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Union Pacific

Alex Wolfman Jan 8, 1998 10:52 AM

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.

  1. b
    Bernie Feb 4, 1998 12:22 AM

    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
      Lori Aug 6, 1999 11:31 AM

      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
        Gary Cheong Aug 6, 1999 12:00 PM

        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
          steve d. Aug 6, 1999 05:29 PM

          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.
            j gold Aug 6, 1999 11:53 PM

            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.
              wonki Aug 9, 1999 06:40 PM

              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
                steve d. Aug 10, 1999 09:51 AM

                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.
                  wonki Aug 10, 1999 11:10 AM

                  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
                  jen kalb Aug 10, 1999 12:14 PM

                  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
                    jen kalb Aug 10, 1999 12:18 PM

                    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 Aug 15, 1999 03:26 AM

                      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
                    Martha Gehan Aug 13, 1999 02:03 PM

                    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
                      wonki Aug 15, 1999 02:40 AM

                      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
                        Martha Gehan Aug 20, 1999 11:41 AM

                        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
                          wonki Aug 23, 1999 07:51 PM


                          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
                      doris lubel Nov 18, 2000 01:48 PM

                      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
                  Jim Leff Aug 6, 1999 11:28 PM

                  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
                    anni Aug 7, 1999 08:34 AM

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

                    1. re: anni
                      Gary Cheong Aug 7, 1999 02:19 PM

                      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
                        anni Aug 7, 1999 04:37 PM

                        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
                          Gary Cheong Aug 7, 1999 04:59 PM

                          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
                            j gold Aug 7, 1999 06:35 PM

                            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
                              Gary Cheong Aug 8, 1999 01:03 AM

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

                4. s
                  Shemmy Jan 15, 1998 02:59 PM

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


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