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Union Square Cafe dinner last night

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Union Square Cafe dinner last night

dkstar1 | Jan 27, 2004 09:32 AM

4 down, 1 to go in Danny Meyer's restaurants. Last nights dinner was fantastic but had its pros and cons. There were four of us last night and was able to try just about everything, so here goes...

Apps.

Porcini Gnocchi
w/prosciutto, cremini mushroom, red chard and parmigiano reggiano

Yum! This was delicious and melted in your mouth. I've been disappointed with some of the city's gnocchi lately but had to give this a try. The plating, reminiscent of an escargot plating, was interesting, but the sauce was velvety smooth and delicious. A great starter.

Ravioli with Butternut Squash, brown butter, sage and Parmigiano

My wife, after semi-success with the ravioli's at Eleven Madison Park earlier in the day, wanted to try the USC version. According to her, these were even better and instead of offering two large ones, five or six medium ones were brought to her. They must have been good, as by the time I asked to try one, they were gone.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare
with Horseradish-Mustard Vinaigrette, Vidalia Onions and Avocado salad.

Our friend SueAnn had this and offered some to all. It was very good. The tuna was ruby red and perfect. I wish she offered more. It was great.

Fried Calamari with Spicy Anchovy Mayonnaise

Doug got this, and although calamari is typically good or bad, this was very good. He likes to try Calamari just about everywhere (similar to me with cole slaw - unsure why exactly), and he announced to the table that this was the best he's had. And I'd have to agree that it was excellent.

Entrees

USC's Grilled Marinated Filet Mignon of Tuna
with gingered vegetables and wasabi-mashed potatoes.

I had this and was very happy I did. I secretly cursed having to share at this point, because this was a winner. My favorite dish of all last night. The tuna was a large portion, the crispy veggies (almost tempura like in shaved form) were a great texture against the softer tuna (this could have been a base for a fantastic cole slaw) and the wasabi potatoes, green of course, had a perfect blend of the hot stuff...enough to make the body feel warm, but not enough to break a sweat. Perfect.

Weekly Special for Monday
USC's Lobster "Shepherd's Pie" with Mushrooms, Mashed Potatoes, Spinach, Carrots and Lobster Sauce

The waiter had told us as we sat down that this was in limited supply, so order one now if we wanted him to hold one. We did so and my wife was the winner in receiving this dish.

We all sort of stared at it when it arrived and became jealous immediately. It looked fantastic and, after sampling, can tell you that it was. Hefty chunks of lobster sat below a cake of mashed potatoes which were perfectly crispy around the edge and above a layer of vegetables. Wow, what a fun dish. A winner.

Grilled Smoked Black Angus Shell Steak
with Mashed Potatoes and Frizzled Leaks

Doug got this and was completely satisfied. Jealous of my wasabi potatoes, he indulged in some of mine but mentioned that his were fine, but preferred the wasabi. The Steak was perfectly smoky in flavor. I had a bite and despite not being in the mood for steak, was amazed at how flavorful the beef was. Very good.

Monkfish, Manila Clams and Rock Shrimp
in Catalan-style Almond, Tomato and Olive Oil broth with sauteed spinach

Sue Ann had this. I didn't try it myself but she loved it. Can't account for it myself.

Desserts

USC's Banana Tart with Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream and Macadamia Brittle

Delicious. It was great through and through. Shared by all, this might have been the favorite dessert of the night.

Greenmarket Sugar-Crunch Apple Pie with Vanilla Bean and Cider Swirl Ice Cream

Another great dish. Both my wife and Sue Ann ordered this. I tried some and was impressed mostly with the ice cream. Oh to have that on a mid-fall day would be perfect. It was great.

Doug ordered the Chocolate Cream Pie. It was good, although I am not a typical fan of this at any restaurant. He very much enjoyed it.

As for wines, we ordered two bottles of a Long Island Merlot (2000) but I can't remember the name. Sorry. It was good, not stupendous, but perfect for our budget and meals.

Here's where I was suprised. The service was by most standards good. It was not, however, up to what I expected having had the Danny Meyer treatment several times before. Granted, the head's up on the Lobster Shepherd's Pie was helpful, but that's where it ended. The food arrived at exactly the right moments (a big plus) but there was no help with wine pairings or app/dinner items and I sensed a bit of rushing. All in all it was very good, but lacked what I expected. The other comment I had was the extremely cramped entry and slow on the ball host. He was busy chatting it up with a coat girl. I can understand finishing up a sentence...but it went on and on. Overall, a fantastic night.

Some quick comparisons (1 being best, 4 being worst) of my D. Meyer experiences...

USC - Food: 1, Service: 3, Room:4
EMP - Food: 3, Service: 2, Room: 2
GT - Food: 2, Service: 1, Room: 1
Tabla - Food: 4, Service 4, Room: 3

We split the bill in half (customary with this group - my birthday and Sue Anne's birthday celebration) and before tip the bill was $150 (including 2 bottles of wine) per couple. Not bad at all and well worth it.

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