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In recent years a red-meat rush has run rampant through Philadelphia which now boasts a far-better-than-OK corral of splashy steakhouses – a genre that represents a significant departure from Philly's gastronomical tastes of the past. Once a decidedly Italian-food-centric town, Philadelphia Frenchified in the eighties before salsa-ing into a Latin groove in the late nineties. But these days chophouses aplenty populate downtown real estate and sizzle at the top of Philly's food fancies.
So the question becomes: With so many choices, including the high-end national chains, how does the savvy diner stake out Philly's best steak?
Union Trust Steakhouse, an independently owned restaurant, makes a convincing case for number-one laurels. Union Trust's cuisine is delicious. Even more impressively, it’s distinctive. As for service, the dining-room crew – in addition to being charming, hip, informed and informative – is committed to performing their métier with utmost professionalism and customer service. And in terms of appearance and ambiance, the space boasts a vibe and decor that’s nonpareil. The Art Deco splendor, magnificent vaulted ceilings, ubiquitous marble accents, and colossal arched walls are reminiscent of Paris’ grand Musée d'Orsay.
Union Trust Steakhouse is situated on choice Philly real estate along Chestnut Street, a few blocks' walk from Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center. Natives and visitors alike are frequent crawlers through this section of town. The edifice, originally constructed as a bank, circa-1888, boasts interior walls that tower 65-feet skyward. The room crests into a dazzling arched canopy where dual rows of inlaid octagonal coffers protrude in relief against a deep blue-violet field.
Enormous contemporary tubular chandeliers project into the elegant volume, breathing a sense of intimacy. Lush Cabernet-colored banquettes stretch along the main dining room wall; tabletops are chicly clad in faux leather of the same color, underscoring a palpable sense of casual elegance. A handsome stone staircase leads from the main dining room up to a cantilevered mezzanine that floats overhead for the length of one of the walls. The casual crowd, the business set, special-occasion revelers, and neighborhood folk all find their rhythm here. UTS can accommodate 300, yet the chairs are so comfy and the tables set so far apart that the eatery allows the laid-back intimacy normally reserved for upscale bistros.
The young and personable Executive Chef, Quincy Logan, is a local Jersey boy who crossed the Delaware to refine his craft in Philadelphia’s popular Capital Grille. Seven years later, he helped open Union Trust and in just a few months, was tapped to head the kitchen. From Chef Logan on down, you'd be hard-pressed to find more robust team spirit or a more fruitful flow of information between the front of and back of the house. Union Trust’s platoon of able, amiable staffers are ever vigilant. Sommelier Xavier Mariezkurrena, born and raised in the Delaware Valley, derives from a lineage of oenophiles in Spain. Not surprisingly, the well stocked wine cellar harbors an abundance of red wines from vineyards dispersed around the globe. You can choose from a wide spectrum, particularly brightened in the portion that pairs well with red meats. There you'll find everything from sleek and velvety Steak-Reds like South Australian Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz to silky, elegant Argentinian Malbecs and light Italian Valpolicella Classicos. However, there are a number of white wine selections as well that boast sundry provenances around the globe. Wines are available by the bottle or glass and Xavier will be happy to help demystify your selection.
Within the steakhouse genre, it's rare [rather than medium rare] that a copious list of aquatic dishes coexist, let alone co-star, on a menu replete with every red-meat selection a red-blooded carnivore could hanker for. Sure, other steakhouse menus may include the de rigueur Salmon and a few crustacean choices. But Union Trust's raw bar features a bay-full of fastidiously selected oysters from both coasts and boasts Chef Gordon Weldon, whose fifth-place finish in Boston's 2009 Oyster Shucking Invitational Competition qualifies him as one of the nation's premier oyster-shuckers.
The Starters/ Soup Menu nets a boatload of seafood selections like the appealing Tuna Tartare: a molded cylinder of jewel-red minced tuna glimmering in one corner of a huge recessed white dish. Bright green avocado slices add visual appeal and creamy accent. In the opposite corner, a mound of seaweed salad offers a fresh textural contrast. A streak of Wasabi purée and three large dots of deep brown soy-glaze provide flavorful bursts to the ensemble.
The kitchen dresses up the traditional home-style corn chowder with the addition of succulent lump crab. Plump kernels of local Jersey corn swim in a rich seafood stock laced with crème fraiche, sharing quarters with bounteous chunks of crab claw meat. The soup, served in a black kettle-shaped bowl, is garnished with minced green onions for a sophisticated, savory finish.
Prepared with a feather light batter and flash fried with nary a hint of grease, UTS' Calamari ranks with the finest I've tasted. A mammoth heap of tender rings nestles in a large conch-shaped bowl. Redolent of tarragon and lemon zest, the calamari glistens white and scrumptious. The accompanying aioli adds citrusy overtones and highlights the dish’s freshness. A fresh marinara sauce offers a bit of heat without stifling the clean, delicate taste of the calamari.
In Pan-Seared Day Boat Scallops, the subtle al dente brawn of wild mushroom risotto enriched with truffle oil sings harmony with the silky scallops. Pan-searing seals in moisture and preserves the succulence of the scallops. The earthy fragrance of the mushrooms melds beautifully with the bite of nutty aged Parmesan and provides a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the scallops.
Among the salads, Mini-Lettuce Wedges underscore the Chef's knack of updating the classics with smart combinations of quality ingredients and polished technique. Instead of one huge chunk of green iceberg lettuce, the chef offers several smaller wedges that function as an inert canvas for a liberal sprinkling of apple smoked bacon bits and finely diced tomatoes. Add tangy vinaigrette muscled up on bacon drippings and a squeeze of fresh lemon and you get a palate-pleasing coherent blend of tastes and textures.
Do treat yourself to some oysters, if only for the presentation. Oyster shuckers and suckers alike will find their nirvana in UTS' large bi-valve roster. Kumamoto, Kusshi, Shigoku, Pacific Rim and Effingham represent west coast species while Blue Point, Island Creek, “Choppers” Wellfleet, Rome Point, Malpeque, Cape May Salt, and Chesapeake Bay Wild trace their provenance to the east coast. Oysters are served with two accompanying dips– one a sweet, mellow tomato-based cocktail sauce, the other a smooth, creamy Dijon-mayo combination that intensifies the oysters’ slurpy depth.
Yes, there's a plethora of outstanding alternative choices before you even approach the expansive, sublime selection of red meat entrées – a steakhouse's main event. It's the only event at many competitors. Not here, where the seafood alternative theme rolls on through entrées like Ahi Tuna, Striped Bass, and Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon.
Herb-Crusted Halibut is prepared Mediterranean-style – sautéed lightly in a delicate white wine sauce which allows the fish's natural juices to ring vibrant. Capers, fresh tomatoes, and light, sage-scented butter sauce each add their natural riffs to the firm, meaty halibut.
And never fear: on the carnivorous side, an irresistible slate of Filet Mignon, NY Strip, KC Strip, Berkshire Pork Porterhouse, Colorado Rack of Lamb and other scrumptious red-meat chops beckon.
All the meat, which comes from Chicago's renowned Allen Brothers, is notably flavorful and succulent. Bone-In Rib is representative of the kitchen's mastery in red meat preparation. Cooked flawlessly to taste, the rib is accompanied by sterling house-made sauces, as are all UTS’ red-meat choices. The chef’s special steak sauce begins with a tomato and vinegar base, sweetened with dried cherries and furnaced by a battery of spices that not only cut the richness of the meat but crescendo slowly in the mouth for a kickin' afterburn.
There's an array of tempting desserts – all made in house- including decadent Chocolate Soufflé and astoundingly good Cheesecake with peach cobbler topping. English Truffle with Lemon and Strawberry is a classy confection that scores on the lemony licks in rum-rich lady-fingers drizzled with a balsamic reduction.
The building, so spectacularly contemporized, is an historic treasure – one of Lyon-born / Philly-immigrant Paul Philippe Cret's great opuses. Cret's portfolio includes the Rodin Museum, the Ben Franklin Bridge, and the infamous University of Texas tower. These days, Cret’s reborn building is one of Philly's new hot spots. On a recent visit, I caught Jack Nicholson here filming an as-yet-untitled romantic comedy. Jack being a man of style and taste, I'm sure the elegant Union Trust Steakhouse's siren call will woo Jack back. Yep, I'm betting sequel – not only for Jack, but for me too.
Copyright © Restaurant Agent Inc.
Philadelphia has many excellent steakhouses. Union Trust is among the best. The ambiance was breathtaking and the food, bar and service experience was excellent as well. I will recommend and return.
Best Steakhouse in Philadelphia
I went to Union Trust because everyone in town constatly talks about how amazing the space is how good their raw bar is. I've been hesitant to go there because word on the street is that they're closing. I went with my wife and a coworker, expecting the normal steakhouse experience...wedge salad, ny strip, creamed spinach. Our server, Marcel, was exceptional. He actually talked me out of steak and inside I was hoping he made a mistake so that I could hold it against him (I was dying to try their Strip). Instead, my wife ordered steak (Crusted Cowboy Ribeye) and I chose the Harissa Japanese Bass. It may be the best fish dish in the entire city, next to Vetri's whole Branzini with truffle Sauce. The Raw Bar was ridiculous, with Latin Oysters really shining. Ask for their wine guy, X. He was really inviting and picked us a great spanish red for $75. Lyonnaise fingerling potatoes were awesome. Unlike some steakhouses that fry their lyonnaise, you could tell they actually SAUTEED them with bacon and onions. This is hands down the best steakhouse in Philly.
If you are looking for that classy environment, that elegant but not stuffy restuarant to celebrate with your special someone who also appreciates the hard to find quality of a great steak, Union Trust Steakhouse is the place. Attentive, knowledgable service, excellent wine list..... you'll be her hero.
Great place to have dinner before or after a show..service was great and food was outstanding
The service was excellent! The location is great and easy to get to and more importantly the ambiance is very good. the price however is very high $250 for two and the its not like your brining home extra that you could not finish. Worth it for the experience 1 time just not sure I would return.
Waiters will make or break a new upscale restaurant because busienssmen inclined to dine there at lunch and/or after work will not return if the service is subpar. Great ambiance however and the food was palatable and presented well.
Staff lacks professionalism, steak was fair and well overpriced.
We were seated in the third floor conference room with absolutely no ambiance (other than a tv which hung on the wall)& the reservations were made three weeks prior. Food was totally boring and not cooked as was ordered. Salads were disgusting. Our waitress however, was fantastic. mh