Dinner this evening was at the newly-opened JustIN Gastro Cafe & Bar on Level 4 of Tang Plaza, taking over the space once occupied by the long-standing Island Cafe .
Owned by Justin Quek, Singapore’s first celebrity-chef, the eponymously-named eatery opened last Wed, 16 Aug, and was the latest in a long line of business ventures which Justin Quek dabbled in ever since his ground-breaking stint at Les Amis back in 1994.
Through the decades, I’d always tried to dine at all his restaurants in Singapore, and around the region: La Petite Cuisine in Taipei back in 2004, and his trio of eateries in Shanghai’s Xintiandi dining precinct: French eatery La Platane, a fine-dining Chinese restaurant Villa du Lac, and casual eatery, Fountain in 2005/2006.
Justin Quek’s pre-COVID eateries included Sky on 57, Chinoiserie and Justin Flavours of Asia at Marina Bay Sands, now all closed, as Justin sought to trim down and consolidate his business.
JustIN is pitched at Singaporeans, and feature both French and local dishes familiar to us, most given a touch of luxury. Our dinner:
Fresh crabmeat capellini “LKY” - Justin Quek has cooked for the founder of modern-Singapore and first Prime Minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, many times throughout his career - including private family dinners at the Minister Mentor’s home.
This dish was a personal favourite of Lee Kuan Yew, and is Justin’s tribute to the late statesman who shaped Singapore to be what it is today.
The pasta was al dente and dressed in a light crabmeat-lobster accented sauce, with fresh herbs. A simple, straightforward dish, executed perfectly.
𝘊𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘪𝘨’𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 “𝘗𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘦” - braised pig’s trotters, sauteed duck-liver foie gras, wild mushrooms, potato mousseline, thyme jus.
This dish was sheer magic, and showed why Justin Quek was able to remain at the top of his game over 4 decades. Each of the myriad components of this dish was cooked to perfection.
𝘚𝘪𝘨𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘨𝘪𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘱𝘦𝘳 (Mandarin: “𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘢𝘯”) 𝘤𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘺, with eggplant, cherry tomatoes, okra and curry leaves. 𝘚𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤 𝘣𝘢𝘴𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘪 𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘦 was served on the side.
A strong Tamilian curry spice mix used - very familiar to Singaporeans - was evident here, and combination of very fresh fish fillets and vegetables, with the intense heavily-spiced gravy, given a stab of sourness with the use of tamarind, gave this dish an assertiveness which was hard to resist.
We ate too much, and had to skip the dessert here. Definitely coming back!
JustIN Gastro Cafe | Bar
310 Orchard Rd, Level 4 Tang Plaza, Singapore 238864
Tel: +65 6908 3003
Operating hours: 11am to 11pm Mon to Thu,
10am to 11pm Fri to Sun.