I was secretly concerned about going to The Wright inside the Guggenheim Museum for my birthday this weekend. The menu looked classically delicious, and photos of the decor made it seem like a hip 1970s spaceship (it won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design), but the reviews were a little too so-so, and we’d been totally unimpressed by a similar museum restaurant a few weeks earlier. But, you know, I’m always happy to find out for myself how a restaurant rates.
Dr. Boyfriend and I decided to do the chef’s tasting with wine pairings, and right away The Wright scored points with me when our server asked if there was anything in particular on the menu that we wanted to make sure was in our tasting. Then she poured us each a glass of champagne, gave us a selection of breads with salted butter, and let us feast:
blood orange gelee, cucumber, shrimp, marcona almond foam
As soon as our server put this down in front of me, I said, “Dessert!” Even now when I imagine these ingredients, I don’t think they should go together, and I certainly don’t think they should go together in an amuse bouche, but this was perfectly balanced. The gelatin and foam layers were sweet and smooth, while the middle layer of shrimp was more savory and segmented. The cucumber was the high note for me and was just the right addition to the dish, as it straddles the line between sweet and savory.
Spanish octopus mosaic, potato, olive, tomato, lemon oil, basil pesto
If you know anything about me, you understand how funny it is that I was served this on my birthday. The only two things in the world I absolutely don’t eat are tomatoes and olives, and the thing I’m only just now learning to eat in my quest toward becoming an adult is seafood. So to see them all on one plate was horrifying/hilarious. And yet.
I was surprised at how tender and not-chewy the octopus was, but Kamran said, “That’s how it is when they do it right.” The acid from the lemon made all of the flavors so bright, but it also “cooked” the tomatoes so that they tasted more like a nice sauce than a fruity raw tomato. The earthy potato neutralized the bite of the olives so that they became a subtle background saltiness. Not a single component of the dish stuck out more than any other, and somehow, that made me actually enjoy eating them all.
seared diver scallop, gently-cooked shrimp in chili oil, artichoke two ways, zucchini-wrapped goat cheese, red peppers
I’ve had scallops twice before, but this was the first time I understood why everyone’s always making them on every cooking show known to man. This intensely-seared scallop was salty, a little bit crispy on top and bottom, and so tender it was almost falling apart in the middle. I think I might actually be developing a thing for that specific scallop flavor that’s oceany without being fishy.
The sweet shrimp was equally as pleasing in its red chili sauce, the artichoke puree was so flavorful the drab color didn’t seem to fit it, and the coolness of the zucchini really contrasted with the sourness of the goat cheese. I probably don’t know enough about cooking to understand any fluidity between all of the items on the plate, but I get real joy from being presented with an array of flavors like this and making them work how I want them to.
Maine lobster, matsutake mushrooms, arugula cloud
As soon as we saw the menu, I said, “I want that cloud,” and I got it. What was funny was that before this was presented, our server poured our wine and said, “I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but the next dish is very earthy.” And I was of course like, “TRUFFLES!” But it was freakin’ mushrooms. “Way to build up to nothing, lady,” I thought.
But actually, I really loved the puree with the lobster. Kamran called it “heavy-handed” and thought the amount of puree made it a borderline soup, but I’ll never mind having an abundance of sauce. The arugula foam was everything I like about arugula and none of the bitterness, so I didn’t think the actual greens were necessary, but maybe that’s the veggie-hatin’ kid in me coming out.
As for the lobster, I was totally scared at first by the way the claw meat looks like a claw, but dude, claw meat is way more delicious than tail meat. I understand that’s not how I’m supposed to feel, though. What gives?
Kamran on fire
It was at this point that our first glass of champagne hit Kamran hard in the chest and gave him heartburn somethin’ awful. Apparently this happens to him with champagne all of the time, and the fact that I didn’t know it clearly means we’re not drinking nearly enough champagne together.
I said, “Ask our server if they have any antacid in the back,” and he did, and she said, “That would be a smart thing for a restaurant to have, huh?” and then disappeared for a while. We figured she was just pretending like she’d forgotten he’d asked, but a couple of minutes later, she emerged from the kitchen to tell him someone was running to get him some.
And then she presented us with an antacid course! We were so impressed by the restaurant going so far above and beyond for us so I could enjoy my birthday dinner. I’m tearing up a little now just thinking of it.
roasted suckling pig, glazed quince, quince puree, mustard pig jus
This is the course I told our server I specifically wanted, and boooooooooy, was it the must-have dish of the night. The layer of skin on top was so caramelized-crunchy, the pork was so cooked-for-hours that it fell apart under my fork, and the quince was such a nice twist on the classic applesauce. It was like a sweet pig pie. Sweet. Pig. Pie.
blood orange supremes, Greek yogurt sorbet
Our palate cleanser was good enough to be dessert course all its own thanks to the Greek yogurt. I’ve been eating Greek yogurt for dessert just about every night for the past many weeks, so it was neat to see what someone with actual cooking skills could do with it. This was like the sour frozen yogurt that got super-popular a couple of years back thanks to Pinkberry (and my favourite, 16 Handles), except more natural-tasting.
Valrhona dark chocolate mousse, walnut caramel, concord grape ice cream
Ellie and I were just talking last week about how great concord-grape-flavored anything is, and then bam!, I get this dessert that used the grapes so well without automatically pairing them with peanut butter. The chocolate mousse was so decadent, and the chocolate glaze on top was in some sort of perma-melt state that left it shiny and gooey. There were tiny chunks of walnut brittle in the mousse to give it contrasting textures, and the bar of caramel might have been better than the ones the little old lady next door made for us every year for Halloween in Ohio. I just love the way a candied nut falls apart in your mouth.
caramelized Bosc pears, puff pastry, Tahitian vanilla ice cream
I described this ice cream to Kamran as “why I say I love vanilla ice cream”. It was immensely vanilla-y and defied anyone who might use vanilla to mean boring. The pastry was architecturally tough and didn’t crumble under my spoon as I stole chunks of it off of Kamran’s plate, and the pears practically melted in my mouth.
assorted birthday cookies just for me, because I am really special
I guess I’m not known for my subtlety, but I was still surprised to have this plate brought to me and remember that I mentioned it was my birthday in my reservation. Oops. But also yes! I loved that the kitchen put this together for me, and to finish the night by scooping up my own name in chocolate with a mango macaron was incredible.
The Wright is just right for people who consider themselves foodies, but I also think it’s a great fit for anyone who wants to get into fine dining but is intimidated by the formal decor and freaky ingredients. The bright, colorful room feels casual, and the service is friendly to match. The ingredients used by the chef are all high-end but not ostentatious, so there’s nothing to make new foodies squeamish, and the inventive combinations and expert preparations elevate each individual component beyond its humble beginnings.
The only complaint we had was that there was no wine with the dessert course, and that’s the wine we most look forward to. Still, this is the most affordable tasting we’ve had at $68, and I’ll assume most of the extra $42 for the wine pairings went into that champagne.
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128 (map)