Fall Restaurant Preview and First Look: Union Restaurant

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I got the chance to check out Union Restaurant and Bar Latino last night, the new venture from Freelance alums David Martinez and Paulo Feteira. I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying this is Haverstraw’s first destination restaurant. The food is that good.

David told me for our upcoming fall restaurant preview (buy the paper on Friday to see it in The Line) that with his cooking he was hoping to surprise people by serving Latino twists on American dishes — and upscale twists on Latin dishes. So if you’re used to your mussels soup with pommes frites, you’ll be interested to know he serves his with crispy yucca. If you think your tortilla soup should be brothy with tons of crisped tortilla strips — you’ll be surprised to find he’s pureed the tortilla right into the broth. It’s an interesting concept, and one he pulls off very well. Let’s get started, huh?

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The Batida de Coco Francesa. Made with cognac and coconut colada. My husband was surprised to learn he’d ordered the “girlâ€? drink, but he happily sipped away. It was delicious… not to sweet. And cognac had a nice kick.

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The caipirinha. Cachaca, sugar and fresh lime. This drink was very well balanced. It’s not as sweet as rum, and it’s not for babies, for sure. Cachaca is an aquired taste. One that I’m happy to say I have acquired.

We decided to share the Sopa de Tortilla ($4.50), and they split it for us in the kitchen.

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David makes it by roasting tortillas and then cooking them with tomato and onions and chicken broth. Then he purees the whole thing. He told me it’s because he feels like tomato soup often tastes like tomatoes, and he thinks it should taste like tortillas. He uses a garnish of shrimp, crispy tortillas, avocado and cilantro oil. It’s great.

Then we got the Arepa Columbiana:

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Sweet corn cake (like a pancake), shrimp and salad with mango and pomegranate vinaigrette. The bitterness of the arugula was a good foil to the sweetness of the shrimp. A winner also.

And the Ceviche Hondureno.

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I gotta admit, I’ve seen this style of presentation at Peter Kelly’s restaurants. (He owns the Freelance Cafe in Piermont.) But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad dish. In fact, very tasty indeed. The coconut milk was silky, as was the tuna, and the flecks of cilantro stepped in to separate.

Then David sent out a shared portion of the Sopa de Mejillones Cremosa. (Creamy mussels soup):

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The flavors in this were deep yet fresh. And I like the green onions and the cherry tomatoes for both color and interest. The best was the crispy yucca, which added an unexpected texture. It was like a very crispy puff pastry — but with an earthy flavor.

We were quite full by now, and most of these entrees went home. But, we were here to sample, so….

the Chuleta de Puerco.

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I think this is what David is talking about when he says he wants to surprise people. This dish could be found on any Latin menu — pounded, breaded pork chop with lettuce and tomato on top. But normally the lettuce will be iceberg and the pork will be dry. This was flavorful and bright.

The vaca frita Cubana.

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This dish had great flavor, but it’s one where the presentation didn’t blow me away. But that’s probably because when I see a plate dressed like this, I usually think it’s not going to taste very good. That was not the case here. The beans were earthy and rich and the skirt steak was tender and juicy. I could have used a little less sauce, but otherwise, very good.

We didn’t want dessert, either, but they surprised us. The tiramisu was good, though I’m wary of the caffeine in that dessert, so I rarely order it and don’t have much to compare it to.

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It’s light, airy and sweet with a hint of bitterness from the espresso.

The bread pudding —

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— was very interesting indeed. There weren’t chuncks of bread. Paulo told us David’s wife Maria makes it. She must puree it. Obviously there’s some dairy in there, but also dulce de leche, so caramelized, too. Out of sight.

There are a few issues. The restaurant isn’t that comfortable: lights are a little bright; glassware and table settings are sort of amateur. And the restaurant still looks exactly the same as it did when it was Gallitos. (There are even roosters all around still.)

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But these are all things the owners can fix once they get their groove. And I can’t remember a time when a restaurant has impressed me so much on its third day being open. There were hardly any serving snafus and all the food was fantastic. I’m worried about trumpeting these guys too much — lest you go and the place is packed and they can’t handle the crowds. That very well could happen. But you go on a slow night, as I did, and put yourself in their capable hands, you’ll be very happy indeed.

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Union Restaurant and Bar Latino, 24 New Main St., Haverstraw. 845-429-4354.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

49 Comments

  1. David and Paulo, as expected, great reviews. We are all happy for you and cannot wait to experience a night out at Union.

  2. Jennifer Beillon on

    Wow! May have to drive up from Texas for this! Everything looks and sounds amazing! Way to go, y’all! Tell Mary I said hi…

  3. Way to go you guys! I am so happy for all of you and really can not wait to come and have a fabulous meal.

  4. Congrats!!!! The place looks fabulous – I know you all will be blessed with a packed restaurant.

  5. Congratulations on a glowing review. We cannot wait to visit you at your new establishment. Everything lookes and sounds great.

    Best wishes from the Malone Family.

  6. Congratulations, Paulo. The restaurant is attractive and the food looks delicious. Can’t wait to try it. Our best wishes for success.
    Love,

    Brigid, Ron and kids

  7. Paulo,

    I am so proud of you!! You have worked so hard to accomplish your dream and I am 110% behind you. And you can tell that Anthony, Sabrina & Federico are proud of their Papa. I’m sure you and Davy will be a huge success!

    I love you,

    Mary

  8. Paulo,

    I am so proud of you!! You have worked so hard to accomplish your dream and I am 110% behind you. And you can tell that Anthony, Sabrina & Federico are so proud of their Papa. I’m sure you and Davy will be a huge success!

    Just think, last year at this time I was planning your U.S. citizenship party and look at your progress since then (& as an American Citizen!!)

    I love you,

    Mary

  9. Paulo,

    I am so proud of you!! You have worked so hard to accomplish your dream and I am 110% behind you. And you can tell that Anthony, Sabrina & Federico are proud of their Papa. I’m sure you and Davy will be a huge success!

    I love you,
    Mary

    Just think, last year at this time I was planning your U.S. citizenship party and look at your progress since then (& as an American Citizen!!)

  10. Congratulations Paulo, what a lovely review, couldn’t happen to a nicer or more deserving guy. We look forward to enjoying a meal at Union, and we trust that many many others will, too! Best wishes (and greetings to Mary)!

  11. Margaret Struhar on

    Congratulations Paulo and Davey!

    I’m so looking forward to going there. We have my mom’s birthday to celebrate soon. . .

  12. Congratulations Paulo! We can’t wait to dine at Union. Everything looks and sounds amazing! We wish you the best of luck.
    Eileen, Lisa & the kids

  13. Congratulations Paulo and crew! Let me know if you need any pointers–I still remember how to set fire to those creme brulees. Everything looks great!

  14. Way to go guys! Everything looks great…We will need a table for 6 one of these days when we make it up there. Looks like y’all have done a great job! I am sure you are proud of yourselves- and we are all proud of you too. Give the kids hugs and kisses- Tell Mary Hello.

  15. Way to go Paulo and Davy.You already became an instant success, when you reached for your dream. “Congradulations”
    Cathy R.

  16. Mary K. Feteira on

    Paulo,

    I am so proud of you!! You have worked so hard to accomplish your dream and I am 110% behind you. And you can tell that Anthony, Sabrina & Federico are proud of their Papa. I’m sure you and Davy will be a huge success!

    Just think, last year at this time I was planning your U.S. citizenship party and look at your progress since then(& as an American Citizen!!)

    I love you,

    Mary

  17. Louis & Karen Michelson on

    Dear Paulo and Davy, The best of everthing and much success. We your talents, it will be wonderful. Can’t wait to visit the restaurant. It WILL BE GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!. mARY IS SO PROUD. Regards, Louis and Karen

  18. Davey & Paulo,

    Congratulations on what I know will be a great sucess. I am extremely proud to say that we worked together and I am certain that the Union House will exceed the expectations of diners everywhere.

    Rica & I look forward to dinning with you very soon.

    Peter & Rica

  19. Congratulations Paulo, what a beautiful place and the food
    is fabulous. Wow! we are so proud of you. Scott and I will
    be back with our whole family very soon.

    “TO ALL THIS IS THE BEST LATIN RESTAUNT”.

    SCOTT & RITA

  20. Paulo,
    I am so proud of you and am behind you 110%. Just think, last year at this time we were celebrating yoiuo American citizenship and now look what you’ve accomplished! And you can see how proud Anthony, Sabrina, & Federico are of you. I knopw you & Davey will be a great success.
    Love,
    Mary

  21. Paulo,
    I am so proud of you and am behind you 110%. Just think, last year at this time we were celebrating your American citizenship and now look what you’ve accomplished! And you can see how proud Anthony, Sabrina, & Federico are of you. I know you & Davey will be a great success.
    Love,
    Mary

  22. ok just got back from the restaurant its twelve oclock.Unfortunately im still waiting for my dinner!!.I consider myself a foodie and have seen just about everything.But this was right up there with my worse dining experience.It turns out their was only one cook tonight(the owner)So besides not getting fed we had no information as to why.I personally saw Patrons leaving disgusted.One diner went as far as to go to the kitchen and start screaming.I must say from beginning to the bitter end this is a miserable excuse for a restaurant.I think liz really should of waited before she bestowed this place worth the drive!!!!!

  23. boy i still am writing because im so P***&&&d.I should of been warned when our waiter arrived at our table swerating profusely.Introduced himself as todd told us this was his first night.And no matter how long it took we get through it together:)

  24. My experience at the Union Restaurant last night (Sept 29) was very far from enjoyable. It took an hour and one half to get our dinner: our reservation was at 8:30 (the earliest the kitchen could accommodate us.) We were only served at 10 because I told them the truth, that my husband, who is a diabetic, needed to eat because he had taken his insulin a long time ago. Other people who came in earlier had yet to receive their dinners. During this long wait we were never given another piece of bread or had our water glasses filled up. When we said that our diabetic member needed to eat, the hostess brought us four lovely shrimps and three little cheese tarts, for four people. When we finally were served my husband enjoyed his pork and my friend said her skirt steak was tough. Two of us ordered the tilapia, which consisted of two two inch pieces of fish, a very few beans, and one little piece of spinach. Tasty, yes, tiny, yes and hardly worth waiting for.

    Not only is the Union Restaurant NOT a destination restaurant, it is one to be avoided.

    Leave a Reply

  25. Paulo & Davey,
    I would disregard the last two posts as it is obvious that they don’t know the cardinal rule of restaurant going. Critics
    do not base reviews on one visit and neither should diners. I would recommend that Ron & Sue try again. Visiting a restaurant a week after it opens with the expectations that you guys have is almost unfair. I enjoyed my visit immensely and am sure that you guys are more then prepared for the crowds that will coming in the future, especially after the great write-up. Rome was not built in a day, and people should be a little more understanding! See you guys soon
    Brendan

  26. Hi. congratulation David and paulo. the restaurante looks very nice, i would disregard the pas stuped maseges,u can say people sometimes they dont know about restaurant, they dont understand how hard is when u just open u restaurant and 100 people get there at the same time, i was there that day and i enjoyed myu dinner, i also went last night and i love u food. please dont pay attention 2 those people kiip the flavor, i told Jamie that i need 1 reservation for 10/11/07 cause she say u guys close tuesday. like i say i love u restaurant Jamie knows what kind of food i eat. see u guys soon.

  27. congratulation! David and poulo. keep ur restaurant busy. i will come back with all my family, my mom loves ur pasta and bread puddin. im trying to sand more people there, my mom wants more menus cause she is giving to everybody, we trying to help u David we know is not easy but we also sure u know what u doing.

  28. ok now that your family has stopped posting.I particulary liked the one from the seven year old.ill respond.Im well aware that visiting a restaurant a week after it opens is not always a great idea.We were perfectly prepared for glitches.What we didnt expect is To wait 3 hours for food that never arrived PERIOD!!!!.At that point it behooves the owners to be solicitous not the patrons!!.Then again it would of been hard on the owners to be solicitous seeing that he was the only chef there cooking for the so called 100 people.That showed up at the same time.That was just a nonsense post

  29. brendan i would ignore you.Because you dont know the cardinal rule of reading.I did not review the food.For that it would require more then one visit.I reviewed the professionalism of the restaurant.So if you went to a dentist and he pulled the wrong tooth,You would chalk it up to a bad day and go back? lol

  30. Annmarie & Paul Lentini on

    A chilled pitcher of white sangria, crispy coconut shrimp with honey mustard, and a sweet corn cake topped with pan seared shrimp in a salad of mango and pomegranate vinaigrette were the perfect ending to a long work week. And those were just the appetizers! Union Restaurant and Bar Latino is a welcome addition to the Rockland County restaurant scene. The service was friendly, fast, and quick to refill your glass whatever your beverage choice. We wish you the best of luck! We will definitely return…with friends.

  31. Ok….. I just went onto the blog to share what a wonderful night I had at Union. I was horrified to see that one person responded negatively four times about the same meal!!!! It’s amazing to me how people have the time to sit and attempt to sabotage someone’s business just a week after it opens. He must have a lot of built up anger…..perhaps his mother wasn’t a good cook. I do feel like buying that angry man dinner because maybe it was just his company. I am not a family member, just a human being that wishes success for hard working people. The meal was amazing from the sangria to the bread pudding dessert! We can’t wait to return

  32. yes i get grumpy when im not fed.But no im not an angry man,Just a truthful one unlike you

  33. you want good latin fusion food stick to sonora or pacifico
    Peter kelly would not even use the restroom here

  34. What wonderful food and wonderful people! The first couple of months at a restaurant are sure to have kinks and pitfalls, but with food this good success is a definite. I enjoyed a fabulous meal of Ceviche Hondereno and Vaca Frita Cubana and it was outstanding. The ceviche had just the right amount of all ingredients, not too much lime, and the vaca frita was moist and cooked to perfection. I actually disagree with Liz Johnson in amount of sauce used. My hertiage is Mexican, and we like everything on the plate to eventually get mixed together, so once the sauce, beans and rice all found each other it was heaven! To the owners, keep up the good work and keep your heads up through these first few months. You can’t please everyone all the time, and the adversity will make you wiser. Oh, btw, I’m not family either, and I agree with a previous post that anyone who would put up such comments more than once has an anger management issue. It didn’t seem to me like a seven year old responded, only a person whose first language is probably not English. I’ll be back to sample all the other delicious offereings as soon as possible!

  35. Ron, first of all a dentist pulling the wrong tooth would be the equivalent of bad food. Being treated badly by his receptionist would be unprofessional and being made to wait to see him would as well. Seeing as how I am not related to either of the owners and you seem to want to ignore me this will be my only post in response to you. By the way Peter Kelly would use the bathroom there, he told me himself.

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