New York City is scattered with lots of little wine bars, but none so special as Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table. This charming, intimate wine bar in the East Village stands apart from other bars in the neighborhood with its selectively curated wine list, passionate sommeliers, and highly trained chefs. The wine list is diverse with a strong emphasis on natural French wines and the cuisine is southern French with an Asian flair.
As you approach the restaurant you may just pass by without noticing, but once you walk in you immediately sense a jovial neighborhood vibe. The restaurant has no tables so grab a seat at the long bar and make yourself comfortable as Patrick Cournot, partner and wine director along with sommelier Alexis Percival and chefs Josh Ochoa and Andy Alexandre lead the way. The decor is simple and minimalist, with colorful tiles and eclectic music softly playing in the background. The first thing that catches your eye is the beautiful painting of a horse wrapped in an orange floral garland, hence the name Ruffian. The painting and restaurant were designed by Patrick Cournot’s wife, giving the wine bar a very elegant touch. Upon entering, my initial thoughts were what a great place to meet friends for drinks, but as the evening unfolded, and I tried many of the different small tapas style plates, I was in heaven with the food that complemented so wonderfully with the precisely recommended wine pairings. Ruffian is a perfect spot for drinks, but for a greater experience you must have dinner or a few small plates. Ruffian does not have a back kitchen, chefs Josh and Andy prepare the delectable food right in front of you at the bar, which makes for a cozy intimate dining experience.
What makes Ruffian so special? Well it can simply be boiled down to a convivial atmosphere, Patrick Cournot’s zest for wines and chefs Josh & Andy’s love for cooking. Patrick is partner and wine director at Ruffian and you immediately sense his passion for the wine list and his impressive knowledge of wines, having worked at Bouley, Artisinal, Tabla, and Lela Bar. Allow Patrick to guide you through the list, to taste and pair the wines just perfectly with your menu selections. Josh and Andy have extensive culinary experience at some of the best kitchens in New York(Tabla, North End Grill and Spice Market), it is impressive to see them work their magic and prepare the dishes right behind the counter.
To start with, I highly recommend the cauliflower miso soup with lemon oil and Thai basil. The soup was creamy but light and the lemon oil gave it a delicate freshness. Do not pass on the soup as your starter, Patrick paired the soup perfectly with a slightly off dry sparkling wine, Capdepon, Ancestrale de Limoux, from Languedoc. Patrick mesmerized me with his knowledge and stories of Languedoc and the ancestral wine making methods. Next I had marinated mushrooms, which were delightfully cooked in an adjika aioli very similar to sofrito. The crostini had a little bit of heat, which complemented the residual sugar in the sparkling wine. The mushrooms had a hearty, meaty texture, and as Josh said the mushrooms would have made any steak eater light up with joy. The highlight of the evening were the mussels with bruléed aioli toast paired with a strikingly natural, unfiltered, cider style orange wine, from Spain, Rafa Bernabe. The wine had amazing peach, apricot, spice and lemon notes, not a wine I would have chosen on my own, so was grateful to have Patrick recommend this pairing and open up my horizons to wonderful possibilities. Lastly I ended with the warm fingerling potatoes with chickpeas and muhammara. This superb dish was a perfect blend of southern french cuisine with a twist of exotic Indian spices. It would be perfect for those with a Vegan/Vegetarian preference. I overindulged on my meal so I passed on dessert, but I hear they make a heavenly chocolate souffle.
Ruffian is a hidden gem. When in New York stop in and meet with Patrick and his team, they are sure to take great care of you. Their attention to detail, quality and hospitality will make you come back over and over again. In a city where wine bars are spotted at every corner, Ruffian offers great food, great wine, and great service, to make this a unique and very special place.
Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table located at 125 East 7th Street (Bet. 1st Ave – Ave A) NYC 10009