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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bistro Justine Restaurant Review

This past Friday I went out to catch up with my good friend Roxy and she took me to her favourite restaurant. Since Roxy has great taste in restaurants I was really looking forward to this meal and it did not disappoint.
Justine’s is a bistro owned by a Frenchman. His aim is to have a restaurant as close to a Parisian bistro as possible on this side of the pond and I would say that he has succeeded. The restaurant is small but very intimate. I loved the decor with the exposed stone walls and the muted lighting.
Bistro Justine is also a well stocked wine bar. They have a huge selection of wines from all around the world available by the glass. Unfortunately I know next to nothing about wine other than the fact that I don’t like white wine.
I explained to the waiter that I usually take Bordeaux but that I wanted to try something different and he said he had an idea of what he was going to bring me. The waiter poured me some wine but I found that it was too dry so he brought a second bottle which was perfect. The bistro gets their stock from their own private importers so they have a lot of hard to find bottles. I have to add though that the service was impeccable, the waiters are very welcoming and helpful. They do not rush you and they take their time answering any questions that you might have. Roxy has been going there for years and said that they have had the same people for years which is no surprise given how good they are. 
I liked their wine glasses with their names etched on.
While we were waiting for our food we munched on some bread. It was really good quality, it tasted almost like sourdough. The butter was rock hard though. It’s a small pet peeve of mine in restaurants when the butter is stone cold and you have to scrape it over your bread.
The menu is very reasonably priced with small “French sized” portions. As Roxy said, the portion sizes are the real reason that French women don’t get fat.
To start off Roxy ordered the foie gras crème brulee which is basically a foie gras mousse with a caramelized sugar topping. I personally have a thing against sweet and savoury mixed together so I just tried a bit of the mousse on a piece of bread and it was delicious; very smooth with an excellent taste.
I ordered trouted salmon gravlax with fennel salsa. This was great, the fish was excellent and matched perfectly with the salsa.
It sounds crazy but I was really impressed with the dicing on the salsa, everything was perfectly uniform in size. From what I could make out it had raw fennel, French shallots and pieces of fresh orange in a citrus dressing. I was really pleased with this dish.
To follow up we both had the blue marlin tataki niçoise. This was a bit of a miss, although I have to say that I have yet to have a good salad in a restaurant. The quality of the fish was acceptable but the lettuce was the same spring mix that every single supermarket stocks and the dressing was too heavy on the vinegar. I remember Jamie Oliver saying that he found that even at ultra posh restaurants that salads were an afterthought on the menu. I can’t judge too harshly though since the fact that we are in the middle of winter probably puts a dent in the availability of salad greens and veggies.
I rarely order steak in restaurants bit I decided to give the filet mignon a try. I loved the presentation for all the dishes, very chic.
To accompany the steak there was gratin dauphinoise cut in a perfect square.
Ratatouille, which strangely enough had no tomatoes.
and a wine pan sauce.
On the bottom of the steak there were sautéed snow peas and mushrooms. Overall I was happy with this main course, The gratin had perfect super thin layers and the ratatouille was good and not greasy at all. The absence of tomatoes allowed the more subtle flavours of the zucchini, red and orange peppers, eggplants and onions to shine through. The pan sauce was delicious and I dunked every piece of steak in it. The only slight downside was the steak itself. I had asked for medium and it came closer to done, as well it was completely unseasoned. I always season my steaks with sea salt and pepper so plain steaks always surprise me. Without fail I usually have trouble with the “doneness” in restaurants since medium can either be practically raw at one place and nearly done at another.
There were some amazing sounding desserts but Roxy and I were too stuffed to order anything else. The price was extremely good, for a glass of wine, appetizer, salad and steak main course I paid 44$ including tax and tip. This is a place that has what I consider honest food. There is a lot of attention to detail and while the food is beautifully presented it is not a stuffy, pretentious restaurant. The atmosphere is very welcoming and it is an excellent place to relax with a good friend for a long dinner and a good chat.
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