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Jan 8, 1998 10:52 AM

Union Pacific

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Has anyone been to Union Pacific, and if so, what did you think?

It has been getting rave reviews. Gael Greene, under the heading "What are Chefs talking about", gave a wonderfully written review of this restaurant.

I have reservations for February and was wondering if anyone out there has had some memorable dishes that they would recommend. Thanks.

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  1. I haven't been but please let us know how it is. I've been very curious.


    1. We had dinner at Union Pacific on Jan 24th and it was terrific!!.
      Not cheap -- but not too bad for NYC.
      Try, especially, the sweetbread nugget appetizer and/or the octopus & shrimp appetizer. The lacquered squab entree was also particularly good. All told, definitely "merite un detour."

      22 Replies
      1. re: Bernie

        We had an terrible experience at Union Pacific. I
        ordered the halibut and tried it. The topping tasted
        like meat. When I asked the waiter he indicated that
        it was topped with a bacon and pork mix. This was not
        mentioned on the menu. We do not eat pork so I was

        We asked to speak with the person in charge and he was
        nasty. He said the chef often uses pork in many of the
        dishes. They have been serving it this way for a long
        time and never had a complaint which I find very hard
        to believe. People often order fish for health or
        religious reasons. He said that he would tell the chef
        about what happened and would give us the owner's
        address if we were unhappy. He actually seemed annoyed
        that we were saying anything.

        They did give us two complimentary dessert samplers and
        dessert wine.

        The thing that really bothered us was the attitude.
        They did not care if we were upset. The place was
        filled and they knew that there were plenty of others
        willing to spend $250 a couple. There are so many
        better places that actually care about their customers.
        Don't wasted your time here.

        1. re: Lori

          You said you were livid when you found out about the
          pork on the halibut. Could it be that the person was
          reacting to your livid state? Still, a nasty
          response is not the way to treat a customer.

          I empathize with you about being served something you
          do not wish to eat. Pork is now served in many
          places, so maybe it would be wise for you to ask if it
          is in any dish you order (but not indicated on the
          menu). If restaurants were to list all the
          ingredients in a dish, the menu would be unwieldly.

          If they did not care, you would not have been given
          the comp desserts and dessert wine.

          1. re: Gary Cheong

            I have to say, I find it fairly incredible that in *New York City* of all places a restaurant would be so cavalier about the unannounced presence of pork in a fish dish. Avoidance of pork is not some obscure fetish, for heaven's sake. I deplore the attitude and will avoid the restaurant.

            1. re: steve d.

              But that's what he DOES, for crying out loud. The entire UP experience is based on surprise, on finding a rogue fava bean or rabbit kidney where you'd least expect it--including dessert. And the chef is famous for saucing meat with fish and vice versa. If meat scares you, Zen Palate is right down the street.

              1. re: steve d.

                stevie d.,

                it would really be a shame if you (and anyone
                else for that matter) didn't go to UP because of one
                person's bad experience there, although i can totally

                first of all, let me just say that i've been to UP at
                least ten or so times (though only once in the last few
                months) and i could almost swear that the halibut dish
                is called "halibut with ginger and pork crackling"
                which has been a mainstay on the menu for at least a
                year so i find her assertion a bit perplexing. of
                course by no means am i calling her a liar because she
                was there but that's just my recollection.

                the other thing is, i think UP is a great restaurant
                from atmosphere to food to service and definitely among
                my favorites and also mentioned favorably quite often
                right here on chowhound (as i'm sure you're aware from
                being a regular here).

                that being said, it can be really frustrating to get
                bad attitude especially when you already feel slighted
                but i think it may have just been a misunderstanding
                (and they did after all as gary mentioned give them
                some dessert wine to make amends).

                but please don't rule the place out. the place has
                original, creative and exciting food and the clash of
                flavors is bold but rocco manages to pull it off. and
                the desserts are among the best in the city. take


                1. re: wonki

                  OK, Wonki, fair enough -- I won't rule them out. I just think places should be penalized for treating customers badly (I don't mean normal "New York attitude," which boils down to "don't waste my time" and is not basically unfriendly, but real nastiness).

                  1. re: steve d.

                    i'm totally with you on that, steve. i can't stand
                    places where people are jerks and those places
                    definitely should be penalized, but it's my sense here
                    that we're only getting one side of the story. as i
                    said before, i've been to UP more than my fair share of
                    times and thought the service was fine, and this is the
                    first time i've ever heard anything like this about UP,
                    and i know many who have been there. usually on a
                    thread like this, you'll get followups from people with
                    similar experiences. i think the lack of any here does
                    say something. anyway, glad to hear you'll give UP a
                    shot if the opportunity arises.


                  2. re: wonki

                    Ive certainly seen pork served as a one of the
                    condiments/toppings (like fried ginger or black beans)
                    in Chinatown restaurants. Its delicious - and a
                    fusion restaurant could certainly decide to play with
                    this concept (in addition to the very traditional link
                    of salt pork with chowder/white fish dishes that
                    Jonathan also noted). Flipping the equation over,
                    what about all the asian meat/pork dishes with fish
                    sauce or dried fish components?

                    If a restaurant does not bill itself as halal, kosher,
                    vegetarian, no MSG or such, those of us with
                    particular sensitivities, dietary prohibitions or
                    allergies have to look out for ourselves. Thank
                    heaven that not all our kitchens are cooking for the
                    same prototypical palate and prejudices!

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      should have noted that the shredded pork is one of the
                      toppings served with braised sea bass or other fishes
                      in Chinatown.

                      1. re: jen kalb
                        Frank, Language

                        Not to mention that "ma po tofu" is made with a ground
                        pork sauce. This is usually noted on the menu, but
                        imagine the vegan who says, "Oh, good; no dairy..."
                        before realizing her mistake.

                    2. re: wonki

                      I happen to have a reservation (for 6) at UP next Tues.
                      night. My curiosity is definitely piqued- Wonki's
                      post leads me to believe that we'll probably like it-
                      have never been there so I'll reserve further comment
                      till after.

                      1. re: Martha Gehan

                        hope you have a good time martha. try the tuna tartare
                        and ceviche for appetizers, and the skate entree is
                        always reliable. and for dessert, the hazelnut succes
                        is a must.

                        and remember, it's primarily a seafood restaurant (a
                        group from my office went a few weeks ago and were
                        disappointed but when i asked what they ate it was all
                        meat dishes). the horror!

                        1. re: wonki

                          Thanks Wonki for your suggestions. Our experience at
                          Union Pacific was near-flawless. No one in our party
                          had ever been there before, and the service could not
                          have been better. The staff was warm, attentive,
                          friendly without being obtrusive, and without a trace
                          of the stiff, overly formal behavior that some
                          restaurants seem to mistake for elegance. The space is
                          beautiful-simple, serene and comfortable-particularly
                          the roomy tables that one seldom finds in Manhattan.

                          And the food!! Striped bass tartare of incredible
                          freshness and delicacy, served with the plainest of
                          vinaigrettes and just a teeny bit of cilantro. I know
                          that DiSpirito is touted for his unusual juxtapositions
                          of flavors, but what impressed me about this dish and
                          others I tasted is that he not only combines disparate
                          elements with felicity but he knows when to stop and
                          resist over-gilding the lily. The flavors remain clear
                          and true even as you experience them in a new way. For
                          example, I adore skate, swiss chard and Indian lime
                          pickle so of course I had to order a main course
                          containing all three. It was utterly delicious ,
                          blending the three ingredients in a light and
                          fresh-tasting harmony-not easy I venture to say with
                          three relatively strong flavors. Everything I tasted,
                          and I tasted everything we ordered, achieved a like
                          balance. Seared big-eye tuna with yuzu,
                          truffle-crusted hake (ethereal), and the infamous
                          halibut (now topped with green onion and ginger-I hope
                          that's not a sign UP succumbed to the anti-pork
                          forces). A veal chop was in a tomato sauce which the
                          happy eater described as "nothing but tomato-but sooo
                          tomato-y-fantastic". Desserts-hazlenut succes, sweet
                          and juicy peach tart, molten chocolate cake-were
                          uniformly excellent.

                          BUT-if you go to Union Pacific and you like wine, bring
                          your rich uncle or a duffle bag stuffed with cash.
                          Three bottles of wine, a cocktail each and a couple of
                          glasses of dessert wine brought the $65 prix-fixe to
                          $150 a head. it's not just that the list is high-end,
                          it's that it is seriously overpriced. My one example
                          is that a Horton viognier, a nice unpretentious wine
                          which retails at most for $10-11 was priced at $40!
                          And my chardonnay-loving and wine-savvy cousin, who is
                          not price-resistant, told me he was hard-pressed to
                          find one he thought worth the freight. So with that
                          caveat, I would say go and enjoy-lovely place, great
                          service, fabulous food-but quite pricey.

                          1. re: Martha Gehan


                            not at all. so glad you liked it. too bad about the
                            wines. i'd only been there for lunch so never really
                            took a long look at the list. however, i'm actually
                            going again tonight (my girlfriend talked me into it)
                            because i noticed some new stuff on the menu i hadn't
                            tried before. we'll talk more later this week.
                            take care.


                      2. re: wonki

                        My vocabulary is not sophisticated enough to review
                        Union Pacific. Let me start with magical, mystical,
                        miraculous, yada,yada,yada. Fill in the blanks. It
                        was an experience that I have had (in the food area)
                        only once or twice in my life.
                        1} Chanterelle
                        2)Patina (in L.A) - there is no accounting for taste.

                  3. re: Lori

                    Let me see if I have this straight. You've got this
                    dietary restriction, you go out to eat without asking
                    your waiter whether your order conflicts with that
                    restriction, and then you're "livid" and throw a fit
                    when the dish doesn't happen to meet your personal
                    dietary preference?

                    I must be missing something here. Are you saying that
                    because, as you say, "People often order fish for
                    health or religious reasons" that it's INCUMBENT on
                    every restaurant to make every fish preparation
                    completely healthy and unsullied by meat...or else post
                    a warning?

                    People with wheat allergies often order rice. If rice
                    comes with semolina mixed in, is that grounds for going
                    postal on the staff? Should there be a boldfaced
                    warning on the menu?

                    There are people with peanut allergies who could DIE
                    from eating a peanut---a far more serious matter than
                    yours (I assume a bite of bacon wouldn't strike you
                    dead at the table...?). How many peanut warnings do you
                    see posted on menus? And what would/should be the
                    kitchen's culpability if such a diner ingested a peanut
                    without having first asked his waiter?

                    Geez Louise!

                    1. re: Lori

                      Halibut with pork and bacon??? Sounds like an awful
                      flavor of catfood.

                      1. re: anni

                        I assume you haven't tried it yet at U.P., so how
                        would you know it's like cat food? Have you ever
                        eaten any of Rocco DiSpirito's food at all? Or is
                        this just more of "let's dump on U.P. because they has
                        the NERVE to serve a pork product with fish and not
                        put a warning on the menu"?

                        1. re: Gary Cheong

                          I don't know why you're taking my flippant remark so
                          personally. Halibut, bacon, and pork sounds like a
                          revolting combination of flavors to me and it's not my
                          problem if that offends you. I wouldn't care if the
                          chef put pork in the sorbet.

                          1. re: anni

                            Oh, you were just being flippant?

                            No, it doesn't offend me if you find the combination
                            revolting. Sorry, thought you were just another anti-
                            pork person piling on to UP (in light of the thread

                            1. re: Gary Cheong

                              Actually, I've made a halibut chowder with potatoes, cubed bacon, diced serrano chile corn and bits of ground pork browned with onions, and it was delicious. None left for the cat.

                              1. re: j gold

                                Next time, save some for me. Sounds delicious.
                                Nothing cat-foody about it at all.