Review, Union Restaurant

The Cascade Group seems to have an agenda to take over Main Street, one restaurant at a time. In addition to The Cascade Room, Latitude and Habit Lounge, they’ve now opened The Union at Main Street and Union (hence the name), in Strathcona. This up-and-coming neighbourhood borders on Chinatown and has been attracting younger residents as more properties are listed for sale, and it now houses several great eateries, shops and clubs.

Two of the owners of the Cascade Group, Rob Edmonds and David Nicolay, also own the design firm Evoke, and have brought us innovative rooms around town such as Sanafir, Electric Owl and The Irish Heather. Charged with the design of a 2,000 square foot interior, they’ve succeeded in making the space comfortable and hip. The room is based on communal table dining and no reservations are taken, which leads to a festive atmosphere. Seats around the bar offer a show of the exotic cocktail-making skills of the barman, while the tables offer the chance to get to know a neighbour.

If you are in the mood for just drinks, do sit at the bar and enjoy a few different creations, as head bartender Arthur Wynne crafts a cocktail list using exotic Asian ingredients, many of them gathered from the nearby Chinatown markets. The Boracay Hangin is a delight, made with vodka, cucumber, pandan syrup and calamansi juice with atomised kaffir lime, run and toasted coconut. The Tom Yum Collins includes coconut milk, cilantro and lemongrass. There’s nothing regular about this menu, truly both original and delicious (and all drinks are doubles at $10).

From the kitchen comes a variety of Southeast Asian dishes, most meant for sharing. Chef Lisa Henderson also owns and designed the menu of Latitude, a pan-American spot further south on Main; she’s again proved her ability to bring authentic ethnic food to the (literal) table. Pork, chicken and beef satays make perfect finger food, Vietnamese Banh Mi subs range from the classic cold cut to an inventive caramelized prawn, and green beans and papaya salads provide a healthy veggie fix. Bowls include the familiar Pad Thai, Cha Ca Fish a dish with ling cod, coconut milk and vermicelli and Nasi Goreng made with rice, chicken, shrimp and fried egg. The dishes aren’t huge, but they’re priced right, so do order a few amongst friends — and don’t miss out on the Bubur Cha Cha, a dessert with caramelized sweet potatoes, yams and tapioca in coconut milk.

Service is warm and efficient — the Cascade Group is known for its owners being active participants in the dining experience, so someone with a very vested interest in the success of the place is always nearby. As for the crowd, they’re fairly young and fashionably dressed, but there’s also room for families and tourist type attire, as there doesn’t seem to be judgment passed here. This is a spot to meet friends, sip and snack and perhaps even really (re)connect with one another. 219 Union Street 604-568-3230

Image courtesy of Janis Nicolay.  

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