Can I get an update on Justine's?
I may be headed there this weekend but wanted to know:
1. if the A/C issue is fixed.
2. what's the general take on the staff/service?
3. I understand there are no reservations taken. What can we expect on a Friday or Saturday evening, wait-wise?
I went for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We went on a Wednesday night around 6:30 so we got in with no wait. It definitely filled up as we ate though. We weren't in the middle of the 100º days and it wasn't hot in there at all. But it was a bit of an overcast evening so I can't attest to what it'd be like now.
I had the steak frite, my boyfriend had the steak tartare, we split the ratatouille side and all three were excellent. My friend had the pork chop which was seriously incredible, and her husband had what I think was the Coq au Vin. I didn't try his, so I can't comment. It looked OK but not great. They also had some asparagus which seemed like...well, asparagus. I'd definitely go back for the steak tartare and that pork chop.
Was there earlier this week and there was no problem with the AC, though I was there early in the evening and it wasn't crowded. I had the coq au vin and it was HORRIBLE. I realize that my first mistake was ordering it, as it would be more suitable to cold weather. The chicken was so dry, it tasted like paper. Seriously. The skin was gummy, but the only part of that yard bird with any flavor. My first thought was adding Costco roasted chicken to the papardelle & red wine sauce would be better than this crap. I ate two or three bites and let it sit there. I was not comfortable sending it back due to the company I had there at the time, otherwise I would have.
There was a bug in my salad. It was quickly removed and a new one replaced it. Bugs happen. Bad chicken should never happen. (ugh, I don't even know how to make chicken taste that bad or that dry- it was like a cardboard sahara in my mouth)
One sublime fish, an amazing tartare, another awesome fish with crispy skin, delicious haricot verts, cocktails, fun times, and a bouncy atmosphere all lend to my impression of this place as a rock-and-roll French country-style party house.
Then begin the salt attack.
My last three visits have been marred by salt. Salt. SALT. I love salt. You can't reasonably oversalt me.
The tartare is still a jam. Everything else is so teeth-rattlingly salty, it far surpasses the discomfort re: the weak AC. (Which is weak still. The place is a bakehouse. One rumor I've heard, which I obviously cannot confirm or deny, is that they're happy to move slow fixing the AC, as they don't mind being American Apparelish and the odious heat helps to bake out the heavier folks.)
Justine's insiders: was there head chef turnover? Are there bad nights where the QA slips? Help us! I was one of Justine's biggest fans before a lone salt trauma turned into a salt trend. I've recommended many head J's way, but I'm now rescinding this assessment (and my own attendance) until the salt problems get sorted out.
re: tom in austin
My assumption is that at this time the restaurant cannot afford to replace the current residential-level air conditioning with the necessary commercial-grade system - that could easily run $25,000-$30,000. If you've been to Justine's recently, and felt uncomfortably warm, can you imagine what it must be like back in the kitchen?
re: tom in austin
While I appreciate a commercial system might be expensive I cannot imagine the effect its having on their overall business. We ate at Justine's in June; it was hot, humid and the flies were awful. Bottom line, Texas summers mandate AC.... in my opinion, they can't afford not to replace.
4710 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702
Went last week and it was pleasantly air-conditioned. Quite crowded already on a Monday at 6:30, but able to take our walk-in two top.
Overall, it was a pleasant, if pricey, experience. Sweet interior with lovely marble tables. A bartender actually playing records at the back wall. Very attentive, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic (not annoyingly so) waitress. She recommended two nice glasses of wine: a rosé and pinot grigio from a concise but respectable wine list. They were poured generously. We were brought bread and olive oil, which was good. I wasn't expecting it at a "French brasserie". I shrugged and figured either a) I just don't appreciate that this isn't an entirely Italian move or b) They had decided not to be precious about the whole affair.
Salad was a special: local tomatoes, "handmade" croutons, and hardboiled egg with basil and a cream sauce. The tomatoes were wonderful, if sparse - but the crouton and egg were just... well, what they always are. The sauce however was really divine, and definitely supported the other flavors quite gracefully.
We also got the scallops, which were cooked well, preserving a nice texture that contrasted with the mesculin that accompanied them. But the meat (bacon?) around them and the lack of much other interesting flavor left the whole dish simply salty and oily. I punctuated it with the mustard aioli that came with a side of fries we ordered and it all worked out. Once again, the fries were fries. Nothing revelatory.
Skipped dessert & more wine, but definitely left feeling sated and doted on, if not blown away.
They will accept reservations for parties of six or more. It's hard to predict the wait, but an hour or so is common on weekends, and maybe longer if the weather is bad and no one wants to sit outside. And, I'm curious about the air conditioning problem, too - I'm not going back this summer until it's fixed, or improved, or something.....