This month, we headed to Old Bridge to enjoy Just Restaurant – and we did just that! This well-respected restaurant has been offering clever spins on New American cuisine for more than a decade, and they are going strong. It’s a romantic spot that is equally inviting for families and parties too. The large, illuminated sign on the Tudor-esque building lets you know you’ve arrived. Indoors, there is comfortable seating, interesting but subtle design elements, and soft, pink-hued lighting that is quite complimentary.
There is a chic and stylish bar as well as a wall of wine selections that you can order by the glass or bottle. There is also a huge selection of creatively crafted cocktails like a Sparkling Paloma with Codigo 1530 Rosa tequila, the Strawberry Bandito with jalapeno-infused tequila and strawberry puree, and the creamy Bananas Foster.
Our server welcomed us with a basket of soft, warm house-made pretzel rolls that were sweetened with a honey mustard spread.
We began with three appetizers, each distinctively different and worth trying. Everyone was impressed with the Korean Fried Broccoli with a chili-sesame sauce and yogurt drizzle. They had a lot of flavor and not a lot of heat.
The Shrimp and Crab Tater Tots with spicy Tiger sauce were also a savory surprise. They were more like mini crab cakes, lightly fried and just excellent.
Our third choice was the Spicy Tuna Cones. This whimsical offering is a must. They look like drumstick ice cream cones except these are a sesame miso tulle, stuffed with sushi-grade tuna and a hint of wasabi. The tulle is remarkably crisp and flavorful, and it’s clear they’ve got this unique selection perfected. It’s one you will remember.
Now for the entrées. Diner one chose Farro Island Salmon which is served over rice topped with shrimp and crab stuffing and coated with a garlic lemon sauce. This was one delicious dish. The salmon was so clean tasting, but the standout was that airy mousse-like stuffing on top that didn’t weigh down the dish but added a layer of comfort and flavor.
Diner two went with the fall flavors of the Black Garlic Short Ribs served alongside a creamy potato puree with charred vegetables. The short ribs were melty good, shiny and succulent, but that black garlic really gave the dish a warm and woodsy, almost truffle-like flavor.
Diner three chose the Crab and Shrimp Ravioli. This was a generous portion of well-cooked ravioli with an equally generous amount of crab and shrimp, all swimming in a lobster cream sauce. It combines these three seafood favorites in a most inviting presentation that he enjoyed.
I tried the Braised Lamb Shank with mashed potatoes and a veal demi glaze. I love a shank, and this slow-cooked treat was everything you’d want, but that demi glaze took this dish to a whole other level. It wove all the flavors together and made each bite one you just want to hang onto.
We ordered three desserts, each of which was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. First, was the Nutella Muffin which is served warm with chocolate sauce and strawberries. The creamy, nutty center oozes like a lava cake releasing a punchy burst of the aroma of toasted hazelnuts and Frangelico.
Our second was the playful Oreo Zeppoles. I imagined these would be little dough puffs made with crushed Oreos in batter, but actually they are really like deep-fried Oreo cookies. Each cookie is covered in crispy fried dough. There are four of these fun little reminders of summer days on the boardwalk and the county fair. It would be a great one to share with the kids.
Our third was the Tres Leche Cake which is served with mixed berries. This was tasty and not too sweet, but it had a texture and grain that was closer to an olive oil cake than the silky traditional tres leche cake. In general, the desserts are good, but you may prefer opting for a creamy dessert cocktail instead.
Just Restaurant has lots of different specials. On weekdays, there’s the Social Hours from 4:30 to 6 pm with 50 percent off cocktails and $10 starters. Every Sunday, those tasty Tuna Cones are just $1 with an entrée, and Wednesdays there’s a $29 Waygu Burger, glass of wine or beer, and dessert special. They even offer 10 percent off to early parties of 10 or more who book before 6 pm, and you can host a party there. The menu has gluten-free and vegetarian selections, and the building is handicapped accessible.
Cost – Moderate
What we liked- The innovative and tasty twists on the menu, the romantic and relaxing atmosphere, the big parking lot, the big drink menu and lavish restrooms.
Just Restaurant is located at 2280 Route 9 in Old Bridge. 732-707-4800. It is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 4:30 to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 4:30 to 9:30, Sunday 3:30 to 9 pm, and closed Tuesday. JustRestauantNJ.com.