One of the lesser-known definitions of union is that of “a unified condition, something that is made one” or something “formed by a combining or coalition of parts or members.”
Either of those definitions applies to the Union Kitchen & Bar, the newest upscale dining establishment in Wilton Manors. This is a place where all aspects of the dining experience from service to food prep to atmosphere unify to create something remarkable.
Union is run by husband-and-wife Roberto Colombi and Christie Tenaud, who came from different backgrounds, and two different parts of the world, each with its unique culinary history. Tenaud was born in Peru and Colombi in Northern Italy. They met in south Florida while they developed their skills independently. They met doing what they love, and a "Union" was formed. The menu is a reflection of both of their backgrounds with Tenaud running the kitchen and the charming Colombi running the front of the house, both at the top of their game.
The food on its own is terrific, but when combined with the terrific service and comfortable atmosphere it becomes more than dinner out, it becomes a dining event. Normally, I would start with the food, that’s the main reason we dine out most of the time. But it is the impeccable service, which manages to be attentive and friendly and not the least bit stuffy that makes dining at Union such a lovely experience.
While other places complain that they’re having trouble finding help, Union seems to have managed to stock itself with a staff full of professionals who genuinely like their jobs. Dishes arrive at just the right moment and empty plates are whisked away just in time for the next course and each dish is delivered to the diner who ordered it! That shouldn’t be remarkable, and yet it is.
We began our meal with the crispy pork belly tacos and, for once, the pork belly was served as it should be: crispy on the outside, with a juicy interior. The pickled onions and aji Verde sauce perfectly augmented the dish. Marinated goat cheese with olives, Marcona almonds, and pearl onions confit offered for a rich blend of flavors, especially when spread on the perfectly toasted bread slices accompanying the dish. At this point, I was ready to go home and proclaim this the best dining experience of the year, but we still had three more courses to go.
We split the Asian pear salad. Baby mixed greens with candied walnuts and blue cheese caressed with the lightest honey-cider vinaigrette. Exquisite in everything from execution to appearance. I enjoyed a glass of Austrian Grüner Veltliner, the fruitiness of which perfectly complemented the appetizer and salad course and was reasonably priced at $9 for a healthy pour. The same was true of the Mount Fishtail New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I enjoyed with my entrée.
For his entrée, my hubby chose the squid ink fettuccine, cooked impeccably al dente and drizzled with a white wine and lemon sauce. It was topped by five perfectly poached plump shrimp. I was in a carnivorous mood and torn between the pork chop and rib eye. At our server’s suggestion, I opted for the rib eye and was rewarded with a Flintstone-esque portion of the steak, which arrived over-lapping each side of the plate. It also completely covered a medley of roasted rainbow fingerling potatoes and carrots. If there was one component of the meal that was a tad below perfection, it’s that the chimichurri sauce overwhelmed the dish a bit. I would have preferred a touch less. But there was no denying its freshness and garlicky unctuousness. The steak was, of course, cooked to the flawless medium-rare I ordered.
Although neither of us was able to finish the generous portions of our entrees, we decided to have dessert anyway. My chocolate brownie trifle featured Chantilly cream, chocolate pudding, and brownies. I would have preferred that the brownies be a bit chewier. Their light cakey base disappeared into the chocolate pudding. The blackberry galette was a textbook dessert, with the flaky pastry supporting a rich mascarpone base. A simple scoop of buttermilk ice cream drizzled with local honey rounded out the perfection of this dish.
It was a beautiful night and we opted to dine on the front patio. Although the rear patio is more expansive and beautifully decorated, we enjoyed the people watching from our cozy seats near the firepit in front. I’ve noticed that many restaurants in South Florida have eased face mask restrictions among their employees. I was pleased to note that at Union, every single employee was still masked, and I saw several applying hand-sanitizer frequently.
Union Kitchen & Bar
2309 N. Dixie Hwy., Wilton Manors
Café Pelican, in Palm Beach County, features Broadway and cabaret star Avery Sommers on Nov. 28 and Dec. 12 and 26. The Sunday evening performances of show tunes, jazz standards, and favorites from the great American songbook will be held from 7-9 p.m. Reservations are required by calling 561-842-7272. For more information, go to thepelicancafe.com.
The South Beach Wine and Food Festival will fan out across Miami-Dade and Broward counties with 85 events (so far) spread out over four days, Feb. 24-27. In Broward, events include dinners on Fort Lauderdale Beach, one at soon-to-open Dune by Laurent Tourondel, at Riviera by Fabio Viviani and at Etaru Hallandale.