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rainy night at Union

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rainy night at Union

MC Slim JB | Mar 31, 2004 11:17 PM

A raw, rainy night seemed like a good time to visit the oh-so-hot Union, grab a seat at the bar, and graze a bit for dinner. It was surprisingly full, though not four-deep at the bar as it is on most nights now. Had a cocktail while waiting for two bar seats to open up, lucked out by getting seated at our favorite table in far corner of the bar, an angled number that's great for crowd-watching.

Having mostly eaten my way through the menu here, I finally tried the famed 10K tuna, so-called because the chef allegedly won a $10,000 prize with this recipe. For $27, you get a pound-sized, nearly 2"-thick hunk of sashimi-grade tuna with an interesting, rather Western spice coating, barely warmed. It's a beautiful piece of fish, but I was hard-pressed to imagine what floored those contest judges. Lovely, but not mind-boggling. I couldn't help thinking what kind of knife-work and other magic an Uni chef might have applied to that steak.

The half of Steele Syrah ($24) worked nicely with it: I'm always glad to find a decent, fairly-priced wine on this slightly expensive and sadly all-American wine list.

Any feeling of being underwhelmed by the storied tuna entree was quickly subsumed by a truly beautiful cheese plate, $18, six selections and accompaniments. I recall a triple-cream, an aged Cheddar, a Spanish blue (not quite Cabrales-intense, but slightly dizzying), a hard salty number (a Ricotta salata, maybe?), and a softish goat cheese. These came with matching fruity bits, including figs, quince paste, and assorted berries. Quite wonderful, and they were happy to bring me plain bread rounds to replace the heavily herbed and oiled toasts that came with the plate. A glass of Bonny Doon dessert wine was almost overkill at that point, but it's worth noting that that Union doesn't do the annoying stingy dessert-wine pour that I see at many places.

Bar and table service was super-efficient and friendly as ever: these folks really have that aspect of the restaurant experience nailed. A very pleasant mid-week alternative to home cooking, though straying into the entree section of the menu made it much more of a splurge. If you can beat the crowds to snag a seat or table in the bar, and then stick to apps, this place is a bargain.

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