I had an absolutely perfect evening at Union Square Cafe. I don't know why this restaurant has fallen off the CH radar. It's sort of a perfect restaurant in many ways.
First, the service. The staff is attentive in a way that is constantly present and available, but never stuffy or pretentious. Our waitress had some personality, she wasn't just a formal drone of discretion and good service. But she also possessed a perfect gauge of how much to engage, and how much space to give. The food was delivered in perfectly timed intervals, and there was always somebody nearby to tend to us.
Second, the environment. I hadn't been in years and I'd forgotten how much I love that back room. Elegant and lively, it feels like old New York to me. Like you'd see Bobby Short eating at the next table. (Though I doubt he left the Upper East all that often.)
Third, the food. We had some of the freshest and most buttery oysters I've ever had. Then, the beet green bruschetta was so flavorful and well balanced. I had the calamari with spicy anchovy aioli, which was a hit with the whole table. Tender and not too heavy with the batter. I had their famous lamb chops as my entree, and they certainly lived up to their reputation. I haven't savored a dish like that for a long time. I think I paused with every single bite... I really had something of a love affair with that dish. For dessert, the blueberry pie with corn ice cream was quite nice. The pie was good, but the ice cream was spectacular. Just enough depth of sweet corn flavor, while still maintaining a kind of, how do I put it, icy brightness.
What a lovely night. I love Union Square Cafe!
Union Square Cafe
21 East 16th St., New York, NY 10003