Restaurant opening: The Union

By Ljudmila Petrovic

New addition to the up-and-coming Strathcona neighbourhood lives up to its trendy expectations

219 Union St.

The Union, a newly-opened Southeast Asian cuisine restaurant and bar, is located just off of Main and Union, right behind the Jimi Hendrix shrine. At first, I was skeptical: what kind of a hole-in-the-wall was I going to? But the second I entered the restaurant, I was immediately impressed and my new worry became: can I afford this?

The atmosphere and décor of the The Union has a trendy feel, with beautiful tables, crafted benches, a colorful bar, and dim lighting. Despite this, however, the prices are surprisingly reasonable; all dishes range from $6 to $17.

We started with the green papaya salad, a tangy and refreshing taste palette that included mint, chili lime dressing, peanuts, and crispy shrimp.

We continued onto the mussels and clams, which were generously served in a steaming pot, and swimming in a kaffir lime, coconut, basil, and lemongrass juice. It came with grilled naan, which was perfect when dipped in the remaining sauce.

For entrees, we had the peanut noodles, which were filling and tasty, but not as impressive as the appetizers, and the Nasi Goreng stirfry, which had shrimp, chicken, tomatoes, onions, green beans, and was topped with a fried egg. It was hearty and flavorful, with just the right level of spiciness; however, considering how many ingredients are advertised, there seemed to be much more rice than anything else.

The food menu is not extensive (one page for all the appetizers, entrees and desserts), but it manages to cover everything a menu needs and there is something for everybody’s taste: noodles, salads, seafood (Ocean Wise, for those keeping track), satays, you name it.

There is also a wide array of cocktails, with their most original being the selection of banga drinks (which translates to “jar” in Filipino), and which are, quite literally, served in a jar. They are refreshing and the novelty of drinking out of a jar doesn’t hurt.

The Union is the perfect place to go out for a relaxed and affordable dinner with friends, while still feeling like going out for dinner is an evening activity in itself, rather than just a meal. Hurry up, though, because, with its value and atmosphere, this place has the potential to become a local hit.