Union Square Cafe, NYC 2

February 28, 2017

Union Square Cafe, opened in 1985, was Danny Meyer’s original restaurant, but its rent on 16th Street became oppressive and so he closed it in December 2015, re-opening it a year later on 19th Street. Karyn and Blair joined Linda and me for dinner there on February 7, 2017.

We were seated on the mezzanine of this tiered restaurant.  We ordered a bottle of the house Champagne, Tassin ‘Union Square Cuvée’ Brut.
A good start. 

Dark sourdough bread and salty olives were put on the table.

The menu is only à la carte, divided into Appetizers, Pasta, Mains, Sides and Desserts. There are six to eight dishes in each. We made our selections and ordered bottles of 2013 Belle Pente Vineyard (Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon) Pinot Noir and 2014 Wenzlau Estate Cuvée (Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noir. Both had the good qualities of west coast pinot.

Karyn’s first course was
Spanish Mackerel Crudo
Artichoke, Castelvetrano Olives, Chili
The mackerel was tender with well-balanced acid/oil. Not too much heat from chili.

Linda’s starter was
Duck Crostone
Chicories, Honeycrisp Apples, Candied Walnuts
The duck mousse and smoked duck slices were a luscious contrast to the grilled sourdough bread.  Their smoky flavor went well with the greens, honeycrisp apples and walnuts on top of this excellent appetizer.

Blair had
Cauliflower Sformato
Romanesco, Black Truffle Fonduta
A sformato (a term literally meaning ‘unmolded’) is something like a savory flan or perhaps a soufflé without the puff. At its most basic, it is actually a rather simple dish, a mixture of puréed or finely diced vegetables with béchamel and eggs, baked or steamed in a mold until set. The cauliflower flavor in this creamy sformato was pronounced. The roasted florets provided needed textural contrast. Truffle flavor was there, but not overpowering, appropriately so. It was rich, so the small size was not an issue.

Mine was
Anson Mills Polenta
Narragansett Creamery Crescendo, Maïtake Mushrooms, Pesto
The polenta was buttery and fresh. The dabs of good pesto and of braised hen-of-the-woods mushrooms made it interesting. A nice starter.

The pasta course for Karyn and Linda was
Ricotta Gnocchi
Tomato-Basil Passatina, Pecorino Romano
Linda wrote: The very light gnocchi tasted like a cheese mousse. The tomato sauce was light and not too salty. Very nice. Karyn wrote: Excellent. Achieved the classic “pillow”

For Blair and me it was
Lasagna Bolognese
Ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano
The excellent Bolognese sauce was closer to the long-simmered traditional variety than what I had three months before in Bologna. The tomato was present, but muted, and the meat partially absorbed. The many layers of pasta sheets made this dish unctuous and enjoyable, different from the ordinary lasagnas common in New York restaurants.

As the four of us had already had two good courses and the pace was not fast, we needed another bottle of red wine. The sommelier chose for us a bottle of 2014 Calera Pinot Noir.

Our table now looked like a wine tasting event, which it partially was.

Karyn went on to
Fried Calamari
Daily Seafood, Peppers,
Anchovy Mayonnaise
Light and crispy; the anchovy mayonnaise added a nice salty/creamy flavor.

Blair’s meat course was
Spiced Chicken
White Sweet Potato à la Plancha, Cippollini
The skin had a good crust of spices and the meat underneath was juicy. The sweet potatoes were charred and crunchy on the outside, sweet and fluffy in the middle. This kind of dish can be so average, but when well executed it is so good.

Linda and I had
Roasted Pork Rack
Shell Beans, Kale, Fennel-Apple Mostarda
The meat was luscious with a good porky flavor, but the edges lacked the crispness I had hoped for. The apple confit was traditional and just right. The beans underneath had absorbed the pork juices and kale; they were very good. The chop was quite thick and I could not finish it. 

We did not order dessert, but we were offered this one to share for the table.
It featured a custard, a sorbet and candied kumquats on sort of a granola base.

The Italo-American cuisine was well composed and executed.  The service was very good. The pace was slow, but the four of us had plenty to talk about. The noise level was energetic. Danny Meyer does it again.

Here was the view from my seat across to the other wing of the mezzanine.
On leaving we could look back up to the mezzanine. There is another level above that.
And these were the views coming down the stairs: back into the ground floor dining room and along the bar by the front door with Park Avenue South outside.


To see our meal at the original location four years ago click here.


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