The menu at David Chang’s buzzing new Bar Wayō tested our culinary scholarship.
What was “royale” about “half-smothered royale,” a yummy mush of omelet slices, sausage gravy and rice?
“It’s epic,” the waiter concluded after some thought.
Well, it’s cheap ($14), filling enough for two normal humans — and like everything at Chang’s 80-seat, indoor-outdoor spot on the ground floor of the Seaport District’s Pier 17, it comes with a smashing view of the harbor and downtown skyline.
Bar Wayō was way overdue. Its bar-snacky menu and killer cocktails bring life, laughter and Changian energy to a previously lonely corner of the mammoth pier that seems to stretch halfway to Brooklyn.
The simply designed, glass-and-wood venue is as much a boozery as a bistro. Maybe more so. Many Chang places nod to one or other Asian cuisine — Korean at Ssam Bar, Japanese at Noodle Bar — but Wayō’s mantra is merely “snacks and dishes that complement the drinks,” its publicity material states.
While chairs at the indoor, U-shaped bar have backs for prolonged, cozy drinking, all but a few eating tables are picnic-style. (Hint: South-facing views are stupendous, while those facing north see only a wall.)
Chef de cuisine Sam Kang’s well-priced lunch and dinner lineups channel and tweak mildly exotic themes. The “epic” royale looks like egg foo young or northern California’s hangtown fry, but tastes newly decadent. Clam soup is no chowder, but a sublimely salty, clear, dashi-infused broth with bacon, small clams and tiny potato chunks.
Another $14 wonder, imitation “krab” roll, piles a ton of plancha-grilled pollock on a toasted buttered bun and sparks it with cherry pepper mayo and black pepper sauce. I’d eat it all day if I wasn’t stuffed after half.
There’s a fine American wagyu strip steak for $28 and a jumbo version for $52, but the picturesque setting lends itself more to the menu’s snackier side. The only dud was a sandwich of over-grilled swordfish.
Bar Wayō strikes just the right note for the new pier, which is finding its sea legs as cafes open one at a time. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s splendid Fulton restaurant is up and running, Malibu Farm bows this week and a major place from Andrew Carmellini is coming next year.
Despite the name, Bar Wayō isn’t for happy-hour revelers who gave the old Seaport a dive-bar after-stench on summer nights. Well-mixed libations such as the South Street Sling (gin, mezcal, fruits and bitters) are served sans the goofy tiki and skull vessels of places like the Polynesian.
Who needs them? The view’s a ticket to paradise enough.
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