Amidst Ossington's sea of city favorites and recently opened, Chef Teo Paul opened his Union. The mixed ambiance of faded murals, an open kitchen and a marble topped bar is a part of Paul's life-drawn formula that seeks to establish his experiences as a statement on Toronto's dining scene. This is what happens when plucky French bistro meets Michael StadtlÃ¤nder's culinary offspring; a welcoming atmosphere with an organic, locally sourced menu.
Since opening in July 2009, Torontonians have fl
ocked to 72 Ossington; not yet a year later and it is still near impossible to grab a seat at 6pm on a Wednesday night without a reservation. With that said the horse-shoe bar isn't an unappealing place to eat a meal for those who are unable to grab a seat on the interior, it may even come with unprecedented access to Union's conversational sommelier, Christopher Sealy.
The menu is modest and intentionally vague in parts. Understandably, when Paul aims to have a seasonal menu to showcase the best of local fare, names like "Roast Bird" and "Fresh Fish" are as specific as it gets. Worth mentioning, Union makes a noble contribution to the charcuterie in the city, with a hearty and homey plate of sensational house made pÃ¢tÃ© and smoked meats made to share.
The Union Salad is a mix of greens with a crisp potato rosti thrown in for kicks - honestly, it's a salad, congratulations to Mother Nature for raising her greens right. The Steak Tartar, spooned atop crunchy crostini, was a finely chopped blend of fresh steak and citrusy flavours - although, we were promised it came with bone marrow, it did not, sadly, make it to the table.
When it came to the mains, they weren't as successful as the starters. Irregular seasoning plagued almost every dish my party ordered - almost. The lake trout was clearly fresh, flaked finely and was a quality piece of fish but lacked flavour. The shrimp and pork, open-faced, burger was, as Torontonians say, "meh". The polenta was as reliable as any properly prepared polenta should be while the "Roast Bird" hit the "nail on the head" without any seasoning flaws!
Succulent and moist, bursting with flavour, the roasted chicken asserted everything what Teo Paul is trying to do with Union, elevating traditional preparations to the consciousness of its patrons. CÃ´te de boeuf is prepared for two and side dishes arrive in casseroles to pass amongst friends - this is the Ontario country dinner in a bistro setting. So, like the charcuterie plate, when going to Union the rule is: go homey, go shared or go home.
Price: Mid-high; prices are slightly higher for the locally sourced ingredients; 3-course dinner for two, with tax and tip, around $125
Atmosphere: Country bistro meets booming Ossington Ave; affluent clientele
Hint: Go shared! Bird and beef are your best bets, ask your server for the best strategy for your party.
Wine & Spirits: Decent wine program. Sommelier (or resident "Wine Guy") Christopher Sealy is normally on hand to advise.
Reservations: YES! The only way you'll score a seat.
Wheelchair accessible: No
Surprise Surprise: Charcuterie plate is mostly pÃ¢tÃ©s, awesome, delicious homemade pÃ¢tÃ©s made in a way that only a man who spent time in France could do.