I remember vividly how crazy people become when someone mentioned ‘red velvet’ two years ago. Yes, the cake used to be a symbol of Jakarta’s trendiness, urbanism, and exotic unexplainable taste (back then cream cheese was just a strange material to use).
Among many cafes that offered red velvet, Union rose above them easily and claimed the title of ‘Best Red Velvet in Town’. And it’s not an empty talk; they indeed have the best red velvet in town. Their cakes are wonderfully made with delicious cream cheese, bitter rum and crunchy sweet peanuts. It’s just one of the most wonderful red velvets I’ve ever eaten.
Now, I am sitting in this small wooden table with my friends, staring at this poor white paper, as tablecloth and wondering where the hell are those good memories? Having the Best Red Velvet in Town has certainly brought a lot of benefits to Union. The moment we step into the door, we are greeted with army of young expatriates fighting to get a table. The small bistro/restaurant is clearly not enough to calm all of its customers. We have to wait for almost 30 minutes and some of the dishes are already sold out.
When we are finally ushered coldly into our table and given a basket of hard breads with butter salt, we still have to fight the urge to smash all of the speakers that are blaring some loud indie/pop/electro songs. Union may have the modern urban interior, but the ambience is extremely lacking. What about the food? Well, being an American-Italian restaurant, Union offers a limited, but elegant, set of menu. Usual stuffs like pasta and grilled meats are explained to every single detail.It’s nonetheless beautiful, but feels a little unnecessary and confusing.
Salmon and Spinach Wonton Ravioli, Brown Butter Sauce. 5 thin salmon ravioli smothered in thick brown sauce and Parmesan cheese. I have to say that this is probably the most beautiful, if not elegant dish in our table. Wonderfully presented in pristine white plate, the wonton ravioli tastes extremely smooth and fragile, disintegrating inside my mouth like small pieces of cotton. After that, the spinach rushes in to give a bit sour, but fresh taste. The salmon feels a little dry, balancing the thickness of the brown sauce. This is a true winner, both in presentation and overall taste.
Pork Crackling and Bacon Lardons, Spaghetti, Alba Truffle Cream. Creamy spaghetti with chunks of pork meats and bacon lardons. The last time I ate truffle cream in a restaurant, I almost choked because of its signature fishy taste. Since then, I stopped eating truffle cream or anything that came up with truffle. Union’s Alba Truffle Cream makes me want to give it a go again. The cream is a bit bland, milky, but strangely fresh and forms a nice couple with pork meats and bacon. I have a feeling that Union cooks the pasta a bit more solid than usual, but it gives a nice creamy texture in my mouth. The dish tastes (and looks) a bit boring though, after a while.
Club Sandwich with Grilled Chicken, Truffled Eggs, and Garlic Aioli Two sandwiches with grilled chicken, fried eggs, garlic, and fresh lettuces accompanied by salad and chips. At this point, I am certain that Union has a certain liking to write its entire menu with overrated definition. The so-called Truffled Eggs are just regular almost over-fried eggs with black pepper and salt. Garlic Aioli is just garlic. And the main star, grilled chicken, is just pathetic looking piece of chicken breast grilled/smoked to submission.
The whole sandwich feels regular in my mouth. At some points, I give up finding anything interesting about this dish and eat it with disappointment. One thing I can’t accept is the coldness of the sandwiches. I expect something warmer, more attractive, and more welcoming than this. Where is the crispy golden bread? Where are the fresh lettuces? Where is the freshly grilled chicken? Nope. This is just a very sad dish.
The downfall continues to the salad and the chips. The salad is hands down the sourest salad I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. Its like someone decided to soak it in lemon water for one or two hours and then put more lemons in it. On the other hand, the chips taste plain, just random textures of thin fried potatoes. God…
Smoked Beef and Mozzarella Sandwich with House-made Chips Smoked beef sandwich with cheese and potato chips. An extension of my plain-chicken-whatever-sandwich, the smoked beef sandwiches are nicer actually. The wheat bread is a bit warmer; I can feel the crustiness of the texture. The melted mozzarella cheese stuck tightly into the smoked beefs, making a lovely combination.
But again Union is a fine dining restaurant with people fighting to be seated; I expect something more complicated and elegant than this. This is just a brutal combination that looks pretty much the same with high school lunch pack.
It’s a pity that with this level of experience, Union still lacks one important thing. The service. Beware everyone, Union’s waiter and waitress are practicing what I call ‘appearance service’. First, they check their guests by their ages, what kind of clothes they are wearing, their bags, their hairs, and their faces. After that, they decide which level of kindness they should use.
My waitress kindness is on the same level with iceberg that sunk Titanic. Cold, fulfilling my needs with silence, taking my plates before I finish (which is a good coincidence actually, because I can’t take one more bite of that sandwich anymore), and explaining the menu to us coldly. She ruins the whole dining experience by taking out our plates quickly and saying that we can only use the table until 3 o’clock in the evening while staring at my old Kipling bag mercilessly. We don’t even dare to ask her to take our photos. I guess selfie is out of question here.
When my friend decides to pay, she doesn’t even come to our table to do after-the-meal-smiles, she just nods her head from afar and waves like a strangled dolphin. I choose to stay silent this time, but my hands write ‘bad service, nothing special’ in their guest cards. Hopefully, Union will stop flying around in its own private cloud nine and go back to earth. The competition is tight, even when they have the ‘Best Red Velvet in Town’ title.
Plaza Senayan Courtyard, Ground Floor, Jl. Asia Afrika No. 8, Senayan
Mon – Sun 11:00 – 22:00
(021) 57905861, (021) 57905863