|4710 East 5th St.
Austin, TX 78702
Justine’s is a neat, little French brasserie out on East 5th that is suffice to say, kind of “way out” there. When I first logged on to their website and saw the rather unique visual presentation, I had the same thought. But then I remembered, “Ah, they are French. Tres bien!” What else would I have expected?
I’ll tell you one thing you can expect at Justine’s: and that’s a meal that will linger with you as mine have. The Escargot is simply a delight: there is no other way to describe it. It is done in the classic French style with butter and garlic and of course, fresh French bread for dipping up what’s left. And the dipping up part is as much fun, and perhaps more, than what comes first. That’s how spot on the tastes are. And it’s been some time since I’ve had a really nicely steamed Artichoke with drawn butter. But Justine’s lights up this simple dish. Each leaf just gets better and better as you dip and enjoy until you reach pay dirt, the amazing heart of the artichoke. Justine’s has restored my passion for artichokes. And they can handle the Asperges Grillees or grilled asparagus nicely as well. There is nothing worse than asparagus in the hands of the unskilled: and frankly, nothing better than a restaurant like Justine’s that understands the delicate nuances of the essential preparation.
Any French brasserie worth its salt must have excellent soups. On my last visit we had a lovely cold Tomato puree that was to die for. The flavors were perfect, and I am not normally a fan of cold soups or of Vichyssoise but I am at Justine’s. The Onion Soup is another classic. This is a soup that I’ve seen mangled literally dozens of times but at Justine’s it is quite simply: blissful. I believe the onions were Vidalias (I got the sweetness) and the Gruyere was beautifully blended.
The entrees at Justine’s are simple in preparation and execution. But the flavors, as is the key to great French fare, are riveting. Consider, if you will the Steak Frittes. I have a weakness for this dish to begin with (it all began in a little café outside Moulin Rouge) and Justine’s version is essential. The steak is perfectly marbled and grilled and the amazing pommes frittes (crispy French fries) are simply destined to go with the steak on this plate. Ooh la la! The Pork Chops (Cote du Porc) are equally delicious. Again, the simple beauty of French preparation can be observed in the lovely tastes extant in this dish. Each bite has a flavor forward component that lingers for decadent moments. A thing of beauty to be sure. And the Fillet de Poisson was another really nice preparation: but then its kind of hard to mess up a fillet of fish sautéed in clarified butter. Some hericots verts (green beans) on the side were tasty and aldente. And trust me, try the Ratatouille. It reminds me of the French countryside and the flavors of this stew of vegetables are authentic and delicious.
So Justine’s is out in the middle of nowhere? It just goes again, to prove that location is indeed overrated. The hour wait on most nights stands in mute testimony to that!