What Wines to Bring to Dept of Culture

What Wines to Bring to Dept of Culture

Despite its prix fixe menu, Dept of Culture feels different from every other tasting menu restaurant in NYC. This 15-seat Nigerian spot in Bed-Stuy is more like a friend’s dinner party, complete with photos of the host’s grandparents on the walls, casual conversation with strangers around a communal table, and, of course, a BYOB policy. But unless your friends serve fish soup with ata rodo peppers or fried cheese curds with yam and spicy tomato sauce, then you might not know how best to make use of that policy. We’ve got you covered.

The menu at Dept of Culture changes constantly, so instead of recommending wines that pair with specific dishes, we’ll highlight some styles to focus on when eating powerfully-flavored, rich, and/or spicy food.

Dept of Culture Reservations


Chef/Owner Ayo Balogun says that his fish pepper soup is relatively mild compared to the version he grew up with in Nigeria. While that’s both shocking and impressive, the version here is still quite spicy. The best wine for all things spicy is German riesling, and this one from Philip Lardot has the added benefit of matching up with the menu’s richer and sweeter dishes as well.

Ideal Wine: Philip Lardot, Riesling 'der Bauer' Trocken 2019


Great Champagne is typically something you open at special occasions or parties. Dept of Culture feels like both– a unique tasting menu spot with tough-to-get reservations, and a room full of 15 people you’ll chat with all night. Beyond all that, Champagne is the most food-friendly wine in existence. And with dishes that range from sweet and spicy to rich and fermented, that is particularly useful here.

Ideal Wine: Laherte Frères, ‘Rosé de Meunier’ Champagne NV

Chilled Reds

Spicy flavors and seafood are key aspects of the food here, and neither of which lend themselves to red wines. But if you’re in the mood for a red, then stick to light, bright versions served chilled. Beaujolais and tangy reds from the Jura are good options, as is this refreshing frappato from Sicily.

Ideal Wine: COS, Frappato Sicily 2021

Loire Chenin Blanc

Lots of chenin blanc is powerful and mouth-coating, packed with ripe or even tropical fruit flavors. What makes great chenin from the Loire unusual is that its richness is balanced by smoky, salty notes and a boatload of refreshing acidity. All of that makes it an ideal companion for the bold and rich, smoky and salty dishes at Dept of Culture.

Ideal Wine: Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups, Montlouis-sur-Loire 'Clos du Hochet' 2019

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