came up with the gobsmackingly brilliant idea of combining food from (gasp) different cultures! That hasn't been done in Thailand centuries ago (Massaman curry) or anything!"

My philosophy is just to make it taste good. Well, not just good, but as close to perfect as possible, knowing that perfection is only an idea, never to be attained. Lose any gimmicks, lose the catch-phrases, lose the marketing tools, as good food markets itself. Use whatever techniques or ingredients will make the end result something that people that know about food will want to eat. That seems to be exactly what you're talking about with the crudo- you know what you're doing and have an idea of what the flavor combinations will be at the end. I made a salmon tartare that was somewhat similar to that for a special before moving out here- lemon jiuce, fennel seeds, togarashi, and sesame seeds- as part of a salmon trio that I ran on my last night at my old job (before getting the chocolate cream pie to the face) and it was delicious.

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