Union Pasadena

Union Restaurant is a small Italian place in the Old Pasadena area. Located in the backstreets, it’s tucked away amongst lots of other eateries. I had heard about this place and their food before, and knew immediately I had to go. While trying to make reservations, we found that Union is really popular and fills up fast. We ended up making our booking nearly two weeks in advance to get a table at a time we wanted. Pulling up to the restaurant, there were no big signs, but a small chalkboard next to the doors that read “Union”. The hostess was standing right by the door, and quickly walked us to our table, swerving through the tightly packed tables. Most of the tables were for parties of two, with a few tables for four. Dim light hung from the ceiling, suspended by steel rods. Next to the bar counter was a huge blackboard filled with information, all written in calligraphy looking font. On one side, they had their farmers market schedule, listing where they get their produce on each day of the week. The other side of the board was filled with Italian ingredients used in their dishes, along with an explanation of what they were.

After being seated, our waitress brought us the menus and explained what the special of the day was. The menu had four sections, “Start, Field, Pasta and Main”. At the bottom of the menu was a list of the kitchen staff. Reading through the menu, I was overwhelmed at the all the unique dishes. They had a salad made of broccoli sprouts, a homemade cheese dish with garlic and bread, and a cavatelli pasta with wild boar. After spending about 10 minutes racking our brains about what to order, we finally decided. I ordered the bread with house made cultured butter and sea salt to start and the squid ink Lumache with Maine lobster, fennel, lemon and truffle butter. My two friends each ordered the duck confit with charred treviso pickled currants and grapefruit, the smoked stracciatella ravioli with tomato orange fondue, whey and basil, and the special of the day which was a roast pork. They brought out the bread and duck confit after only 5 minutes. The bread was served on a thick board with a bowl of spiced pickles in the middle. The bread was fresh and warm, and the butter was amazingly soft and creamy. After devouring our starters, we waited for our mains which came out about 15 minutes after. I had heard about their squid ink Lumache for a long time and was so excited to try it. It came served in a deep white dish, and the little jewels of lobster popped out from the deep black color of the pasta. As soon as the plate touched the table, the fragrance of truffle and squid ink immediately hit my face. I was expecting the sauce to be a little thicker and creamier, but it was just a light coating of the truffle butter based sauce. The first bite I took was everything and more I had imagined it to be. Being a huge fan of squid ink, I had tried lot’s of foods with it before, pasta, break, risotto, and while I always love it, the taste of squid ink is not usually really strong. However in this pasta, the flavor of the squid ink was extremely strong. The little pieces of fennel were just cooked, adding a bit of crunch to the dish, and the lobster was perfectly poached and tossed in the butter. The Meyer lemon cut through the decadence of the dish and tied it all together. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

After finishing our mains, we sat there content and full, ready to pay and leave. But before we could, the waitress brought us the dessert menu, and I was swayed to order the olive oil cake to share with my friend. It was served with two candied orange slices on top and a dish of vanilla creme anglaise to pour over. The slice of cake was warm and toasted on the outside, but unbelievable moist on the inside. We polished off the dessert, paid and left the restaurant extremely full, but extremely happy and satisfied. Our experience at Union was amazing, and though it was a bit expensive, it was worth every penny. If you check out Union, let me me know what you think in the comments below!

 

Food Adventures #6

Got my Singaporean fix from QQ Kopitiam in Pasadena. The Laksa was super authentic and delicious, just like it would be at home! It was a really generous serving for a super reasonable price (two main dishes and one bubble tea was $21 with tax).

Website: https://www.yelp.com/biz/qq-kopitiam-pasadena

Pricing: $

I know I may be a little late to hop on the bandwagon, but I am beyond obsessed with Halo Top. For those of you who don’t know what it is, Halo Top is an extremely low calorie, high protein ice cream (not that you can tell, it’s amazing!). The calories range from 240-360 calories depending on the flavor, so one serving is never more than 90 calories. A few of my favorite flavors are Birthday Cake, Sea Salt Caramel and Mint Chip.

Website: https://www.halotop.com/

Pricing: $4-5

This beautiful spread is from the Granville at the Americana in Glendale. They have a menu full of modern yet homey dishes that are absolutely delicious! This was the bacon & blue burger with a side salad, the Santa Barbara chicken sandwich, a side of sweet potato fries and the uptown mac & cheese. I would also highly recommend the chicken and blue flatbread (not pictures). A perfect stop for lunch or dinner during a day of shopping!

Website: http://www.granvillecafe.com/glendale

Pricing: $$

*As seen on BuzzFeed* Sushi Stop is a super affordable (and yummy) location in Pasadena (they have other locations too). At $3.25 for most of their dishes, it’s hard to spend more than $16 a person (and that’s if you are eating A LOT). Ranging from sashimi sushi to baked rolls to udon and tempura, they have everything you would ever want. To be honest, after eating so mush sushi in Japan, I was a little skeptical of this, but it did not disappoint!

Website: https://sushistop.com/location/sushistop-pasadena/

BuzzFeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/stevenlim/we-tried-3-sushi-and-250-sushi-to-see-if-its-worth-the-price?utm_term=.roOxJedpE#.wulLQNqV0

Pricing: $

Just throwing this in here because I miss Disneyland. A beautiful mickey mouse-shaped beignet (and some Mint Juleps) from New Orleans Square at Disney.

One of my favorite things about living in LA is finding all the small (what I like to call) hidden gems of the city. Gloria’s Cafe is a small Mexican-inspired breakfast/brunch restaurant tucked away in the back streets of Highland Park. Pictured above is the savory waffle (amazing!) and the breakfast taco. I would also highly recommend their breakfast sandwich which comes on a burger bun with pulled pork and scrambled eggs. For a main dish and (a big a**) iced coffee, I usually pay $14 (including tax and tip).

Website: http://glorias-cafe.com/

Pricing: $$

Where should I go next? Comment your favorite LA spots down below! And if you try one of these places, let me know what you think:)

A Little Piece of Home- QQ Kopitiam

QQ Kopitiam is a small Singaporean cafe/restaurant located across from the Pasadena City College on Colorado Blvd. A Kopitiam (Kopi for short) is a traditional coffee shop found in many South East Asian countries, including Singapore. As most of you know, I’ve lived my whole life (up until now) in Singapore, and was in serious need of some comfort food.

The restaurant is located on fairly quiet street, but stands out from the big, red sign. Staying true to traditional Kopi style, before getting seated at your table, you order your food at the counter and pay right there. There was an older couple, the wife running the cashier and the husband running the kitchen,  who owned the place. As soon as we walked in, the lady quickly welcomed us and starting listing off suggestions. She suggested the Laksa (rice noodles in a coconut, curry soup) and Hainanese Chicken Rice (steamed rice with chicken boiled in a ginger broth), both of which are famous Singaporean dishes. Once we ordered (I ordered the Laksa), I started up a brief conversation with the couple and found out that they were both Singaporean and had only been in business for around four years. We chatted for a little bit about where in Singapore we lived and what our favorite Singaporean dishes were.

Laksa is a dish that Singaporeans feel very close to, as it’s served at every Kopi and Hawker stall (Singaporean style outdoor food courts). It is loaded with pungent ingredients including curry leaves, lemongrass, and sambal (a type of chili sauce), making it an acquired taste. Foreigners (or tourists) often have a hard time handling the aroma and flavor of laska, but for Singaporeans it’s a bowl of comfort.

I would 100% recommend QQ Kopitiam for anyone in the area, whether you’re Singaporean or not (the friend I went with wasn’t Singaporean and she loved it!). If you stop by QQ Kopitiam, let me know in the comments below and tell me what you think.

Website (Yelp): https://www.yelp.com/biz/qq-kopitiam-pasadena

Number: (626) 696-3179

Address: 1491 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am to 7pm