Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sunday night, we had dinner at Union in Aria, before going to see Zumanity. Obviously, my heart will always have a special place for Sage, but if I'm making a list of favorite restaurants that my fiancee doesn't work at, Union would probably be in the top five.

It's primarily a steakhouse, but calling it that feels like I'm damning it with faint praise. They do have other, non-grilled items on the menu, but when I go to a place like this, I feel like not ordering something off the grill is like going to American Fish and ordering a burger. They'll make you one, but it's not really what they do.

Their menu isn't online, and not only did I not take notes, I had a couple of cocktails, so I may not get all the dishes exactly right.

Speaking of cocktails, we started with the drinks Thrillist recommended: the Las Vegan for me, and the Calm Before the Storm for her. To be honest, I don't really remember that much about the sip of the Calm Before the Storm that I tried, but Lura really liked it. Enough to order a second one. I liked the Las Vegan just fine as well. It initially had a very strong grapefruit taste, which I enjoyed more than I would have expected, not being the world's biggest grapefruit fan. Then the bourbon taste came through along with the bitters, cutting the grapefruit before it became too overwhelming. Recommended.

I also ordered a drink called the Heat of the Moment. Absolutely cannot remember anything that was in it (passage of time, not the strength of the drink). It had some spicy elements to it, including cinnamon. I preferred it to the Las Vegan, although both were excellent.

For a starter, we ordered the beef carpaccio flatbread, which we had been told was enough to serve two. It was, but one person probably could have handled it as well. It was fantastic. Lura described it in a fairly cryptic manner, saying that if cold pizza tasted the way it did when it was hot, it would be like this dish. And, after she explained what she meant, I have to agree. When pizza gets cold, the dough and toppings lose a lot of their flavor. This was a cold dish, but the crust was rich and flavorful. The beef was spread on just enough that it didn't overpower the saltiness or the flavor of the bread, but wasn't lost either.

Most of their starters are seafood dishes. I like seafood, but Lura does not. So it's good to know that one of the few non-seafood starters is one we'd happily order again.

For our steaks, I chose the American Kobe Flat Iron, while Lura went with the bone-in filet mignon. Neither of us had seen a bone-in filet before, and both wanted to try it. However, I had never had Kobe beef before, either, and wanted to fill that gap in my culinary experience. Besides, I was pretty sure that I'd get to finish Lura's steak for her. For our sides, we ordered the pureed butternut squash and the potatoes au gratin. We also ordered two sauces: the sauce Bernaise (gotta go with the classics) and the sauce Bordelaise, because I like red wine sauces.

The steaks were fabulous. If I'm honest, the bone-in filet was the better of the two. The flavor was fantastic, and the meat was so tender, you almost didn't have to chew it. That will definitely be my choice the next time we go. (I did get to eat about a quarter of her steak, but I want the whole thing next time.) Lura proclaimed it the best steak she had ever eaten, and she's eaten at some pretty classy places. I'd say it beats the filets I had at Parallel 88 in Springdale, UT, and Sedona here in Vegas, which were previously two of the best steaks I've had.

My Kobe flat iron was very good, too, and I was very pleased with it. I don't think the flavors were quite as deep as the filet, which is why it comes in second. It also was a little bit less tender; not so's you'd notice unless you were comparing it to the filet being devoured by the person next to you. It had a slightly crispier coating, but the meat was still tender and juicy. Based on our two choices, I'd suspect that you can't go wrong with anything from the Union grill. We'll find out, because we'll definitely be going back. (Although, as I said above, the next time I go, I'll probably be getting the bone-in filet. So we have to go back at least two more times, to make sure I try something new.)

The steaks were so good, they didn't need the sauces. However, the sauces were very nice. As I had expected, I preferred the Bordelaise, but the Bernaise was also very well done. Our only problem with the restaurant, in fact, wasn't with the quality of the food but with the amount of the sauces. For $5 a sauce, we should have gotten a little more, we felt. Still, next time we know that we don't even really need the sauces if we choose not to order them.

The sides were every bit as well-prepared and tasty as the steaks. The squash was so soft and light, it was like we were just given the idea of squash. The top was caramelized, which the menu described as "brulee," complete with quotes. Sage does the same thing with their foie gras custard "brulee," and there as here, the quotes seem entirely unnecessary. It's a flipping brulee, not a "brulee." Learn some punctuation.

The potatoes were also on the lighter side. Instead of being a solid brick of potatoes and cheese, which can serve as a delightful side dish or a building construction material, they were smooth and creamy. No complaints about the sides at all. The only question is, as good as these were, do we stick with them the next time we go? Or do we try something new?

Of course, the desserts were the most important part, as far as Lura was concerned. They had four dessert items on their menu; we ordered three of them. The cutest were easily the pudding lollipops. They featured frozen disks of pudding, maybe the size of a silver dollar, dipped in what is probably a really fancy, expensive version of Magic Shell, and served on lollipop sticks. The flavors we could remember were milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter. There was a fifth one, but I can't remember what it was. They were cute and fun, and very tasty.

The Key Lime pies (three little ones) were served with a margarita sorbet and pineapple. I'm not a huge fan of Key Lime Pie. If I'm going to like it, it has to be lighter in flavor. These were, and they were just fine, but if I had to pick just one dessert to order again, I'd probably go with the apple pie. It was about six inches in diameter, and tasted like a really good apple pie with some sort of caramel/nut ice cream on top.

(The fourth dessert option was churros, but we passed on those because Lura thought they would be too close to the beignets she makes every day. Maybe next time.)

So, overall, an excellent dinner, and a restaurant to which we would happily return.