The Top 10 Best New Restaurants of 2014

Restaurant critic Patric Kuh crowns the year’s best new arrivals, plus insider tips from Dine editor Lesley Bargar Suter
10 Best New Restaurants
Kabocha squash, sage, almonds

Photograph courtesy Union

 

No. 2

Union

37 E. Union St., Pasadena, 626-795-5841

Planted on an Old Pasadena side street, a sign discreetly announces the entrance to a cozy room dominated by an impressive piece of chalkboard art listing farmers’ markets. That board may be the least subtle thing about this venture from Bruce Kalman, whose produce-forward Italian cooking is all ease and balance. He parries the cured intensity of prosciutto with peaches from Tenerelli Orchards and pairs browned garlic with Fresno chiles in a delicate sauce for the spaghetti alla chitarra. The giardinera is a signature, a jar of pickled seasonal florets riding the tang of house-cultured butter. With garganelli, he goes lush, folding tender lobster and Meyer lemon peel into a lobster stock finished with truffle butter. Kalman butchers a whole hog himself each week, rolling the loin in belly fat and roasting the porchetta until the skin crackles like a crème brûlée.

10 Best New Restaurants
Photograph courtesy facebook.com/unionpasadena

Editor’s Tips:

The Vibe: Elevated neighborhood trattoria.
The Crowd: A unique mix of serious foodies who flock for chef Bruce Kalman’s more adventurous dishes, and locals in search of some weeknight pasta.
The Must-Have Dishes: Porchetta is seemingly everywhere these days, but Union’s is one of the city’s finest versions. Also, the tagliatelle sports a “head and shoulder” ragu, with bits from both parts of the pig.
The Drinks: The thoughtful Italian restaurant features a thoughtful Italian wine list, natch, with many offerings available by the glass.
Getting a Table: This once off-the-radar spot is now very much on the radar. OpenTable openings tend to be before 5:30 or after 9:15. Book a few weeks out if you want a 7:30 slot!
Insider Tip: When available, Union offers a whole suckling pig and an entire pig’s head, both of which are smoked over hickory for 8 to 10 hours. Presented tableside, it’s a delicious spectacle.

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