I would imagine it’s not easy having a father like Jean-Georges Vongerichten who is still a force to reckon with in the New York City dining scene. And it’s probably even harder having a restaurant on your own when your father has a two (formerly three) Michelin-star restaurant (although I feel the magic with his eponymous restaurant has somewhat dissipated since the time when I first arrived in the city). For his new restaurant, Jean-Georges’ son Cedric drew inspiration from his wife Ochi’s Indonesian root. In a city where Indonesian cuisine is still underrepresented compared to, say, Thai, Wayan could be a risky gamble and I was initially hesitant to visit the restaurant as I thought it could be another one of those Asian fusion places whose culinary origin in one way or another started from Jean-Georges’ own Spice Market. After Wayan started receiving generally favorable reviews from professional critics, I figured to visit the restaurant with my wife Jun for a Friday date night, and it turned out to be a pretty pleasant meal.
Any meal at Wayan must start with satay skewers. You certainly won’t regret having delicious chicken satay with peanut sauce that was very capably grilled. While it’s hard to pinpoint Indonesian cuisine’s identity and signature dishes, we were generally fond of the dishes that we had ordered. The kitchen’s take on the traditional salad dish called gado-gado, using avocado with quail egg and cucumber, was a nice starter. When the lobster noodle came out, we were initially wary after seeing the thick sauce (made of kecap manis, a type of Indonesian sweet soy sauce) that it might prove to be too rich and heavy. The trick to eating this dish (which we fortunately discovered ourselves but it would’ve been nice if our server had tipped us) is to use red spicy sauce that was placed on the center of table. The added spicy kick made wonders to the lobster noodle that we ended up enjoying quite a lot. The crispy baby back pork ribs with soy tamarind glaze were equally fantastic; Jun happily chewed on the meats until there were only bones left. Compared to these very good main dishes, the side of nasi goreng (a classic Indonesian fried rice) was surprisingly bland (maybe that was the point to neutralize all the flavors from the other dishes but we still wished there were some heat to the rice). For dessert, the yellow pandan custard with fresh passion fruit seeds offered a very refreshing end to the meal after all the spices left in our palate.
Getting a reservation at Wayan wasn’t too difficult, but the dining room starting getting full by the end we were finishing up on our early dinner on a Friday so I would still recommend booking in advance for prime time seatings. There is full bar with Southeast Asian flavored cocktails; I regretted my choice of the cocktail Instant Zen that had too much absinthe, but Jun’s Yuzu Fizz was quite refreshing for a summer drink. The dining room fortunately doesn’t have the cheesy Asian fusion décor of Taos of the world. Wayan was our first meal out together after coming back from Oregon where Jun had (in her opinion) a puzzling and ultimately unsatisfactory meal at a Thai restaurant (see my review here https://kenscale.com/2019/07/28/langbaan/). After our meal at Wayan, Jun said her experience here was so much better than the tasting menu at Langbaan that she thought generally lacked the spice and heat she was looking for. While I wouldn’t go that far (I certainly appreciated the creativity of Langbaan), it was also true that Wayan’s experiment with Indonesian cuisine in a way that reinterprets the country’s flavor in an honest, soulful way has so far been a good one for Mr. Cedric.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 20 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (917) 261-4388