Seems much has been made of Union in Pasadena, Chef Bruce Kalman’s restaurant. I remember my first 2 visits when it first opened up and thought it was ok, but nothing to write home about.
But I happened to be in the area so I stopped by for another try to see how it’s been.
Housemade Stracciatella (Roasted Garlic, Crostini):
This was the best dish of the evening. It was like a housemade Burrata Cheese, creamy, gooey, and mild. The Garlic Crostini was delicious with it.
Braised Collard Greens (Guanciale, Beans):
I love Collard Greens, but this was a salt bomb! Really salty, while smoky and savory, it was just ruined by salt.
Tagliatelle (Pork Ragu, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gremolata):
The pasta was better than Knead & Co’s, but the Pork Ragu was super salty. It also tasted like a generic Red Wine Stew… with a LOT of salt. It was borderline inedible.
Nettle Penne (Pesto, Hazelnuts, Santa Barbara Prawns):
This was actually decent. It wasn’t as salty as the Pork Ragu, and it was far more delicate. As if the kitchen had a split personality. This was probably the best pasta I’ve had at Union after 4 visits. The Pesto was fragrant and not too oily. The Prawns were good, but very few (4 tiny pieces).
On previous visits I’ve tried stuff like their:
- Pork Meatballs - Nice idea, some decent flavors, but it was really salty.
- Wild Mushrooms with Grist & Toll Polenta - Should be amazing, and the Mushrooms were tasty, but it was really oily, salty and heavy, where we thought it’d be a lighter dish.
- Poricini Casarecce - They infuse Porcini into their pasta when making it, and then cook it. You could taste a nice Porcini infusion but it, too, was really salty and heavy.
- Spaghetti & Meatballs - Tart, acidic and the Meatballs (same as the Pork Meatballs appetizer) were just too salty and dense.
- Porchetta - Inherently heavy and rich and fatty, but it was also really salty.
I thought I was crazy, but each time I went with various friends, they all felt the same way (about the sodium levels).
After a few visits, I can see the decor and vibe has a chef-driven / “hip” feel, like something on the Westside where we see it far more often. But the execution of the dishes always seems overly salty and heavy-handed.
So what do people recommend ordering here? What’s not a salt bomb?
37 E. Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
Tel: (626) 795-5841