Union Square Café, NYC

February 26, 2013

The Union Square Café was opened by Danny Meyer in 1985, his first restaurant. It has often been voted the “most popular” restaurant in New York in Zagat, currently ranked eighth in that category. It shares Zagat’s third highest food rating with many others. Linda and I went for dinner on February 21, 2013.

Linda started with a glass of Champagne, Brut Réserve, Billecart-Salmon, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. I had a glass of Cava Reserva Brut, L’Hereu, Raventós i Blanc, Cataluna 2009. Both were very nice, but I found the good cava more interesting at half the price.

A basket of  breads was put on the table along with olives, olive oil for dipping and butter.
usc a

We ordered a bottle of the surprisingly reasonably priced Barolo Vigna Gattera Rocche dell’Annuziata, Bovio 1995
usc w
We are very fond of Bovio as we go there every other year in October for their white truffle meal. This bottle met our expectations.

To start we shared
Spanish Mackerel Crudo
Blood Orange, Avocado, Serrano
usc b
The ingredients were fresh and well-matched except that “serrano” were rings of very hot serrano pepper, not serrano ham as I had expected and which would have been much more appropriate. We were able to pick them out so they did not spoil our dish or our palate for the wine. This sort of searing ambush seems to crop up anywhere now in US cuisine.

Linda’s pasta was
Ricotta Gnocchi
Tomato-Basil Passatina, Pecorino Romano
usc c
The gnocchi were made from just flour and ricotta; they were light and the dish was pleasant.

My pasta was
Butternut Squash Tortelli
Cranberries, Balsamic, Sage Brown Butter
usc d
These were excellent, offering well matched autumn flavors. The sage brown butter was well done; the braised cranberries were an excellent American touch to this Italian dish. The lines of balsamic vinegar were in just the right proportion to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients.

For our main course we shared
LaFrieda Meats Dry Aged Rib-Eye for Two
Choice of Three Sides
usc e

usc f
The thick rib eye steak was presented to us before carving. Its flavor was rich and beefy, concentrated by the dry aging. The charred pieces around the edges and the bone were a nice contrast to the rare center cuts. 

Our three vegetable side dishes were
Wilted Spinach
usc i
This was a healthy contrast to the somewhat decadent beef.

Cannellini Beans, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pecorino
usc h
The beans were cooked to just the right consistency and lightly flavored with the olive oil and pecorino.

Bone Marrow Mashed Potatoes
usc g
We didn’t really need this third side as the other two were sufficient complement and contrast to the beef. The marrow colored the potatoes, but didn’t add noticable flavor.

For dessert we shared a
USC Banana Tart
Macadamia Brittle, Honey-Vanilla Ice Cream
usc j
The banana had been curved into a circle during braising which had richly caramelized it. The crisped macademia nuts added good crunch. Excellent.

Two rich dark chocolate truffles were served and I was offered a glass of grappa.
usc k

After a shaky start our meal was excellent. The American-Italian fusion creations were well thought out and executed. The ingredients were good; there was enough going on to be interesting, but not too much to confuse the palate or overwhelm the basic concept.

The service was always friendly and efficient, as one expects at a Danny Meyer restaurant. We enjoyed the vibrant, but not too noisy, ambience in the front room. (The empty table on the far right is the one we have just left.)
usc z


2 Responses to “Union Square Café, NYC”

  1. The banana dessert is not so pleasant to the eye, looks more like something not edible… but I am sure it was delicious! This must have been a wonderful and warming February meal!

  2. Sally McKinney Says:

    I always enjoyed every meal eaten at Union Square and am sure I would have loved the one you describe. It’s good to know that some things don’t change.

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