Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Union Kitchen and Tap - San Diego Restaurant Week

San Diego Restaurant Week is happening next week! There are loads of great places all over the map,  so get your reservations now to guarantee your spot. I have several past entries on this subject, and it's always a good time. And such a deal. Three courses for one prix fixe price? It's really the best way to handle January. Make sure to save room in all of your dieting and detox weeks to indulge in some great food and drink from local restaurants. 

I was invited to check out Union Kitchen and Tap in the Gaslamp Quarter, which was great, since I've been wanting to try their menu since the chef, Colten Lemmer,  competed on Chopped.  

We started with some of their signature cocktails, since I'm trying to avoid beer (remember, it's January). I tried the California Love, a sort of ginger pomegranate margarita. This was a nice sipping drink, and delightful to look at as well as taste, with it's gorgeous red complimented by mint leaves.

 Speaking of attractive drinks, the All About You was a coconut-accented rum cocktail, with a lovely marigold blossom nestled in for a gorgeous presentation. Drink this, and you'll feel like you're in a speakeasy with Bogart and Bacall. 

The Chopped episode was right about the food -- it did not disappoint! We started with the poke tacos, which is one of my favorite things to eat, ever. I have had a dish similar to this before, but this one was one of the better versions of this San Diego dish. Fresh tuna marinated and wrapped in a fried wonton shell, and sat atop a heap of homemade guacamole. I highly recommend ordering these to share (or not!) with your dining companions. 
 Much of the menu is derived from Southern United States cuisine -- specifically Cajun and Creole dishes. We tried the skillet cornbread, a staple of Southern cuisine. It was sweet and spicy with jalapeno to accent and cut the sweet flavors. Served with a huge amount of butter, this is not diet food, nor should it be. Cornbread is to nourish one's body and mood, but also to sustain and strengthen. This was a good amount, and certainly should be a shared side dish. 
 For our main dished, we stuck with the Southern theme and ordered the braised beef cheeks served over cheesy grits with vegetables, and the quintessential shrimp and grits. 

The beef cheeks were out of this world. I love slow braising an otherwise tough cut of meat, and making it amazing by cooking it for a long time in a sauce to tenderize it. The grits were delectable -- I honestly would have been happy just with the grits and crispy beans, but the dish was just superb.

Shrimp and grits is something that I tend to order whenever I see it on the menu. Everyone does it a bit differently, but I always love it. So it's no surprise that I loved Union's version loaded with Andouille sausage and shrimp, with cheesy grits and tomatoes for some zing.  The portion is huge, so plan to have leftovers, and feel very, very full. 

Even after that huge meal (and no, I did not eat the entire thing, because January), we still wanted dessert, for research, of course. Our wonderful server recommended the olive oil cake as a lighter option since our dinners were so rich. Even if you think you won't like a cake made with olive oil -- try it! I love olive oil cakes, they are so light yet sweet and satisfying. Olive oil cakes are very popular in Italian baking, so I was happy to see it on Union's menu. The honeycomb olive oil cake is served with the lightest, most delicious buttermilk gelato on top, with pieces of orange blossom almond brittle and honey powder accents.  Even if you are stuffed, get this lovely dessert to experience the light sweetness and art of creating such a delicious cake. 

 Make your reservations now! The menu for SDRW is $40 for three courses, and is a steal for the quality and service at Union. 

January 15, 2020 / by / 0 Comments

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