If you can, try and score a corner booth table at Oui! Wine Bar + Kitchen, order the family-style chef’s choice dinner and a flight or two of wine, and then settle in.
Southeast Wine Collective, an urban winery and tasting room just off Southeast Division, has always had above-average bites to accompany the boundary-pushing modern winemaking techniques on display. Until recently, Chef Althea Grey Potter made them from a tiny room in the winery with a few induction burners, often ducking trolleys, barrels, and other wine making machinery as she plated.
In December, Potter, with the backing of Southeast Wine Collective owners Kate Norris and Tom Monroe, took over a slightly larger space—still surrounded by wine barrels—and expanded her menu from solid bites to full entrées. Potter is still working from just three induction burners and an electric oven (there’s no hood), but good things are coming from this small space.
Wine bar standards like rosemary almonds, olives, and gussied-up deviled eggs are there for those seeking a flight and a bite, but I say pick the prix fixe ($35 or $50—the former guarantees you’ll leave sated; the latter, stuffed).
The lack of a hood to vent smoke means that some techniques, like searing a steak, aren’t the best fit for Oui, but you’d never be able to tell. Braises, roasting, and all manner of vegetables with flair are what you’ll get here. The menu rotates often, but a recent cacio e pepe risotto ($18) took the bold tellicherry black pepper and Romano pasta-cum-food world darling and imposed it on a savory and thick grain, with a smattering of fried garlic along for the ride.
A roasted squash dish with harissa and feta (called All the Squash) was a monument to inventive winter cooking, but it’s passed with the season. Its spiritual twin, a roasted sweet potato ($14) taken to the Persian Gulf via crisp pita bites, lime yogurt, ample cilantro, and lime and chickpea fattoush, is another winning warmer.
Naturally, wine is what you’ll be drinking, and I’d say let whoever is manning the bar bring what sounds good with what’s coming out, like a Division Wine Co. brut rose to cut that mousse, or a tawny port to kick back a gooey-AF skillet chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. (Potter worked at Ned Ludd years ago, and this is her brown butter, cocoa nib honeycomb-bedecked take on that spot’s classic.)
Salads get all sorts of dressed up, like farro with pine nuts, generous flecks of sopressata, winter greens, pickled white grapes, pecorino cheese, AND a lemon vinaigrette ($14). It sounds like a lot—and it is—but the acid and fat are firing on all cylinders. Don’t skip the Little T baguette, fancied up with house whipped butter with just a hint of maple syrup ($6), mostly because you’ll also want to use it to dollop rich chicken liver mousse that barely retains its offal nature.
Yes, the cooking space at Oui is notably small, but you’d think it was all coming from a kitted-out kitchen. While wine figures prominently (duh), it’s hard to decide whether it’s more of a restaurant with great wine, or a winery with great food. Either way, the diners win.