Opened last April in the East District (東區), Just In Bistro & Wine Bar is the new project of chef Justin Quek (郭文秀), who runs French restaurants in Shanghai, Taipei and his native Singapore. Just In offers French comfort food with a few upscale twists. It serves bistro basics like steak and pomme frites — but in Just In’s case, the steak is premium Wagyu beef. A comprehensive wine list, posh but intimate setting, late opening hours and a menu with a wide range of price points adds to the bistro’s flexibility as a gathering place for different occasions.
We kicked off our dinner with a double dip appetizer (NT$120), one of Just In’s daily specials last weekend. The dish came with several slices of toasted baguette to spread with two dips, one avocado-based and another that resembled refined hummus. The latter far outshone its guacamole-like companion, which was not as rich as we expected and derived very little flavor from the bland avocado. The hummus, made with delicious and fragrant olive oil, was surprisingly piquant and satisfyingly thick. Our second plate of tapas was a jar of chicken and duck foie gras pate and port wine jelly with toast (NT$380). The pate was wonderfully silky, with the jelly lending a bit of complexity to the savory foie gras. The jar contained an abundant serving, but unfortunately came with only six small slices of toasted baguette, which meant we had to order more toast at additional cost (we had the same problem with the double-dip appetizer).
Our main courses were Just In’s take on two French bistro classics, pan-roasted duck confit and sauteed mushrooms (NT$490) and grilled wagyu rump steak with French fries (NT$690). The duck was very good, not too salty or too oily, but still decadently rich. It was still no competition, however, for the rump steak. Meat from Wagyu cattle, originally bred in Japan, is known for its extensive marbling and superlative texture and flavor, all of which were evident in Just In’s dish. The steak, cooked medium rare, cut like butter and was just as tender. The thick pomme frites were also good, but seemed almost beside the point when compared to the awesomeness of the Wagyu beef.
Address: 33, Ln 181, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路四段181巷33號) Telephone: (02) 8771-9297
Open: Noon to midnight; opens at 5:30pm on Mondays
Average meal: NT$900
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted; NT$500 minimum charge per diner
Just In offers a two-for-one happy hour every evening from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, but with a catch: both drinks have to be the daily cocktail. On our visit it was “Fragrance,” an in-house creation that features heavy use of Midori melon liqueur and was, expectedly, very sweet. My mistake was drinking it as an aperitif, when I should have saved it for dessert. My companion, after consulting with one of the waiters, chose a glass of Chateau du Moulin 2002 (NT$330), a French wine. It was dry and crisp, and an unobtrusive companion to the Wagyu steak.
If you are a fan of wine, make sure to ask the waitstaff for suggestions. The restaurant’s manager is also a sommelier and glasses of wine start at a reasonable NT$160.
Lunch is served from noon to 2:30pm, afternoon tea from 2:30pm to 5:30pm and dinner from 6pm to 10pm. Happy hour is 5:30pm to 7:30pm, and the wine bar is open (with tapas served) from 5:30pm to midnight.