At 8 p.m., the only clue that something big was happening at wd-50 was the methuselah of champagne that was touring the quietly buzzing room, a six-liter megabottle that was poured at every table. It set the tone for the once-in-a-lifetime reunion of family members–and lucky hangers-on–that was accompanied by a 12-course meal. The menu, copies of which sat at every place signed in silver and gold Sharpie by the chefs, was a glossary of unlikely ingredient pairings: squid and banana, Ritz cracker and parsley. And that was just one plate.
Of the 12 courses, the only food Wylie Dufresne actually put his hands on was the lavash that has served as the restaurant’s bread course for the past 10 years. But his fingerprints were on every chef’s dish, revealing his influence on American dining today. The now-famous meat glue was present in a perfect cylinder of poached chicken shot through the center with smoked eel that was prepared by the Crimson Sparrow’s John McCarthy and Ben Freemole. The playful deconstructionism was on display in Christina Tosi’s dessert, “American cheesecake”–in this case the diner-standard grilled cheese and tomato sandwich turned into a yellow cheese sauce draped over buttery pebbles of toasted white bread, topped with a quenelle of green tomato sorbet. Mario Carbone’s curried gnocchetti with Jamaican ragu was as if a Golden Krust beef patty had been turned inside-out, a dish that would have been at home on any iteration of the Torrisi menu but could only have come from a chef currently serving his version of a TV dinner.
If the 10th anniversary dinner was a chef’s homecoming parade, Dewey Dufresne, Wylie’s dad and a longtime fixture at his restaurants, was its king. Ever spotlight-averse, Wylie made one quick appearance outside the kitchen to give a short speech, during which he heaped praise on the restaurant’s private events coordinator, Griffin Parker, and teared up while thanked diners for having faith in his sometimes unorthodox methods. Dewey, on the other hand, made the rounds all night, stopping at every table to accept kudos in his son’s stead.
After the speech, the teeming kitchen overflowed, flooding the room with chefs’ whites. The soundtrack shifted from the Rolling Stones to Rihanna, and the entire room moved up to the bar. Members of the Aska team chatted with Eben Freeman, whose Wild Blush cocktail (cherry puree, mint, and vodka) had been resurrected for the night. The massive basket of chocolate that Jacques Torres and his wife, Hasty, had brought by earlier didn’t last long. Former bar director Tona Palomino, in town for fewer than 48 hours just for the dinner, posed for photos with current bar director Kevin Denton. Palomino joked that he would stay up all night before catching an afternoon flight back to Chicago, where he runs the Trencherman with fellow alum Mike Sheerin; at 1:30 a.m., as another magnum was passed around the still-teeming room, it didn’t seem like the night was going to end for anyone.