By Ava Stryker-Robbins
Known in Indonesia as Assam Curry, WAU’s Pineapple-Flower Fish Curry features sea bass in a tamarind coconut broth, which WAU’s owner Salil Mehta puts a twist on by adding pineapple juice, pulp, and galangal flowers. The result is a mouthwatering tropical flavor that is slightly spicy, sweet, sour, and delicious.
Though it has only been on the menu for a few months, Pineapple-Flower Fish Curry has quickly become one of WAU’s signature dishes. “It is super representative of the culture, the food, the flavors of Indonesia,” Mehta told West Side Rag in a phone interview.
Mehta, who also owns Kebab aur Sharab on West 72nd Street, and Laut in Union Square (the first Malaysian restaurant in the US to earn a MICHELIN star), opened WAU in 2020, during the pandemic, thinking that the Upper West Side would be “a great place to be,” because many of its residents stayed in the city and actively supported local businesses.
WAU initially served Thai food, until about four months ago, when “we made a conscious choice to move away from Thai food, even though it was paying our rent and our bills.” Mehta decided to focus exclusively on Indonesian cuisine, making WAU “the only restaurant in Manhattan that does so,” he said. “There was a void in the market,” he explained, and, although Thai food had helped WAU survive, he wanted to “do something different.”
Mehta admits having a restaurant is not always easy, but he enjoys meeting new people every day and helping to satisfy many different palates and personalities. “When someone comes up to me and says they really enjoyed eating here and ‘it reminds me of my mom,’ or ‘it reminds me of my grandma,’ or ‘it reminds me of home’…what can be better than that?” he asked.
Mehta hopes people will come to see WAU as their “local restaurant.” He also hopes customers will engage with the cocktails that have recently been recreated by mixologists.
The Pineapple-Flower Fish Curry costs $38.
The Dish: Pineapple-Flower Fish Curry
The Restaurant: WAU (434 Amsterdam Ave at 81st Street)