Restaurants & Bars 1

Union, again

MC Slim JB | Feb 13, 2005 11:57 AM

I'm not sure of the value of posting yet again on the South End's Union Bar & Grill, but I had another solid if unstunning meal there, so maybe its simple consistency is worth praising. A well-made cocktail in the bar keeps us busy after we arrive a few minutes early for a prime-time reservation. The barstaff is friendly and efficient as ever, despite a packed house.

We're seated right on time. Knowing that normal appetites cannot tackle an appetizer, entree, and cheese plate here, we skip apps, even though they typically show off the kitchen's best. Entrees of roast chicken (with a terrific cornbread/chorizo stuffing) and grilled pork ribeye are simple and beautiful. The pork is much more carefully and prettily plated than on a prior, early-weeknight visit. I suspect that Monday version was the chef's night off, and it showed. This version proves you can use a bed of stewed shell beans on a flat plate and not make a mess. I love the parsnips with that dish.

The cheese plate is our favorite dessert here: half a dozen small South End Formaggio selections with interesting, generally sweet accompaniments, e.g., heather honey, little spoonsfull of house-made chutneys and preserves, etc. Our desire for baguette is honored, sparing us the really bad idea of the crispy Tuscan flatbread usually served here. Why anyone would subtract from great cheeses with strongly flavored or textured breads is beyond me, though it's increasingly common on cheese plates around town.

We splurge a bit on wine, which gets us to the more interesting options on this upwardly-tilted list, one of the few small beefs I have with this place. Service, as always, is attentive, fun without being precious, and very well-trained, perhaps this place's best attribute. It's interesting to watch our waiter modulate his performance between us, whom he recognizes are near-regulars, and the couple at the next banquette, nervous first-date types. A real professional; even his accent softens into a more enunciated English for the benefit of the slightly overwhelmed paramours.

Dinner for two, not counting that big wine bottle, comes to $80 inclusive, another fine evening out when we didn't feel like spending much time in transit in the cold. Consistency (not the foolish kind) trumps innovation and novelty on a night like this.

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