Welcome to the first installment of Scene Report, a new column in which Eater captures the vibe of a notable New York restaurant at a specific moment in time.
Wayan opened in Nolita in 2019 from Ochi and Cedric Vongerichten — the latter the son of one of the most famous chefs in the world, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. This past spring, they opened a sibling two doors down. Here’s the scene on a Monday around 7 p.m. at Ma-Dé, the Indonesian-influenced Nolita restaurant from the husband-wife duo.
The vibe: The restaurant is a contrast of greenery, concrete, and marble, with the din of conversation complemented by a warm soundtrack with just enough hints of reggae to feel vaguely like a vacation. Waitstaff buzz attentively around, pouring water out of fish-shaped pitchers. Diners are wearing straw hats, crop tops, linen shirts, smart sundresses (“get the lobster dumplings,” a blonde woman in a navy dress walking back to her bar seat advises in a conspiratorial tone).
What to drink: Natural wines are clearly a focus of the tight wine menu (doing the math, glasses average $24.50), which also has a sake offering; the pet nat blanc on the menu Monday was crisp and funky. Bartenders saw at ice for cocktails with hints of Asian influences, whether it be lychee, makrut lime or galangal, but the bar also makes a mean gibson.
On the menu: The book takes diners through categories such as land and sea with the kind of vague, shorthand descriptions we’ve become accustomed to seeing on ambitious menus (think tomato 20 labne, sumac, shallots). Easygoing servers are happy to clarify with more details, particularly on portion size. This is a great place to go in late spring or early summer due to the emphasis on seasonality: Delicate dumplings filled with earthy fava beans are accented with a mildly sweet, nutty sauce; crisp soft-shell crab on a bed of lettuce riffs as a wedge salad. The shrimp toast dish is a showstopper, with two milk bread batons garnished with precisely minced chive perched atop an acidic, citrusy foam that punches everything up. Desserts are simple but assertive, such as a tart mango custard complemented with basil ice cream and a crumble topping.
Solo diners, be warned: The bar seating is awkward for a walk-in party of one; there are just four seats at an actual bar (capping each end), and the remaining few options feature backless slim stools at tiny tables that act more as ledges — they aren’t big enough to comfortably fit chopsticks or even the larger plates. They’re positioned facing the wall, with diners’ backs to the activity and the waitstaff and customers constantly squeezing by the hallway behind them. Though the set-up is less than comfortable, the staff does its best to make solo diners feel more at home, engaging in chatty conversation, sending out thoughtfully timed courses so the ledges don’t overflow with dishes. Prices also add up here ordering small plates for one, three dishes, dessert, a cocktail, and a wine, totaled $174 with tip.