Bar Wayo

The Momofuku empire expands out to NYC’s Pier 17 complex … but did their cocktail menu expand into excellence … or insanity?

On our way out of NYC (the day after an epic Brandi Carlile concert at Madison Square Garden), we decided to hit the latest edition of David Chang’s Momofuku empire, Bar Wayo. It’s located in the new Pier 17 complex which finally opened last year after 2012’s devastating Superstorm Sandy.

Despite being VERY carefully targeted at a parking lot near Pier 17, our Waze GPS app confidently guided us to what turned out to be a MISERABLY UNLABELED bikepath nowhere near our parking lot. This earned us the withering glares of disgust that only NYC cyclists can give you and I credit Lorri for managing to back out an entire city block without killing any of them.

This ordeal unfortunately got us into Bar Wayo 10 minutes before the lunch shift closed. We probably should have just bailed and the staff would have been 100% within their rights to tell us to keep walking until we ran out of pier, but they were great, just advising us to order food soon as the kitchen was closing.

Bar Wayo’s DGAF cocktail menu!

We took seats at the bar (the bar seats are inside, while the tables are outside) and was greeted by our bartender Josh who was just as welcoming as the hosts. We’ve gotten serious attitude from Momofuku staff at some locations, but Josh was so down to earth that it wasn’t until deep into our conversations with him that we found out he was one of the early bartenders at Miami’s iconic Broken Shaker.

Daiquiri (with Lemongrass, Lychee and Cachaça) and the bonkers Kaiju Crush

Lorri took a risk with their lemongrass and lychee inflected Daiquiri. We’ve had legions of overly floral and herbal spins on daiquiris but THIS one as right on the money. It’s likely that the added cachaça that added enough grassy savoriness (in the same lane as an agricole rhum) to prevent the lychee from doing what it usually does : overpower the drink with fruity, sickly sweet and floral overtones.  It’s rare that Lorri orders two of the same up drinks … but this daiquiri achieved that feat!

Josh also explained that they use Lichi-li from Giffard for their lychee flavor – Giffard is the master of making great versions of historically horrible liqueurs. Their banana (Banane Bresil) and Apricot (Apricot Du Roussillon) are two of our favorites.

I manfully resisted the Penicillin (despite having had a Penicillin WHERE IT WAS CREATED at Attaboy/Milk and Honey, I’m still obsessed) and jumped at the Kaiju Crush. Mezcal + passionfruit + pineapple + cocoa sounds like a random drink you’d get by playing DRUNKEN COCKTAIL SLOT MACHINE but it worked against all odds. Why? Because it didn’t taste strongly of any of its individual components, smoke and chocolate merging into something in the middle, the gooey melon notes of passionfruit dissolving into the acidic pineapple. It was unique yet easy, the perfect kind of drink for a late afternoon in a sunny bar on a Manhattan Pier.

The Zombie Elvis – yeah, a true Elvis should have banana to go with the peanut butter, but you’ll dig this drink anyway

Emboldened by the Kaiju Crush, I zoomed in on the MOST ridiculous drink on the menu, the Zombie Elvis. Slamming peanut butter-washed rum into the tiki car wreck known as the Zombie is the kind of perverse experiment that you’d expect from Booker and Dax (Momofuku’s infamous and sadly shuttered original cocktail laboratory collaboration with Dave Arnold) … so of course it works. Lately I’ve been getting a little tiki-jaded, with so many good-but-not-great concoctions involving house rum blends, a few too many fruit juices and syrups, and a few too many spices / falernums / orgeats / Donn’s mixes, all congealing into an pleasant but unfocused fog of tiki flavor.

Zombie Elvis works because the peanut butter wash is NOT subtle and refreshingly, NOT balanced. It’s a bracing slap of fatty nuttiness across the tiki backdrop and I appreciated the bold stupidity of it very very much. It’s not going to win any awards but it’s a drink I’ll remember long after the Tiger’s Blood Martini spritzed with the essence of midnight harvested Mumbai saffron has faded from my tasebuds’ memory.

Josh brought out a complimentary shot and to Lorri’s relief it WASN’T Cynar, Fernet or some other dense vegetal amaro but something we’d never even heard of.. St. Agrestis in Brooklyn makes a Campari/Aperol-like bitter that is less sweet than Aperol (or Cappelletti) and less sharply bitter than Campari but still has complexity and edginess to hold up in a cocktail. I believe it’s St Agrestis Inferno Bitter.  Apparently it’s somewhat exclusive to Momofuku right now but I hope to find it soon because it could make for an Improved Negroni, Spritz, or Jungle Bird!

Bar Wayo was a perfect ending to our NYC weekend, thanks to the inventive drinks, the decadent food (don’t be fooled by the cheeky name of the “Imitation Crab Roll” dish – it’s as sumptuous as any lobster roll you’ll find), the bright, cheerful setting of the bar and most of all, the warm hospitality and masterful knowledge of our bartender Josh. 

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