Restaurant review: Just In Bistro & Wine Bar (at Neo 19)

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Aug 12, 2011 - Page 14

Just In Bistro and Wine Bar, which was opened in Taipei two years ago by Singaporean chef Justin Quek (郭文秀), recently launched its new flagship location on the ground floor of Neo 19. The restaurant features an oyster bar and offers a sleeker ambiance to fit in with its surroundings, but fans of the original Just In Bistro near the corner of Civic Boulevard and Dunhua South Road might miss its warmer, more intimate atmosphere and daily tapas specials.

The new space is much larger and features an anteroom with a large, circular bar. An array of premium spirits and liquors are lined up on tall glass shelves, while a small seafood bar in the center displays imported oysters. The dining room is decorated

in white, with pink and green plush upholstery and heavy beaded curtains.

Our server informed us that the new location’s goal is to feature more fusion cooking. In addition to the usual French bistro offerings like duck confit with salad and sauteed potatoes (NT$720), baked escargot (NT$480 for a dozen) and steak served with pomme frites (NT$1,320), the menu also has an “Asian inspired” section with offerings like laksa (a Malay stew) with half a Maine lobster (NT$970). The tapas menu at the new location is relatively short compared with that of the original Just In Bistro, which had daily specials, but it still features some of the restaurant’s best sellers like homemade chicken and duck foie gras pate with Armagnac jelly (NT$350) and grilled king oyster mushrooms (NT$120).

Just In Bistro’s selection of imported oysters changes daily; they’re served on a bed of ice with lemon, shallots and red wine vinegar and cocktail sauce. We ordered six French Breton oysters (NT$1,250 or NT$220 each) because our server said they were stronger in flavor than the other selections. We were not disappointed. Each oyster was served with its briny liquor and needed no extra flavorings — a good thing, because Just In Bistro’s selection of sauces, which included ketchup mixed with Tabasco sauce, was lacking.

My main course was the braised lamb shoulder with mousseline potatoes and ratatouille (NT$650), while my companion ordered Angus beef sirloin (NT$1,320), which was described on the menu as having been fed for 300 days with grain and weighing in at 220g. It came with salad and frites. Both meats were tender and delicious, though the sides were forgettable.

My companion paired his meal with a glass of 2006 Casa Lapostolle merlot (NT$280) from Chile, while I ordered a 2010 Torres Vina Esmerelda Moscatel Gewurztraminer from Spain (NT$220 for a glass). The dregs of the merlot were poured into his glass before the woman serving us our wine walked away with a muttered “sorry.” Since she did not return for several minutes, we pondered calling our main waitress over to ask for a new glass, but our wine server finally reappeared with a freshly opened bottle, which she used to fill up the glass of merlot. That was the only hiccup in Just In Bistro and Wine Bar’s otherwise excellent service.