“Simple done right”.
This is the principle and inspiration behind the delicious fare at Union, Toronto. Located on Ossington Avenue, I walked through the doors of this unassuming restaurant and into a cozy space with intimate seating. Small tables hugged by a brick wall and a warm mural create an atmosphere of comfort and community.
Under the leadership of Chef/Owner Teo Paul, Union embodies the concept of “from farm to chef to table”. Using only fresh ingredients locally sourced within a 100 km radius, he brings us back to the basics of eating simply and living off our land. Though simple in principal, the result is a menu of homemade dishes with bold, savoury and rich flavours that taste incredibly fresh. Chef Teo Paul even built his own smokehouse that burns apple and plum wood to give meats a unique flavour and he craft-cuts all meat onsite. Now that’s a commitment to taste and culinary philosophy! When dining at Union, you can expect seasonal vegetables, grain-fed elk, fresh beef, range-fed chicken, handmade pasta and homemade sauces.
Although their menu changes daily, we sampled a selection of dishes, including some customer favourites that are staples on their menu.
Bitter Leaves & Blood Oranges with savarin cheese, honey & dukkah ($10) – A nice way to start dinner, this simple salad is light, fresh and citrusy, topped with an amazing cheese so smooth it was like butter.
Elk Sliders with mirin galangal glaze & pickles ($14) – Served as a trio, this was definitely a stand-out dish! Set on triangles of toasted bread, the mini elk patties were so tender and incredibly fresh. Well browned with a rare centre. The flavour of the meat was outstanding. Without a doubt, I would order this again.
Main Course - All main courses are served with seasonal veggies and frites made onsite topped with a dollop of homemade aioli dipping sauce.
Lovell Springs Trout with shitake, pea shoots, nam jim & chili ($27) – Light in flavour, delicate and flaky trout accompanied by a spicy nam jim and chili sauce making for a well-balanced plate of flavour.
Sticky Ribs, charcoal smoked and braised back ribs in a homemade BBQ sauce ($26) – I lo-o-ove ribs, especially when they are extra saucy. Union’s sticky ribs hit the spot. A healthy portion, the ribs were meaty and tender with a generous helping of sweet and mildly spicy sauce. The root and green leafy veggies that came with this dish were also perfectly prepared and full of flavour.
Sticky Ginger Cake with toffee sauce ($8) – We went with the Manager’s favourite! I really enjoyed this dessert. The ginger was not overpowering, and the spice was just right. Oh, and this moist cake comes with a yummy scoop of vanilla ice cream and a pool of toffee sauce.
A favourite cocktail among patrons is the “Old Fashioned” ($12). A mix of bourbon, orange simple syrup and house bitters. This drink is strong but still goes down smooth.
While I was there, I also had the chance to get some insider scoop from Chef Teo and the staff. A popular choice with regulars that is not listed on the menu, is the Côte de Boeuf, a prime rib dinner for two that is aged in house. If you usually enjoy a bottle of wine with dinner, visit on a Monday night when they offer 50% off a bottle with dinner.
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for a new project Chef Teo Paul has in the works. He plans to open Côte de Boeuf, a neighbourhood butcher shop and grocer with fresh, organic foods, meats and prepared meals-to-go.
A marriage of simplicity, flavour, class and a laid back friendly feel, Union will leave you wanting to come back for more.
Natalia Dziubaniwsky is a lover of life, avid traveller, animal lover, movie buff, hobbyaholic, volunteer and is always seeking a new adventure. Interact with her on Twitter @taliasfootsteps or simply follow her footsteps through her blog.