Union Pasadena - Salt Bomb Dinner - What's Recommended?


#1

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. :slight_smile:

Braised Collard Greens (Guanciale, Beans):

I love Collard Greens, but this was a salt bomb! :frowning: 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. :frowning: 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?

Union
37 E. Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
Tel: (626) 795-5841


#2

I really like Union.

They have L’Occitane hand soap in their restrooms.


#3

You eat soap as a palate cleanser?


#4

I would recommend skipping it and drive to bestia. I get the feeling this place is so popular because people don’t like driving and it’s the only game in town


#5

Thanks. I should add 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).


#6

i didn’t get it either. had union and gusto on the same weekend. thought the pasta was significantly better at gusto.


#7

Gusto remains strangely underrated in LA. Though I admit I haven’t returned in a while. Also, their new place sucks horribly.


#8

What drives you to keep returning to Union? Are you best friends with the chef and just desperate to like something? Is the restaurant scene that shit in LA that there is nowhere else to go? I cannot think of any reason I wouldn’t just never return to a place that was spectacular the first time I went, on at least some of the dishes, let alone 3 times with it bombing every time… seems very strange.


#9

HI @Aesthete,

LOL, good question. :slight_smile: Well, I try to revisit some places, on our old board, I remember reading some of our hounds going to try some places a few times to give’em a fair shake. So the first 2 times were because of that.

The other 2 times were because I have friends over in Glendale, Pasadena, etc. and it was my turn to visit them. :stuck_out_tongue:


#10

It would be nice if you would use your frequent trips out there to report on the state of Racion instead of just continuing to go to Union then if that’s your only factor lol

I think I’d rather eat a lucky boy burrito than go to Union from your reports… I frequently do that when visiting friends in Pasadena haha


#11

Has anybody been to Union recently? We have a reservation before U2 concert in May. I’m thinking of changing the reservation to Lost At Sea but a few of my dining companions seem to favor Union.