Last night rtb and I finally celebrated violaleeblue’s early August birthday with dinner at Justine’s on Hudson. None of us knew much about it. We had to have an early dinner because there were few reservations left for the day we wanted. It’s a small restaurant/wine bar in the West Village. I was the first to arrive and the only person in the place for a bit. By the time we left the restaurant was crowded.
They have a small wine by the glass and cocktail menu. There is a more extensive wine by the bottle menu but I only glanced at it.
rtb got a Cucumber Gimlet, which came in an interesting looking glass. I asked for a dry white and the waiter recommended the Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Blanc, which was buttery, and the Luigi Ferrando, Erbaluce di Caluso “Cascina Cariola.” I decided to have the French wine first and for my second glass of wine, I had the Italian. Both were excellent.
We decided to share three appetizers and then each have our own entrée, which we would let each take a bite of. When I first sat down the hostess explained to me that the owner has a farm upstate. He brings the fresh produce to the restaurant and the chef then decides what to make, so the menu is always changing. They gave us some delicious crusty bread with olive oil to start.
For our appetizers we chose the Heirloom Tomatoes, Scallop Ceviche, and Crispy Eggplant.
There were at least three different types of tomatoes in the dish along with some sliced fruit and it was all covered with ginseng vinegar. I really liked the ginseng vinegar – it was sweeter than expected. The cashews brought a nice crunch to what could have been a soggy dish. The ceviche was sweet and herbaceous. The eggplant got its crunchiness from the shallots and bit from the skin. The green curry gave it a fishy taste, which was a surprise when I put it in my mouth.
Our entrées were Black Sesame Polenta, Spicy Crab Risotto, and Garlic Chicken. The bite of rtb’s chicken was cooked perfectly. And violaleeblue’s risotto was one of the crabbiest bites I have ever had, and I mean that in a good way. My polenta was dark from the black sesame seeds, which I think added an earthiness to the polenta in addition to a nuttiness, and it had kernels of sweet corn in the middle under the poached egg. I waited to mix the egg with the polenta. I only ate half because I was a full and wanted room for dessert. The other half made a perfect breakfast.
They only had three desserts, so we got all three to share. My favorite was the Milk Pudding. In addition to the bits of honeydew, there were also slices of pineapple. My least favorite was the Chocolate Cremeaux because I am not a boba fan and neither the chocolate nor nuts made the dish palatable for me. As for the ice cream – that is always a favorite. The caramel ice cream flavor was overpowered by the espresso but for me that was a plus.
I was unfamiliar with all the dessert wines except for the Sauternes, which is not one of favorites. I asked the waiter about the sweetness of the listed wines, and he confessed that he had never tried the first on the list (Giuseppe Attanasio, Primitivo di Manduria Dolce) but had heard it was good. I decided to try it and it was very good (he had a taste before he brought it over and said it was good before he poured it). It tasted similar to a Port or Madeira. I do not think I will remember the name for the future but I hope to run into this wine somewhere again.
As always, the company and conversation were as good as the food.
By Carene Lydia Lopez