Restaurant Review: Union Trust

>> Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I guess one of the little benefits of having a low economy is that the high end restaurants in town have been offering a rather affordable lunch menu to attract customers.

Last Friday, me and a former colleague went to Le Bec Fin. The most renowned dining institute in Philly where I've only stepped foot in once before just because I can afford to go to their more casual basement bar downstairs for their $30 prix fixe dinner during restaurant week and the maitre'd unintentionally sat us up in the main hall. Since that visit 2 years ago, restaurateur/chef Georges Perrier closed down his restaurant next door Brasserie Perrier. I've also noticed that the pretentious French sounding staff in Le Bec Fin had changed into mostly Latino staff who were wonderful to my older Latina colleague. Unfortunately for her, they have only one item on the $15 express lunch menu and it was burger with fries with a soup or salad and she's vegetarian. Since she didn't expect the limited of choice and everything else was high in price, she asked if the restaurant can take the meat off and put cheese in and they said yes. But then the waiter came by and said the chef will not be charging her for the meal because of that, of course being decent people that we are, we insisted to pay. Later on, they brought an extra dessert for us just to make up the difference. I wonder if we'd get free champagne next, my older colleague thought the exceptional service might have been because she was wearing her new bra. lol.


Having passed by it once and then the boyfriend experienced it with his boss for lunch and told me all about it, I was very interested in going to a steakhouse called Union Trust. I usually dislike going to steakhouses, because they are unusually high-priced and I can sear a mean steak myself at home. The regular menu at Union Trust is quite expensive; the steaks goes up to $125 a pop, caviars to $140 an ounce. For lunch, however, it's a little different.

There is some privilege from being a blogger, especially when you enter a rather new restaurant with a phone cam and start snapping away, you'll get some curiosity and attention from the staff. I'm not saying you'll get free food or drinks, but at least the people seemed friendlier. Sure, the maitre'd banged my knees against the marble after helping pushing my barstool in for me, but he tried. The lunch menu consists on some appetizers, salad, sandwiches and entrees that average around $15. I wanted to keep it cheap, so I didn't order the $13 lobster chowder for an appetizer and went for the much recommended steak frites. Not soon after, I received a bread basket with 4 different kinds of warmed breads: A sweet pumpernickel raisin roll, a whole wheat dinner roll, a sesame sunflower seed roll and a twin Philly pretzel stick that you can split apart which also comes with its own little bottle of whole grain Dijon mustard.

I have had my share of bad steak frites, but one should expect a nice one from a steakhouse no matter the price and this one didn't disappoint. The size was decent enough, it was perfectly seared with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper and maybe oven-baked for doneness. The fries came in a playful string size, crunchy and quite bouche amusée. The sauce on the side tasted like an Argentinian chimichurri. The dish was quite simple and flavorful. It came with a side of creamed spinach that was smooth and buttery without being overwhelmingly rich or oily. It was a good meal that left me wanting more.

It's hard for business these days and not a lot of people can afford the items on the dinner menu for sure, but it's nice to see new restaurants popping up. Just around the same block, there's Iron Chef's Morimoto, another Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr's Jones, an Italian restaurant LaScala and a new Latin/Asian fusion restaurant called Chifa which will probably be my next target. The competition is fierce on this little out of the way block. While the promotion of the place is low-key, maybe people will give the lunch a try or warm up to the Gay professional mingles hosted there once a week. The former marbled bank got renovated into a majestic train station lobby-like space with red plush couches and white chairs. It looks quite amazing. (The bar design is not necessarily staff or customer-friendly though.)

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