Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Union Sushi

Location: 230 W Erie
Cost: $25 per person

Some places float around my radar for a long time, especially if they're new and trendy. You've probably noticed from reading enough of my posts that I tend toward more convenient and reasonably priced locations. That being said, I don't usually run to stand still at the newest spot in town. I usually wait for some hype to die down and a trustworthy friend to recommend a spot. Well the other week, my friend Amber was in town shopping with a buddy of hers. She invited Noam and I to join them at a place I consider to fit the previously stated description, Union Sushi.

Union Sushi has a setup that I think caters more to decoration than to function. They've got this moderately sized pillar in the middle of the dining room that breaks things up a bit. We ended up sitting at the sushi bar which was cool in that we could see everything being made, but it didn't really work for our party of four. It kind of reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where other people are already sitting in their booth. You can make reservations, and I'd suggest doing so on the weekends.

One of the big draws to Union Sushi is the Robata Grill at the end of the sushi bar. I was pretty impressed that it cooked things so quickly and at such a high temperature. Mostly though, it was neat how the surrounding glass pane allowed for viewing without letting the heat spread throughout the restaurant.

Our service was quick and efficient, but like I said we were at the sushi bar. All they had to do was pass the food over the counter. The cost was reasonable for some things like the sushi rolls for $8, some of the BBQ items for $4 or so, and the happy hour specials (half off some rolls and appetizers). Still, some things were a bit of a rip with most rolls around $15 and some pricier BBQ items that weren't really very sizable.

The Food
We sat down with 20 minutes or so left in happy hour, so we went right for the specials while they lasted. We got a Shrimp Tempura Roll and some Oysters. The roll was nicely done with an interesting fried exterior of the roll in addition to the shrimp. We got both an east coast and west coast oyster with different sauces and flavorings. In general I'm a bit of an oyster purist, but these were a very refreshing appetizer.

The Oysters

 The Shrimp Tempura Roll

Next we got a bunch of things from the grill including the Beef Filet, the Tongue, the Alligator, and the Whole Squid. The best items were definitely the tongue and the alligator. They were both a bit chewy with a nice crisp from the grill. We also got the special which was a whole Quail over a bed of edamame. It was a little plain for what I expected after seeing some of the other grill items. Some of our edamame were on the grainier side which didn't help too much. I still thought it was a good item once I got over the fact that quail may not have enough meat to make the bones worthwhile.

The Beef Tongue (left) and Alligator (right)

The Beef Filet

The Whole Roasted Quail

The Squid

Then we got some bigger noodle dishes. The Duck Fat Yaki Soba was a nice noodle dish that was plenty rich but was missing salt. The Panko Fried Beef Cheek Curry Udon had some tasty and soft noodles, but the meat and broth weren't anything too special. Specifically, the broth was very thick and a little bland.

The Duck Fat Yaki Soba

 The Panko Fried Beef Cheek Curry Udon

We also got some rolls. My favorite was the Salmon Skin Roll. It had a wonderful crisp which was well complimented by the eel sauce on top. The other rolls we got were the Spicy Tuna Roll with Black Rice, and the Old City Market Roll. I wasn't as wowed by the black rice as my dining fellows, but the tuna was spot on. The Old City Market roll was a combo of tuna, seared salmon, ponzu, and okra. I don't know if the individual items stood out well from one another, but it was a rather flavorful bite.

The Old City Market Roll

The Crispy Salmon Skin Roll

 The Spicy Tuna Roll

I thought the best thing about Union Sushi was how interesting it was. They're for sure not the kind of place with a Dragon roll as the most interesting specialty option. The grill gives a nice mix of small tasting options, and they have somethings you probably haven't tried before in a very approachable preparation. Most of our dishes were well balanced texturally, and a few exceptions were a little bland. I'm giving them 3.5 out of 5 Pearls.

Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar on Urbanspoon
Thanks again to Amber for providing the pictures.