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Restaurants & Bars Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Union review

vidkid | | Jul 10, 2009 03:54 PM

Had the pleasure of checking out Union last week. Although I wasn't wowed, I enjoyed the experience and will return in the near future once the opening week dust has settled.

We made reservations two days in advance for a Thursday 8pm seating without trouble. When we arrived, there were many patrons standing around the horseshoe-shaped bar at the front and every table was occupied. It was relatively loud inside but it was a happy, enjoyable din.

My friend and I initially reserved the chef's bar at the back which gives an excellent view of the kitchen. However the seating was rather awkward since your legs can't go under the bar (it's a sloped bar wall). As such, you're left either spreading your legs or sitting to the side in order to eat. As my friend was wearing a dress, neither was a desirable option.

We instead opted for a nearby table and settled down. The friendly waitress brought us two tasty and complimentary glasses of Perrier-Jouet since they ran out of their regular prosecco (I forget the name). They have a short but decent cocktail menu of properly-mixed drinks. We opted for two Tanqueray and tonics.

Their menu is also rather short but well-constructed with several tasty, if safe, options. I'm attaching their dinner and red wine menu. Sorry for the poor picture quality.

We were presented with a bite-sized yet hearty amuse-bouche of fried pickerel on a piece of Ontario bacon on top of a rosti pillow with a sauce resembling hollandaise. It was quite flavorful without the pickerel being too fishy or the bacon too greasy. It wasn't exactly delicate or exquisite, but enjoyable nonetheless.

We shared elk sliders and the summer salad as starters. The elk sliders were a hit, with the meat being flavorful without being too fatty or greasy. The mini burgers sat on triangular pieces of toasted challah (a bit awkward to eat since the patty only sits at one end) which was spread with what tasted like a homemade aioli and topped with crunchy pickle slices. The plate was scatted with a sweet-ish and light galangal glaze which gave an exotic kick to the dish.

The summer salad (which apparently changes daily) was mixed greens with rosti, fried bacon bits, and an entire baked goat cheese round. This dish was a bit of a miss for a few reasons. The greens got soggy from the heat of the cheese and the bacon/rosti inclusion reminded me too much of the amuse. The goat cheese was surprisingly rather bland and my friend found the rind offputting (though I always like a good, stinky rind). It was a somewhat boring dish which I wouldn't order again, even though it's perhaps the only light and "healthy" item on the menu.

We paired the appetizers with a bottle of pinot noir recommended by Christopher, the sommelier. It was an excellent choice and would be a crowd-pleasing pinot noir. It was a harmonious, balanced French pinot that wasn't overly peppery or fruity like some other pinots (often Californian) tend to be.

For the main we split the Cote de Boeuf which looks positively Flinstonian in presentation. A massive bone jutting out of a plate filled with long slices, thinnish slices of prime rib. We ordered it medium rare but it came out rare, a typical French thing if you ask me. Not sure if it was purposeful or not, but it was still to our liking.

The meat was tender but mottled with chunks of fat (perhaps 60-70% was fat). You could excise the meat with relative ease since the fat wasn't particularly flavorful as it sometimes can be. It was nicely broiled or grilled such that they exterior had a nice darkened crust, a nice counterpoint to the meaty goodness inside. We opted for a side of frites which were decently prepared, if not outstanding. Thin, hotly fried and addictive. The seasonal greens were also fine, though I can't remember anything noteworthy about them.

Like the boozehounds we are, we grabbed another bottle to pair with the main. Our server recommended the Cogno (last on the list and fairly priced at $65) which was a fuller-bodied nebbiolo and barbera concoction that paired wonderfully with the meat. It wasn't overwhelming and allowed the meat to shine.

We were too full and toasted for desserts but I'll have to make a return to give them a try.

The service was lopsided but skilled. While we initially waited a long time to place our order, the food came at a perfect pace and once it started, the servers were extremely attentive and friendly. Given that we arrived during their peak hour, it can be forgiven.

The bill came out to $226 for 2 cocktails, 2 appetizers, 1 main (for two), and two bottles of wine. I'd say the price is very fair for what we got. I must make special mention of their wine list which, while small, is economically priced (no bottle over $65) and chosen with expertise.

I'm definitely going to return to this fun, new addition to the Ossington strip.

Union Restaurant
72 Ossington Street
416.850.0093 (not up yet)


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