Chef Bruce Kalman is the man behind Union. His philosophy on food is represented in all he prepares and it's literally written on the wall. "Let things taste of what they are." That's actually a quote from iconic farm to table chef Alice Waters. But Chef Bruce embraces that sentiment and serves it up on a plate, night after night. Kalman is known for his house made pastas and the squid ink garganelli with lobster is the most popular dish on the menu.
The rolled pasta is black with the ink. It's topped with chunks of slow braised fennel, lobster and truffle butter. The pasta is hearty with just the right bite. I watched as Chef Bruce squeezed fresh lemon over the top; the juice balanced the dish and kept the truffle butter and lobster from being too rich. Chef Bruce is also a master with vegetables. I'd happily return just for the wild mushrooms and polenta and the carrots done three ways. I loved how the earthiness of the mushrooms is brightened by a splash of Spanish Sherry. The carrots were also simply made but full of flavor. There was a pile of roasted carrots, graced by a schmear of pureed carrots and garnished with raw carrot chips.
Union was recently named one of LA's top 10 new restaurants. And, the night we were there, most of the patrons had come because there was so much buzz for Union and Chef's food. This is a man obsessed, after all. He makes his own, cheese and butter. He'll butcher an whole pig and serve everything nose, to tail, to trotters. He is so dedicated to the fresh, the locally sourced, the best, he intends to change his pasta flour. He found out the wheat is grown in California but milled in Italy. That might make for an authentic pasta flour, but in Kalman's book, that is unsustainable and thus, irresponsible. He's now looking to have his wheat milled right near the restaurant in Pasadena.
37 E. Union Street Pasadena, California 91103
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