Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Union Bar: Easy, Breezy, Tasty

It was a girl date night with The Style Guru and we decided to walk from her place on mid-main street to the Vancouver Art Gallery for their Friday FUSE event (for info on FUSE click here- it was a very cool event, I recommend checking it out.)
As usual, we had a tough time deciding on where to go because we are both food nerds that have a long list of great places we like and new places we want to try. We walked past one such place I've been wanting to try for ages: Holy Trinity Ukranian Orthodox Cathedral and their perogy feasts that they serve up the first Friday of every month, simply because we wanted something a bit lighter and to sit somewhere and have a few drinks. As we got to the Main and Terminal area, TSG suggested we try The Union Bar, she had been before and liked it, I had never been- but heard good things.
The Union is run by the people to also run Latitude, Habit, and Cascade (higher up on Main Street) and the focus here is southeast Asian food.

I loved the atmosphere- big windows and high ceilings made the space feel open and breezy on a hot, stuffy evening. Most seating is at communal tables but there are a few small high tables and bar seating.
There are about 80 seats, much of the space is wooden and the walls are sprinkled with cool art and installations. The vibe is slightly hipster with a trendy, minimal, crisp, clean feel.

The Union has an impressive drink menu (much like Cascade,  and Habit, and Latitude) and keeps with the southeast Asian theme serving up exotic and delicious sounding banga cocktails in mason jars, an impressive beer selection and drinking vinegars. On a hot day, all I wanted was a cold beer, so I ordered Main Street Pilsner.
The menu is medley of South East Asian food: small plates- including beef satays, salads, banh mis, veggie pakoras, and chilli chicken wings, mains- rice and noodle bowls like Pad Thai, Butter Chicken, Bun Vermicelli, and a few tempting desserts (Coconut Pannacotta anyone?)

We shared a few dishes. First up was the Crispy Fried Tofu ($11). This was essentially agadashi tofu served in a rich, creamy Thai red curry sauce with bits of sauteed spinach and shiitake mushrooms. DAMN! This is fantastic- especially the sauce. It's reminiscent of the tofu and sauce at Toshi which I dish out as a big compliment. This sauce is so phenomenal, we also ordered a small side of Naan bread ($2) to sop up the deliciousness.

I seriously licked the bowl clean. I'm so classy.

Next up was the Sweet and Sour Fried Fish Vermicelli Bowl ($12). This was an noodle salad bowl with pickled carrot and daikon, cucumbers, lettuce, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, fresh herbs, and a small side dish of nuoc cham dipping sauce. This was a nice dish for a hot day. Extremely refreshing. The fish was a bit bland but was well cooked, buttery soft on the inside with a light crispy exterior. Wouldn't have loved it on its own, but worked well with the dish as a whole.

Green Papaya Salad ($8) with shredded green papaya, mint, cilantro, spiced peanuts, chili lime dressing and crispy shrimp. This was a tasty, fresh, well-flavoured dish but pretty standard, with the exception of the tiny bites of crispy shrimp, which were delightful and a nice salty crunch. I found the portion size on this dish to be really small.

Service was fantastic and super speedy- our server was adorable, bubbly, friendly, with an awesome smile. I really did like the atmosphere and feel of the place too. This would be a fantastic place to come and hang out on a hot evening with a big group of people.

I have to give a special shout out and commend them for providing every table setting with a gorgeous presentation of hot sauces and chili oils. My heart actually skipped a beat when I saw that on the table.
Overall, the food was really good with awesome flavours but definitely not jaw-dropping or drool-worthy (except that tofu sauce) and the prices were reasonable. A very fun and breezy place to hang out on a hot evening.

The Union Bar on Urbanspoon

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