December 9, 2022 | OPINION | By Sam Treat | Photos provided by author
This review may be different than some of my previous musing about cuisine, namely because as I write this, I sit in an apartment in Seville, Spain. As much as I miss the unique charm of Colorado Springs, Spain is a refreshing change of pace. For much less money, I get much better food. Since I know my readers are stuck eating Rastall’s or getting takeout, I decided to write this review about some Spanish fine dining.
Justa Rufina is among the highest rated restaurants in Seville, and I could tell why as soon as I walked in. The ambiance was perfect, with beautiful overhead lighting combined with classy wall lights. In general, the atmosphere was designed to feel exclusive and private for those dining, and I have to say they nailed it.
The artwork was tasteful without being extravagant, and the seating was stylish and comfortable at the same time. The Christmas festivities and decorations have already started going up everywhere here in Spain, so the restaurant had some more winter-holiday themed decor. Despite my Jewish heritage, I did find the mistletoe and holly that adorned the tables to be charming; the same can be said of the jazz covers of famous Christmas songs that played softly, as the perfect backdrop to conversations.
Unlike in the United States, much of Europe does not have a tipping culture. While this might be nice when the check comes, it does make the customer service at many places subpar. At Justa Rufina, there was no such lack of service. The waitstaff was all incredibly friendly, well-dressed, and seemed to speak multiple languages.
Tangentially, seemingly everywhere in Spain, I see well-dressed couples from all corners of the globe. This ‘international love’ phenomenon was particularly present in Justa Rufina, as I was surrounded by beautiful, exceptionally stylish men and women — a stark contrast from many of the restaurants I have frequented in the Springs (love CSprings though!).
As for the food, which many would call an important part of the dining experience, the menu takes much of its inspiration from traditional Spanish dishes and yet still offers a sampling of dishes from across Europe. For instance, the steak tartare (traditionally French) at JR is prepared table side by mixing the traditional raw beef and egg with a piping-hot serving of bone marrow. A few of the other appetizer highlights include oxtail brioche and terreznos.
The oxtail, a specialty in the south of Spain, comes wedged between two perfectly toasted pieces of brioche, topped with a truffle aioli and pickled onions. It is absolutely stupendous, and even the more timid eaters will enjoy this foray into more traditional cuisine.
Terreznos, which I had never heard of, are essentially small pieces of fried bacon. The fact that this dish hasn’t found its way to the U.S. is astounding, as it is essentially pieces of pork fat with a pork rind attached –– delicious and heart-stopping, a perfect American meal.
For the main course, I sampled both the steak entrecote (a sliced ribeye, essentially) and the grilled squid with mellow rice. The steak (which I ordered rare, as everyone should when eating at nicer establishments) came topped with flaky salt, the undisputed best type of salt for any kind of red meat. It was tender, juicy, and the ends had just the right amount of caramelized fat on them.
As someone with a fork and knife tattooed on my body in lieu of a steak (I thought it would be a bit too aggressive), I may be a bit biased when I rave about the properties of red meat, but I did truly enjoy this meal. The potatoes it came with, however, were underwhelming to say the least; advertised as garlic potatoes, there was no garlic flavor or even salt to be had. The mellow rice, which came mixed with pesto, was a bit of a let a down. The rice was undercooked, making it almost crunchy. The pesto flavor and the squid were delicious but couldn’t quite make up for the so-so rice.
As a newly minted 21-year-old, I have discovered just recently the world of alcohol (no, but actually). While I am not a frequent drinker, I decided to partake for the occasion. This will be my first attempt reviewing beverages, so take it all with a grain of salt. The house white wine at Justa Rufina was shallow bodied and sweet with a crisp aftertaste that cleansed the mouth and left you wanting more. It was a high-quality wine, one could tell. The house rosé, unfortunately, was flat and boring with little flavor and a lack of intrigue.
Justa Rufina offers a house cocktail menu, and I sampled their specialty — a ‘Spicy Moscow Mule.’ It was delicious. The ginger beer was indeed spicy (as all ginger beer should be), and the lime did a great job of masking the vodka flavor, which wasn’t strong.
All in all, this was one of the more enjoyable dining experiences I’ve had. Like many European dinners, it began at 9 p.m. and lasted until close to midnight, but that just added to the experience. The food was delectable, except for the rice (which still tasted good, to be fair), and the service never faltered. Justa Rufina is worth checking out if you ever find yourself in delightful Sevilla and the ambiance alone makes it worth stopping in for a drink or two and some oxtail brioche at a minimum.