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Union Pacific (Closed)


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It is quite obvious that the restaurant got demoted for the service and kitchen mistakes primarily, and that full credit was given to chef Dispirito’s talent.

A cook cooks.

A chef not only cooks but manages.

DiSpirito might cook well but from last year's The Restaurant and the decay of UP it seems he is not a talented chef.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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When I noted my low opinion of Ms. Burros' reviews on another forum I was dissed by the fat guy. Once again I feel her review was off the wall, but he gives another (unconvincing, in my opinion) defense, based perhaps on her other journalistic virtues. I've only eaten at UP once, several years ago, and thus have no current opinion of the place. At that time my meal was ok if the price had been 1/3 or more lower. It was one of those 'not bad but I'd NEVER want to eat here again' meals.

How a place that serves cold food gets 2 stars is beyond me. It's one thing to be overreaching or not for everybody (I think of Grimes review of WD-50, which clearly explained the reasons why he could not award a further star at that time), another to justify mediocrity mixed with some high notes.

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Jin, I totally agree with your definitions of cook and chef, and I think the statement "the restaurant is worse when the chef isn't there" is just about the most insulting thing one can say about a chef because it strikes at the most basic executive competence of a chef. That being said, restaurants decay for many reasons, and my guess is that many of the problems at UP (as well as at Tuscan and Rocco's) have to do with the fact that Rocco is in unsustainable business relationships where he's asked to perform at one level but only given the funding, resources, and authority to perform at another level. Of course, he should have learned by now.

Victor, I hope you won't consider this a dis, but I just don't think it would be credible at all to give Union Pacific less than two stars. The star system is more than a literal reflection of the tally of good and bad dishes that a critic had over the course of a few recent visits. There's a larger context.

And lxt, I agree: there is no disconnect for me in Burros's review (though there was in an earlier one, or two). However, I could see how somebody accustomed to reading Grimes might see a disconnect.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It is quite obvious that the restaurant got demoted for the service and kitchen mistakes primarily, and that full credit was given to chef Dispirito’s talent.

A cook cooks.

A chef not only cooks but manages.

DiSpirito might cook well but from last year's The Restaurant and the decay of UP it seems he is not a talented chef.

When we talk about the talent, does it fit into the realm of the chef or the cook? For instance “[Keller’s] great talent is that he never tires of coming up with new, surprising, and well-executed variations of the possibilities of something as simple as an egg or a tomato…” (Dana Cowin – Food & Wine). Should have we demoted Mr. Keller to a “cook” after the failure of Rakel in New York city?

Mr. DiSpirito may have demonstrated an inability to manage two restaurants (one of them underfunded, per Fat Guy) simultaneously, but when he ran UP alone, he was one of the most interesting chefs on the New York city restaurant scene.

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)
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I'm noticing that the people who have dined at UP are the ones supporting the two stars. But for someone who has never set foot in the place, it reads like a one-star review.

Burros said the service was slow, plates arrived at different times, only three of eleven desserts were any good, the steak was fine, decent or inedible, the crab cake was uncooked, the rabbit was cold, and the soups were disappointing.

Hmm...and this is awarded a "Very Good" rating? Even "Good" sounds like a stretch.

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Burros said the service was slow, plates arrived at different times, only three of eleven desserts were any good, the steak was fine, decent or inedible, the crab cake was uncooked, the rabbit was cold, and the soups were disappointing.

perhaps the reviewer is focusing on the bad points, as UP and Rocco need a good lashing.

I'm noticing that the people who have dined at UP are the ones supporting the two stars. But for someone who has never set foot in the place, it reads like a one-star review.

...

Hmm...and this is awarded a "Very Good" rating? Even "Good" sounds like a stretch.

i haven't been in about 6 months, but when UP is "very good", it's "very fucking good."

edited for clarity

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)
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I believe the following quote from Marian was fairly prophetic given this particular thread:

The policy with re-reviews is that isn't one. It's very difficult to get around to all the new places that deserve a review one time around. But when something is called to our attention by more than one person, or someone we know and trust - ie the palce you gave x stars to has improved enormously or decline precipitously, we try to get back to it.

In fact I have one coming up next week, my next to last review before I go back to my regular work.

Thanks for all your great questions.

Next week's review will be her last (I assume), with the new Times critic the week following.

Click here to read the context of Marian's response.

Soba

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  • 4 months later...

A friend who may choose to identify himself and I had a wonderful meal at Union Pacific tonight. I'm very tired, and I don't know if I can do much justice to this kind of meal in words and problematic pictures, anyway, but I'll try to do what I can while the memory is still pretty fresh. In many ways, it was a weird experience, but it turned out to be weird in a good way, truly exhilirating!

When you approach the restaurant, you don't see its name (you may see a sign that says "Union Pacific Service Entrance"), but you see the address "111" in white lights - as if it were a cool club for people in the know or some classy bar like the Temple Bar, and that if you don't know where you are, you aren't in the know and aren't cool. The door is kind of mysterious, too. And then you walk in and see an artificial waterfall and a room with weird decor. The hostess was friendly, and we were walked upstairs and seated in a rather dark room (which created problems for picture-taking, as I tried not to use the flash [though I did by mistake once or twice], so as not to disturb patrons). From reading previous comments of eGulleteers on this restaurant and Chef Di Spirito, I was unsure what to expect. We were given funky-looking plates and menus:

i9065.jpg

i9066.jpg

No, that is not raspberry sauce on the plate, though our waiter joked about it. :laugh:

We were brought bread that was nothing notable, and which I don't bother to provide a photo of. But the amuse tipped us off that this was likely to be a good trip:

i9067.jpg

This was a rollatine of chicken with various other ingredients (shredded daikon, shallot or some kind of sweet onion, red onion, cilantro and carrot I think, and black sesame powder on the outside - doubtless, I'm leaving something out, and I should mention that our waiter mentioned all sorts of things about ingredients, but if I had written them all down, I couldn't have enjoyed the meal as much). I commented to my dining partner that someone who was so inclined could nitpick it, but that I was having too much fun to want to do anything but enjoy it and didn't even want to think about what criticisms people could make. It was an imaginative combination of tastes that worked for me.

We both ordered smoked eel with watercress, red grapefruit, and pickled radish for our appetizer. It was a sizeable appetizer, breaded only on the top (flipped over onto the plate, I figure), and excellent. On the bottom, there was a sauce that by itself was too peppery, but in context helped the dish a lot. Our waiter told us it was a Turkish pepper yogurt. This dish had a comination of protein taste, salty, bitter (the watercress), peppery - it was imaginative and really worked:

i9068.jpg

We chose two different main dishes. I chose soft shell crab:

i9069.jpg

I'm sorry for the out-of-focus picture but can't figure out how to improve the focus.

Anyway, this dish was another winner. It was lightly salted and came with mustard greens (bitter) and watermelon (sweet), benefiting by being eaten in that combination.

My dining partner's dish was more "Western," at least at first:

i9070.jpg

Steak with thin asparagus, garlic chips, and maitake mushrooms. But my friend noticed some Japanese influence (other than the name of the mushrooms), which our waiter told us was miso aged so as to make it sweeter. This dish was very good, too.

We both thought the desserts were knockouts, though we differed slightly over which we were most impressed by:

i9072.jpg

There are four desserts on the plate. Clockwise from the top is a hazelnut tuile with puffed rice and hazelnut sauce (fantastic, with the puffed rice just slightly salty against the overall sweetness and richness of the dessert), buttermilk panna cotta with mango sauce (I was most impressed with this dessert, which combined the sourness of buttermilk with the tangy sweet-sour strongly mangoey sauce; I could imagine Suvir and Hemant making a dessert like this), extremely rich dark molten chocolate cake with huckleberry sauce, and very strongly natural-vanilla-tasting ice cream with dark chocolate stick.

Following this, we were given additional little desserts I somehow didn't take pictures of. They were pates de fruit of raspberry or huckleberry (sweet but with tang), chocolate-and-powdered-sugar-covered almonds, and shortbread biscotti with little chocolate chips and a sprinkling of powdered sugar (not very sweet at all but good).

This was food for the intellect as well as the palate, and we had extensive discussions with our fantastically knowledgeable and just generally great waiter about the cuisine. By contrast with my experiences of Vong some years ago as seeming to me watered-down Thai food, this seemed to me a genuine fusion, imaginative cuisine that worked.

We had the following wine with our meal:

i9071.jpg

It was a great wine, and a brilliant choice to go with two different meals, working with everything except the dessert (with the dessert, the wine was a little sour). The wine added I believe $48 in total onto the $30.04 Restaurant Week dinner menu, and was well worth it, as it added another delicious and fascinating dimension to our dining experience.

As a parting shot, I offer you this view of the rafters of the main floor dining room and part of that dining room, as seen by me from the upper level:

i9073.jpg

Bottom-line verdict: It was a great experience, and I would go back.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I have little to add to Pan's wonderfully detailed post. I seem to recall the waiter describing the dessert, which happend to be his favorite, as a hazelnut parfait instead of tuille (Fr. "tile"). But I could very well be mistaken considering the haze I was in following the Long Island Iced Tea and several glasses of wine. I particularly liked the contrast in this dessert as the upper portion was creamy and had a sweet, nutty flavor while the base was somewhat salty and had a texture that reminded me of a cookie crumb crust on one of my mothers desserts.

When I remarked that I recognized many Japanese flavors, the extremely knowledgeable waiter pointed out that the restaurant's name Union Pacific and that there were many elements of Pacific Rim quisine represented.

In addition to being knowledgeable, the server was relaxed, suave and good humored. He did not seem nervous, uptight, or hysterically busy and was happy to engage in conversation during the meal. I also felt that the wine he recommended was appropriate.

While other restaurants augmented space with mirrors, the decor at Union Pacific was more intimate with brighter lights over tables and more subdued lights or virtual darkness around the the tables. A very striking contemporary theme pervaded the space. Lively music at a reasonable volume was played.

Pan and I agreed that this was the most interesting of the restaurant week offerings. From the moment that I was looking for the entrance of the restaurant to the moment I walked out I felt as though I didn't know what to expect as the food, and decor kept me guessing. For some, this sort of dining experience might seem pretentious and odd. I, however, found it interesting and refreshing.

Edited by mascarpone (log)
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Mascarpone, glad to see you got home OK. :biggrin:

I think I speak for both myself and mascarpone in saying that the Union Pacific experience and even just the cuisine itself are not for everybody. But I think that someone who goes in with a curious mind and is willing to approach the meal in a spirit that allows him/her to enjoy the product of an imaginative and idiosyncratic mind, engaging in analysis but not trying to find faults, would have enjoyed the meal we had.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 2 months later...

This PR announcement just in:

Rocco DiSpirito and Main Street Restaurant Partners announce

The Closing of Union Pacific after 7 years.

BLT will replace Union Pacific in the spring with Chef Laurent Tourondel and Main Street Restaurant Partners joining forces.

(Tuesday, September 28th, 2004, New York, NY) – After seven successful years, the critically acclaimed Union Pacific will close its doors on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 2004, it was announced today by Rocco DiSpirito and Steve Scher of MSRP.

Partner Rocco DiSpirito plans to pursue new opportunities outside the restaurant world.

Following renovations, Chef Laurent Tourondel and his partners, will re-open 111 East 22nd Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues) in the Spring of 2005 as an outpost of the highly successful BLT Steak in a joint venture with MSRP.

“I found my culinary soul at Union Pacific and my collaboration with MSRP has been a great experience for me,” says DiSpirito. “I have made a decision to take a break from the day-to-day operations of a restaurant to focus on other opportunities apart from the restaurant world.  Chef Laurent Tourondel is an excellent chef and I wish him much success.”

“We had a great run with Union Pacific, and now we’re ready to move on. We’re ecstatic about joining forces with Laurent Tourondel and the BLT group, and we’re especially thrilled to bring Chef Tourondel’s delicious cooking to the downtown area,” says Steven Scher of MSRP. “We believe that the concept of a modern steakhouse serving simple but exquisitely prepared meats and side dishes reflects the way people want to eat now, a concept Tourondel has successfully embraced.”

When asked about this brand expansion and move downtown, Chef Tourondel responded, “We’re ready to grow, and have found a great partnership in Main Street Restaurant Partners. It’s a win for us both, and for our customers in the downtown area.”

Tourondel will begin a limited engagement at Union Pacific October 7th through December 24th. During this three month period, the restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner daily (closed Sunday), and will also continue to be available for holiday celebrations, private, corporate and other special events throughout the remainder of the year.

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NY Times:

This year, despite having undergone a refurbishing, Union Pacific lost one of the three stars when Marian Burros reviewed it on Feb. 11.

In addition to his restaurants, Mr. DiSpirito wrote books and has been making frequent appearances on television, including selling sausages on the QVC shopping network.

Wa wa wa waaaaaaaaahhhhhh

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I have made a decision to take a break from the day-to-day operations of a restaurant to focus on other opportunities outside the restaurant world. Chef Laurent Tourondel is an excellent chef, and I wish him much success."

Hmmm, hasn't his lack of focus been his problem for awhile?

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Following renovations, Chef Laurent Tourondel and his partners, will re-open 111 East 22nd Street (between Park and Lexington Avenues) in the Spring of 2005 as an outpost of the highly successful BLT Steak in a joint venture with MSRP.

This is really great. Since it's a less than 10-minute walk from our apartment, we won't have to shlep uptown. I haven't been to BLT Steak yet, but I may wait. And even though I had no intention of going back to UP after our last disastrous dinner there, since Chef Tourandel will be in charge of the kitchen until it closes, I may suggest to my husband that we give it one more try. Added to this is the fact that BLT Fish will be located in the AZ space, which is also only a short walk for us. Then, of course, there is also Devi. :wub: So, we will now have a new cornucopia of restaurant delights comfortably within reach. :smile:

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Rocco DiSpirito Is Out at Union Pacific

By FLORENCE FABRICANT and MARIAN BURROS

Published: September 29, 2004

ROCCO DiSPIRITO famously opened his namesake restaurant in a reality show last summer and was famously thrown out by his partners in July. Now he has been removed from a second restaurant, Union Pacific, once the jewel in his crown, which will close at the end of the year.

Starting next week Mr. DiSpirito will no longer be the executive chef at Union Pacific, where he first made his mark when the restaurant opened in 1997. Main Street Restaurant Partners, his partners in Union Pacific, said yesterday that it would close on Christmas Eve, and until then Laurent Tourondel, the chef at BLT Steak, would act as a consultant. That leaves Mr. DiSpirito without a kitchen to cook in.

Rocco's on 22nd closed last week. In July, Jeffrey Chodorow and China Grill Management, its owner, were granted a court order barring Mr. DiSpirito from the kitchen, even though his mother, Nicolina, remained and made meatballs.

Full article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/29/dining/29ROCC.html?8hpib

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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This is so passing-a-bad-car-wreck fascinating to me.  Did the Restaurant actually turn people on Union Pacific too, I wonder?

Didn't you mean "Did The Restaurant turn people OFF to Union Pacific"??

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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