Huh. I've had these pictures up since (last) Tuesday? You don't say!
This happens more often than I'd like to admit. We go somewhere cool, I edit the pictures, put them up on Flickr, and then can't think of a good way to open the post. Sometimes, I'll just skip talking about the place, but Justine's was so much fun that I can't possibly do that!
Justine's is brand new, WAY far over on the east side of town, and too cool for school. I wish they were a little closer to us, because it's open hyperlate - dinner until 1:30 in the morning! We went to check it out on our friend Susie's birthday a couple of weeks back.
Unfortunately, I have to apologize for the quality of these pictures. The place is dripping with ambience. Sexy, dark, photography-unfriendly ambience.
Susie and I grabbed a tall table on which to rest our purses while we waited for a place to sit, and Logan went to locate us a drink. A round of French 75's, please!
Mine even came with a lemon seed garnish. Not delicious. The drinks were fine, lemony and fizzy.
After a relatively short wait, we were led to a table up at the very front of the restaurant. The extremely harried waitress greeted us with a "Well, this has been a terrible night. Do you see how busy we are?" I appreciated the honesty.
The menu is full of French bistro classics, again something we don't have enough of here in town. We started out with a white asparagus and sabayon appetizer.
This was served piping hot, which was a bit of a surprise. A further surprise was that the heat didn't cause the sabayon to break. The asparagus were toothsome and tender and nicely complemented by the rich sabayon, but I'd much rather have this closer to room temperature. I guess I could just wait for it to cool down, right? But I'm lazy. And hungry.
Next, a solid rendition of a classic, escargot in a parsley butter sauce. This was Susie's first escargot, and she fell completely in love.
We ordered two entrees, a very good steak tartare with a serious hot garlic kick and a ooey gooey quail yolk resting on top,
and a duck confit. We were split on the confit, which had a very strong star anise flavor. I liked the asian spicing, but Logan and Susie both thought it was much too strong and took away from the flavor of the duck.
You'll notice both entrees came with frites - these were awesome. Crispety, crunchety, thin and fried, with real potato flavor and the perfect level of saltiness. I asked for a side of aioli to dip them in, and ten minutes later it hadn't arrived. Our waitress stopped by and said "Aw, hey, did you get your side of mayo?"
When we did get it, the aioli (mayo!) was the perfect accompaniment to the fries.
We also got a cup of the soupe des ardennes, rich with potato and leek.
I liked Justine's, but can't quite bring myself to love it - yet. I think a lot of this has to do with the newness of the place, and the fact that they were completely overwhelmed from day 1. This has led to some bumps in service that I'm sure will smooth out as the waitstaff gets more comfortable. The food was mostly quite good, with a couple of serious standouts (the tartare and the escargot) and just one very near miss (the confit).
My neighbor would like to draw particular attention to the fact that their bread was served with olive oil. I agree that the practice is a bit 1990s and uninspired - where's my delicious French farm butter, Justine?
If you've tried the place, what do you think? Service or food-wise, I'm curious.
Justine's Brasserie is at 4710 E. 5th (see, WAY EAST) in Austin. 512.385.2900. They even have a facebook, if that's the way you like to keep track of your restaurants!