Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday; dinner: seven days
Open late: Friday & Saturday till midnight
River North spot offering sushi and kushiyaki, grilled Japanese skewers.
Union Sushi & Barbeque Bar—from ex-Sushi Wabi chef Worachai Thapthimkuna and partner Mike Schatzman—is a David Chang-style confluence of carnicentric excess and pan-Asiatica. Here chain-mail tapestries and bright graffiti art surround the centerpiece glass-encased robata grill, which periodically bursts into cinematically hellish flames to envelop the $2 to $5 skewered bites. The alligator pop is a particularly good one, tender and juicy. Same goes for the soft cubes of beef tongue blanketed in thick Japanese curry and sprinkled with rice crisps, and the fat, jellylike prosciutto-wrapped scallop topped with creamy wasabi-avocado puree and wisps of fried ginger. I'd have been happy ordering two of the latter and calling it a night, but duty required me to order the processed fish-cake tube chikuwa, stuffed with pepper Jack. It's one of the odder offerings, and it foreshadows some terrifically ill-conceived starters and large plates such as the uni alfredo soba, a bowl of green tea noodles and orange-colored cream sauce that obliterates any ocean freshness from the urchin gonads. There are a few flashes of brilliance. The agedashi sweet-potato tater tots, soft tuberous dumplings bathing in a light dashi, are a smart homage to the traditional tofu dish. The luxuriously rare and rich venison patty topped with egg yolk recalls a loaded teriyaki burger. And the composition of the "underground salad" of pickled radishes, mushrooms, and surprisingly crisp, nonmucilaginous mountain yam is as florid as the dish is delicious. Yet Union is fundamentally a sushi restaurant, and the specialty house makimono and "classics" feature the surfeit of ingredients, incomprehensibly clashing textures, and muddled flavors that represent the worst excesses of the nonpurist school of fish. Read the full review >>
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