Au Revoir Union Square Cafe

As Gourmay readers are aware, Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe or “USC” has been one of our favorite restaurants in New York City (see links to other Gourmay articles below).  The food is always very good – but not great – however, USC is a wonderful oasis of tranquility and friendliness that is so difficult to find in bustling New York.   After 30 glorious years, USC will be closing its doors on December 12th.   USC is scheduled to reopen again in May, 2016 nearby on 19th street and Park Avenue.  Personally, I don’t think it will be the same.

We were fortunate to book a table on Monday (Dec 7) for its final 12 Days of Christmas pre-fixe menu.   What a wonderful experience filled with so many lovely memories.  In fact, Sheila and I used the occasion to walk down 5th Avenue (from 59th street) to Union Square to see the Christmas decorations on this particularly balmy December day.  Simply glorious as this sunset image of the Flatiron Building below suggests:

Flatiron Building in NYC

Flatiron Building in NYC

While the windows at Bergdorf, the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center and the boozy hot chocolate at Bryant Park were spectacular as always, we couldn’t wait to get to USC to say goodbye.

Closing Menu at USC

Sheila opted for the “White Truffle Crispy Egg” followed by a breast of squab served on farro (not shown on this particular menu). I had the “winter greens raviolini” but was sorely tempted by the scallops and trumpet mushroom tagliarini which also looked wonderful.  I followed with a perfectly cooked pork chop served with crispy polenta (“Rack of Pork Market”).    The Sangiovese Brunello di Montalcino was an exceptional bargain.

Our appetizers were wonderful, but the desserts (not shown here) were rather pedestrian.   I thought the pork was excellent, but probably should have opted for the pesce misto.    Sheila’s squab was very good, but filling.

Needless to say, we will have to give the “new” USC a go next year, but it is terribly sad to see this culinary landmark of  good taste close its doors.  You will be missed.

More Gourmay features on Danny Meyer NYC experiences:

Maialino: Dining in Hog Heaven

Many months ago, Dan and Miranda gave me a gift certificate to dine at Maialino, Danny Meyer’s restaurant located in the Gramercy Park Hotel.   I hadn’t been in the Gramercy Hotel for many years and was therefore overwhelmed by the stunning artwork and lively decor.  The Fernando Botero painting hanging over the fireplace in the hotel lobby attests to the edgy chicness of this trendy hotel in lower midtown Manhattan.  But we were here to eat, not sleep.

Sheila and I had twice made reservations at Maialino only to be thwarted by Hurricane Irene and an ice-storm.  Since it is almost impossible to secure reservations at any of Danny Meyer’s restaurants (Union Square Cafe is our favorite), we decided to risk an early seating a few days ago.  Thanks to the great diplomacy skills of Thérèse and my own modest acting skills of feigning a heart attack, we were quickly seated at one of the tables in the bar.  It’s a bit noisy, but certainly adequate and Maialino’s efficient staff was soon plying us with wine, which I explained to this nice young woman is far more effective at clearing blocked arteries than Lipitor.    They had a special on Sicilian wines and we found them quite comforting.  My chest pains disappeared almost immediately.

If you plan on dining at Maialino, you need to go in “whole hog.”   Following Dan’s glowing recommendations,   Thérèse and I split the roasted pork shoulder and potatoes shown above.  The crackling was precisely the right consistency – about 1/4″ thick and crunchy rather than chewy –  and the pork was as moist and flavorful as any I have eaten.  I was told that the pork roasts for about six hours and I can attest after many painful experiments, it is next to impossible to get pork cooked this perfectly.  Brilliant.

We also split a pasta dish of Bombolotti alla Gricia, which featured pasta similar to penne, but cooked to perfection with black pepper, guanciale (pig jowl) and a bit of Parmesan cheese and oil.   Wow!     The spinach was delicious and I also sampled the sweet breads wrapped in prosciutto.  Simply an amazing dining experience.   Bravo!!

Union Square Cafe Still Delivers

Union Square Cafe (“USC”) in New York City is one of our favorite restaurants.  While there are plenty of other restaurants in the Big Apple that will wow you with their trendy cuisine, USC delivers consistently high quality cuisine with friendly and efficient service.    Every time we drop by USC, we are treated like a long lost friend.  The quiet atmosphere and accommodating staff make for a superb dining experience.

A couple of weeks ago during the National Gift Show, we dropped into USC for an early dinner without a reservation. It’s almost impossible to get a reservation at USC so we don’t even try anymore. Nevertheless, if you are pleasant and ask politely, you generally can get a seat at the bar and often a table. This mid-August evening we were fortunate to get a table.

USC’s eclectic menu always features seasonal produce. In fact, regulars are often invited to accompany the kitchen staff on shopping expeditions to Wednesday’s market at Union Square. While there are always many tempting appetizers and entrees, I usually opt for the fried calamari which features USC’s famous anchovy sauce. This evening was no exception.

Thérèse agonized for quite some time over a beef carpaccio and a smoked duck breast carpaccio.  She eventually settled on the beef, but the staff also served us a portion of the duck carpaccio.  All three of the appetizers were delicious.   For a main course, we both had agnolotti that was stuffed with porchetta.  Yummmmmy!!

Now I could run through the menu in great detail, but the service and the ambiance of the Union Square Cafe is unique in NYC.  It’s like coming home and we are delighted that they continue to honor the traditions of fine dining.

If you do happen to dine at USC, make sure that you get on their mailing list since their quarterly newsletter is better and more informative than most food magazines.    On August 27th,  Thérèse and I will be dining at El Maiolino, another Danny Meyer restaurant, to celebrate our Anniversary.  We want to thank Dan and Miranda for their gift certificate and recommendation to order the suckling pig for two.