Review of Justine’s Table
By Rachel Lebeaux – Justine’s Table in Wellesley opened last fall, and it didn’t take long for now-executive chef Felipe El Karim to bring his sensibilities to the kitchen.
“A lot of people think healthy food is boring,” El Karim said. “My philosophy is to be healthy, and bring nice flavors as well.”
Justine’s Table is focused squarely on classic American recipes. The restaurant looks to source produce from local farms and seafood from local fisheries. “Everything is nice and fresh, so see what you like,” said El Karim, who hails from Minas Gerais, Brazil, and credits his family with raising and grooming him in the restaurant business.
Justine’s Table is seated on Route 9 eastbound adjacent to the Natick border. The exterior is sterile, but the dining room is welcoming, cavernous yet classy, with wide berths between individual booths and tables. There’s a fireplace, a grand baby piano and a mahogany bar, all lending to a refined, country-clubbish feel.
Drinks & Appetizers: Justine’s Table is BYOB; the corkage fee is $1 per beer, $3 per cocktail and $6 per bottle of wine. We picked up a last-minute pinot noir from Nine East Wine Emporium, a very short walk down Route 9 over the Natick border.
The dip that accompanied the complimentary bread was one of the high points of the meal – and that’s not to denigrate the later courses, but to convey just how much we enjoyed this dip. It blended extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, parmesan cheese, herbs and Kalamata olives – and a few other ingredients too, El Karim told us, but “I can’t give it all away.” Smooth, clean and flavorful, the dip was addictive, and we had to push the bread basket away to ensure we wouldn’t fill up on it.
From the appetizers, the baked brie ($11) was a three-part compote presided over by super-crusty French bread. The compote offered sweet strawberry jam, candied maple walnuts and a large helping of softened brie. Although it was the beginning of the meal, this was practically dessert – very filling and decadent.
Justine’s crostini ($11) was a treat: a crisped, chewy flatbread topped with pulled Angus prime rib meat and rich gorgonzola. Topped with tangled strings of fried red onions and slathered in a truffle balsamic glaze, the rich flavors mingled and complemented without overwhelming one another. A spray of greens dressed in olive oil and salt came on the side.
The twin Maryland backfin meat crab cakes ($12) were fried golden on the outside and packed tight with shredded crab meat and slivers of chives, peppers and herbs. A dab of the dilly tartar sauce was the perfect accompaniment. The side fruit salad, cubed pears poached in red wine, brought a mild, delectable sweetness and a pretty purple hue.
The wedge salad ($8), a steakhouse staple, confirmed that it’s hard to go wrong with blue cheese dressing and bacon. Tomato wedges fanned around the rim of the plate added a nice visual element, too. The beet salad featured fresh, earthy beets and goat cheese crumbles laced with walnuts and a Dijon citrus dressing.
Entrees: Ordering the seafood linguini ($29) was a no-brainer, especially given El Karim’s glowing description of the dish. First, from the sea: jumbo sea scallops, jumbo shrimp, Maine lobster meat, haddock, clams and mussels atop a bed of linguine. Then, the seasoning: extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, shallots, fresh basil, parsley, lemon juice, white wine, clam juice, a little butter, salt and pepper. Some of the seafood was overcooked a touch, but the variety, quantity and flavoring of the fishy stew coalesced very nicely.
The chicken piccata ($23) was more Greek than your typical piccata, with three big medallions showered in chopped tomatoes, parsley, basil, white wine, capers and lemon juice. On the side were a savory smoked Gouda potato pancake and crisp sugar snap peas. It was light and healthful; and if you miss the mushrooms often served with piccata, order a side of meaty portabella mushrooms bathed in truffle oil, with almost a chocolate-y depth to them.
Dessert: The triple mousse layered circular tiers of white, milk and dark chocolate into something resembling a grown-up ice cream cup. It was frozen to a buttery texture, which melted in our mouths, but that made it hard to get at — we had to chip away with our utensils to obtain a respectable spoonful. It was well worth the effort: The sumptuous mousse with crowned with white chocolate shavings, drizzled with raspberry sauce and served with more of those red-wine-poached pears, whipped cream, candied walnuts and a colorful mango-pineapple salsa.
Assessment: Justine’s Table offers a fine American menu, with the seafood particularly standout, and we suspect the steak dishes are very good, too. The atmosphere lends itself to the feeling of a private club, and while the restaurant is still finding its footing in terms of refining some dishes and perfecting service, it’s primed and ready for your special night or brunch out.
Address: 978 Worcester Street, Wellesley MA 02482
Price: $5 – $32
Hours: Mon-Thu: 5m-9pm; Fri & Sat: 5m-10pm; Sunday: 10am-2pm
Features: Function room, private catering services, BYOB, Sunday jazz brunch series, fireplace, “100 Club” program, providing wine caddy service and storage and other benefits.
Recommendations: Bread & olive oil starter, Justine’s crostini, crab cakes, seafood linguini, chicken piccata, triple mousse
Parking: on-site parking
Payment Options: Major credit cards
Tagged American fare, appetizers, baked brie, BYOB, chef Felipe El Karim, chicken piccta, crab cakes, Justine's Table, linguini, Rachel Lebeaux, restaurant, review, seafood, TableCritic Inc, triple mousse, wedge salad, Wellesley