A Side of Bocce
By Ashley Bennett
Union on Yale dominates the competition right out of the food court
Union on Yale isn’t just a bar or gourmet eatery; it’s a new restaurant with family style portions that victoriously employs new ideas in dining that few restaurants try these days. Thanks to managers John J. Solana and Mark Perone, who are also the guys behind Claremont’s other well-hidden hot-spot The Back Abbey, after one visit I’m certain that Union on Yale is bound to be the next defining spot for Claremont.
Immediately you’ll notice that Union on Yale’s outdoor seating is no ordinary dining area. Centered within the mass of tables and chairs is a bocce ball court, built specifically to offer a sense of community for the strangers and friends alike who dine there. Separate from the main restaurant building which also has indoor dining options, there is a separate building for the chefs. It’s their own little separate kitchen heaven, complete with clear glass windows that allows them see you and you to see them as if giving an unspoken promise of genuine trust. You can literally see chefs Brad Owen, Leslie O’Guinn and Travis Griffin creating the goods straight from the kitchen.
On a warm and cloudless day, a light breeze is a refreshing change from the dismal interior of my home and the addicting brightness of a computer screen. With refreshing days such as this one, nothing represents the light and happy feeling better than the Seruat Salad. A mixture of Israeli couscous, beluga lentils, chopped carrots, onions, feta cheese and topped with a unique and sweet golden peppadew vinaigrette leaves you feeling refreshed after every fork-full.
While the salad is plenty for two people but enough to make a dish for one hungry eater, Union on Yale also employs an a la carte style of eating. On the “For the Table” portion of the menu, the Alcatra-Terceira Island, is plenty, if not more than enough food for four people. This Portuguese Beef roast, surrounded by amber and rust colored potatoes, onions and sliced carrots isn’t exactly your light mid-day lunch treat but for a chillier evening or soup-weather it’s the perfect comfort food. It’s only when you get a bowl full of this delightful meal that you begin to feel the heartiness slowly grow throughout your body, from head to toe, with a satisfying explosion of taste and warm fuzzy feeling to follow once consumed.
However after tasting such a satisfying dish, my senses could not escape the spiciness of the pizza (simply called the “Spicy”) aptly named for how it enflames your senses with a rush of both satisfaction and intense heat. The Spicy is a simple assembly of pickled cherry peppers, salami, mozzarella and thin slices of garlic (likened by the manager to a scene from Goodfellas). The small combination resulted in probably the spiciest pizza I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. This might make for the worst after-breathe mixture, but it’s worth every exhalation of spice and garlic on your breath.
There’s no way that Union on Yale, after such an impressively unique take on its meals, could end with a mediocre dessert. Which is why The Mugshot, which according to Solana is made with “Magic, unicorns and happiness,” made my day. It’s a fluffy and heavenly mixture of custard and Cool Whip. Doused with cinnamon on top and a small chocolate pirouette stick, the first spoonful will catch you by surprise as you dig into the depths of this layered tiramisu-influenced treat. At the bottom lies a moist, rum infused cake that not only gives the texture to keep you from floating away with delight, but adds a smart adult twist to a traditional dessert.
From small plates to daring salads and a few other creative mixes, Union on Yale’s ambitious menu succeeds in more ways than one. I look forward to checking back when the bocce ball gets going because with a spoonful of that Mugshot, no one is going to stop me from dominating the court.