photo by Liz Barclay

A thirst for knowledge has always been the driving force behind Wylie Dufresne’s progressive cooking, from his days working under Jean-Georges Vongerichten to his time as a Lower East Side pioneer at 71 Clinton Fresh Food, and finally here at wd-50, his artfully appointed Clinton Street restaurant. Eleven years after pursuing this ambitious solo venture, Dufresne refuses to shy away from risk. The chef’s contemplative dish-development process (it can take upward of a month to nail techniques and flavor profiles) translates into thought-provoking, impactful plates. Although an à la carte menu was available for years, in its current iteration the restaurant offers two prix-fixe options: a five-course tasting of “greatest hits” culled from the restaurant’s extensive history, and a 12-course, $155 extravaganza. Low-rollers should pay close attention, though: There’s a bargain to be found at the bar, where $25 gets you any two courses from either tasting menu, with each additional course for $15. All of a sudden, you’re enjoying a customized four-course, $55 prix fixe at one of the city’s most influential houses of modernist technique. The pun-tastic cocktails are equally impressive and progressive, boasting whimsical ingredients like black garlic oil, oatmeal milk, and squash.