Union Restaurant is located within the Press Hotel, just across the street from Portland’s City Hall. It’s a beautiful and inviting, contemporary American farm-to-table restaurant led by Maine native Chef Josh Berry.
The menu is thoughtfully designed and divided into broad categories of small plates, large plates, sides and on the bottom of the menu, must haves. We were informed by our waitress that all of the dishes err on the generously portioned.
The local Norumbega oysters with kimchi caviar was a delightful starter. The piercing salinity of the oysters worked with the spherified kimchi liquid to add some funk and acidity.
The grilled asparagus with goat cheese panna cotta, charred lemon vinaigrette, basil, and torn croutons was very tasty. The asparagus was fresh and the char from the grill was just enough to caramelize and add a smoky element to contrast the freshness of the vegetable and basil leaves. The goat cheese panna cotta was the most intriguing element to give it some creamy, firm salinity.
The chef has sent us a tasting portion of something off the menu – poached salmon topped with Kalamata olives on a swathe of green goddess sauce. The briny flavors of the olives were a welcoming contrast to the fatty salmon. The green goddess dressing added a creamy, slightly funky element to the salmon and olives.
When it comes to the large plates, the staff was not kidding when they are large. My dining companions and I were mentioning out loud while eating our respective plates that we’re getting pretty full eating halfway through.
The local skate, Maine lobster beurre monté, spring legumes, sorghum, and pea tendrils is a beautiful plate that’s bountiful with the gorgeous locally grown green peas and sugar snap peas. The skate was beautifully cooked and the lobster butter sauce enhanced the sweetness of the vegetables. The sorghum added some heft to the dish.
The veal cutlet, hand rolled gnocchi, young spinach, local oyster mushrooms, and Parmesan was a delicious and hearty dish. The veal was super tender and almost silky texture. The oyster mushrooms mimicked the veal’s texture but added a delicate earthiness and the Parmesan added that umami salinity.
The desserts are generally interesting in terms of the flavor combinations. The Maine maple pudding, pine kernel crumb, sea salt caramel and smoked, charred marshmallows is what I would think of a classic flavor combinations but with a twist of having pine kernels. The flavors were very good but my slight issue with this dessert is the sea salt caramel could be skipped as it made the overall bite a little too sweet for my preference. Otherwise, it’s good and I like the textures of creamy and a little crunchy.
The coconut custard tart, caramelized pineapple, passion fruit cremeux with lime meringue has great flavors that makes me think of the tropics and it’s not too sweet but my issue is the custard portion of the tart is too firm and heavy on gelatin. The other components of the dessert are tasty.
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