Seemingly sneaking in under the radar, noted Singaporean chef Justin Quek opened a new restaurant on Monday in Taipei’s high-end XinYi District. The new Just In Bistro & Wine Bar fills a niche for those looking for a casual, yet quality dining experience at a reasonable price.
Quek operates two other restaurants in Taipei — another Just In Bistro and Justin’s Signature. The new Just In Bistro & Wine Bar will be one step up from the original one, but still not as formal as Justin’s Signature. Quek describes his new venture as “Bistronomic” a combination of high-end gastronomic offerings, but at bistro prices in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. The cuisine is Franco-Asian, playing on his extensive experience with both French and Asian cuisine.
We stumbled upon the grand opening notice on Sunday and somehow managed to get seats for Monday night’s grand opening festivities. Just In Bistro features bar seating at the front of the restaurant and a small dining room at the rear. There is a private room that will be available for booking soon and even a show kitchen. The dining room is small, with only 8 or so tables.
Within minutes of being seated, Chef Justin Quek came over to talk to us. He talked about his vision and about his food sources. He is working with local farmers to provide the freshest of ingredients and all seafood is locally caught. There is an entire oyster menu that includes delicate offerings imported from France. One page of the menu includes some classic and signature Singaporean dishes. In trying to keep a local tie in wherever possible, Quek also shared that the artwork on the various pages of the menu was designed by a local Taiwanese artist.
After discussing the dishes for a few minutes with Chef Quek, he offered to put together a special menu and individual wine pairings for the evening. This is always our preferred way to go rather than ordering straight off the menu as you get a real feel for the chef’s talents and specialties.
Baked “Le Creuset” Egg Cocotte, Fricassee of Mushrooms, Homemade Duck Foie Gras Torchon and Truffle Scented Mushroom Jus(NT $270)
Wine: Vueve Clicquot, Yellow Label, Brut Champagne
Infused with a wide variety of flavors, this definitely set the bar high. The egg was cooked perfectly with a runny yolk — the perfect compliment with foie gras. The foie gras is homemade and in this dish it is a torchon, which means it is wrapped in a towel (torchon) and poached. Many of Chef Quek’s dishes have a strong French influence as he worked in France for a number of years.
Breaded “Wu Gu” Bamboo Shoot, Mayo & Truffle Salt(NT $280)
Wine: Vueve Clicuot, Yellow Label, Brut Champagne
Our next course was a special dish that won’t always be available on the menu — bamboo shoots. Much like the European white asparagus season, Taiwan is known for its white bamboo shoots that are cooked in a variety of different ways.
The type of Taiwan bamboo is “Wu Gu”, regarded as the best available on the island and comes from the Wugu region near Taipei City. The season just started this week and each day, harvested bamboo shoots are being auctioned off and sold on roadside stands.
If you have the opportunity to visit Just In Bistro soon, be sure to try this before it’s off the specials board and not available again. The breading on the bamboo is so light and airy, and rather than overpowering the delicate sweetness of the bamboo shoot, it simply enhances it. The light bit of truffle salt and the drizzle of mayo really elevate this traditional Taiwanese culinary staple.
Capellini with sauteed crabmeats “Marco Polo” (Starter NT $480 and Main $680)
Wine: Casa Lapostolle, Chardonnay
This was a dish that we probably would’ve never ordered on our own as we tend to skip over pastas, especially when they involve seafood. After a few bad experiences in Taiwan, we’ve become quite skeptical ordering pasta out.
I’m thrilled we let Chef Justin surprise us as this was a phenomenal dish. The capellini was so tender and light and he told us he used the aromatic oils from the crab shell. Each bite was like a mouthful of succulent, sweet crab. Justin discussed that the name for this dish comes from the explorer Marco Polo — there was a romantic theory that he brought noodles back from China and introduced them to Italy. While that myth is considered debunked, there is definitely some truth that Marco Polo bridged a gap between Europeans and Asians.
Wok Fried Whole Pepper Maine Lobster Served with Steamed Jasmine Rice (NT $1980)
Wine: Schloss Vollards, Riesling Kabinett
When the wine was poured for this course, we still had no idea what we were being served. Since it was a Riesling, we certainly expected something on the spicy side and sine Chef Justin had talked about the pepper Main lobster, we were hoping.
Sure enough, we had a whole Maine lobster that was wok fried with a pepper sauce. It was absolutely one of the best lobster dishes I’ve had. The lobster was so tender, so sweet, and the pepper sauce was not nearly as spicy as I expected. It was much lighter than what I’ve typically had with the Singaporean chili crab.
Le Creuset Skillets Souffle (NT $480)
Grand Marnier Navan Vanilla Cognac
I am a souffle fanatic and this exceeded all my wildest souffle dreams. Made in a skillet, it is a one-of-a-kind souffle that is big enough for 2 or 3 people to share. The current seasonal offering is apricot with an apricot sauce on top. The souffle literally melted in our mouths and it more resembled a toasted marshmallow than the egg consistency in many souffles.
If the souffle was not over-the-top by itself, it was paired with a very special liqueur — Navan Vanilla Cognac, which is made by Grand Marnier, and according to Chef Justin, he is the only person who has it right now in Taiwan. It was served in a wine glass with two small ice cubes and it went down so smoothly — I am definitely going to be on the hunt for this on our next trip outside of Taiwan.
At this point, we obviously assumed we were done but we turned around to find another dessert being brought over to us!
Old Fashioned Crepes Suzette with Vanilla Ice Cream (NT $460)
Another dish that Chef Justin is very proud of is his Old Fashioned Crepes Suzette with homemade vanilla ice cream. Traditional Crepes Suzette feature a beurre Suzette, a sauce that is made from caramelized sugar and butter, has orange juice, zest, and an orange flavored liqueur, served flambe. What a treat.
Black Tea Chocolate Truffle Mint (NT $145)
It was time for coffee and tea and I was rather smitten with a few of the tea offerings — especially the chocolate truffle mint tea. This is definitely a tea I wish was served by the pot, not by the cup!
Justin Quek’s Private Wine Selection
Something I did not mention yet is that Justin Quek has his own private label wine made by an Australian winemaker. We were curious about it on the menu and he instantly offered to open a bottle and let us try some. We were on the lobster course and he said it would pair well with it, which came as a bit of a surprise. However, it did pair quite well and the peppery flavor of the lobster really enhanced the smoky notes in the wine.
For those interested in the wine, it is called JQ and is made by Phillip Jones from Bass Phillip in South Gippsland, Australia. It is a small production and retails at Just In Bistro & Wine Bar for $3,600 NT. We took the opportunity to purchase a bottle and have him sign it.
There is a magnum private label Riesling for $4,600 NT, but sadly, it has not arrived yet — we were told it’s still on the boat in transport.
Overall, we were rather impressed with the new Just In Bistro and couldn’t thank Chef Justin Quek for treating us to one of the most personalized and enjoyable dinners we’ve had. He even took the time to print out our specialized menu with wine pairings that we could take home, which we had signed as well. It is not often that a grand opening goes that smoothly and is devoid of major hiccups and issues — quite a testament to the quality staff he has in place.
Since we had such an enjoyable dinner and Justin was leaving on the 22nd for a wine event in New Zealand, we decided to come back just a day later to try a few more specialty items and have the opportunity to enjoy Quek’s company. Look for our return visit details in a subsequent post since we tried even more dishes the second time around.
Congrats to Justin Quek and his talented staff on a flawless grand opening and bringing another gem to Taipei’s burgeoning culinary scene.
Just In Bistro & Wine Bar (XinYi District)
No 30, Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City 110
Telephone: +886 2 8786 2000
Hours: 11am Bar (light meals) 12:00-14:00 lunch, 14:00-18:00 drinks, 18:00-22:00 dinner, 22:00-00:00 midnight snacks
Credit cards accepted
Located inside the NEO19 停車場 entertainment/dining complex
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