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Restaurants

Union

Posted by Guest Contributor / Listed on August 25, 2009 / review policy

Union TorontoAfter a year of renovating, Union on Ossington has finally opened its doors. The chef behind the restaurant is a lad named Teo Paul, a Toronto native, who spent years in Europe but found much of his inspiration in country Ontario.

To understand what Chef Teo is attempting to accomplish at Union, you first have to take a look at his transcontinental resume. For several years, in fact, I followed Chef Teo's feasts across continents. And for good reason. He's like an alchemist in the kitchen, transforming farm fresh produce into something harmonious and exquisite on the plate.

After years as a chef in a Paris restaurant, he began pursuing his high art in the comfort of people's homes.

"The only way to deliver food in all its culinary glory is to make it on site, in the moment", says Chef Teo.

In 2007, while spending time with him in Paris at the world's largest food market, Rungis, I saw first hand his tactile love of earthly things. He spent most of his time sniffing and sampling the farmers' produce.

Union Toronto"There's something about being around fresh vegetables that lifts the spirits", he said, handing me some greens to taste. His enthusiasm was contagious.

For Chef Teo, markets have always tuned him into what's available locally and regionally at any given time. He comes upon his philosophy of freshness honestly. At 22, he worked with famed chef, Michael Statlander, at his farm-restaurant north of Toronto.

With Statlander, Chef Teo spent his time picking vegetables from the garden, cleaning poultry, and prepping in the kitchen. He had worked in restaurants before, but Statlander brought food back to its roots in the earth.

Watching Chef Teo work at his family's farm in northern Ontario, grilling fresh tuna over an open fire, tending the vegetable plot, and smoking everything from quail to frog in the smoke house that he built, it's clear he has a deep affinity with the land.

His near silence while cooking speaks volumes about the natural intensity he infuses into his craft.

Union TorontoTo glimpse Chef Teo's inspiration for Union's welcoming space, one must wander down the narrow streets of Rue de Temple in Paris to find Le Petit Fer A Cheval. This cafe with its horseshoe shaped bar was his favourite haunt while living in Paris. And so it is that a little bit of Paris has been brought to Ossington.

Now on with the food....Chef Teo's philosophy in the kitchen is straight forward. "Simplicity. If it's too complicated, you can't cook your way through it", he says, as if ingredients are an elixir revealing culinary gold on the plate.

Union's menu includes savoury elk sliders, roast chicken, fresh fish, beef for two, and a vegetarian option, a handmade lasagna. The crispy French fries are to die for and are served with mayo. And what better way to cap off the night than to devour a generous portion of bread pudding topped with homemade basil ice cream?

With an evolving wine list, sommelier Christopher Sealy's food-focused wines include local wonders, as well as old world and new world classics. "We want to create a space for everyone to enjoy our selections without breaking the bank", says Sealy.

Union TorontoIt should be noted that Union is more than a dinner hotspot (Coldplay ate here during their Toronto stay). The restaurant opens at 9am with coffee and croissants on offer. At noon, table and bar-side lunches can be enjoyed with bistro classics like steak frites and chicken pot pie.

Thankfully, Chef Teo and his dedicated staff have finally settled down in Toronto. It'll save foodies like me a ton on transcontinental airfare.

Writing and photos by Robert J. Brodey

Discussion

29 Comments

Tim Das / August 3, 2009 at 12:31 pm
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I dropped in as I was strolling Ossington late one friday night (after last call). Wanted to have a look and file for future dinner-out reference. I asked the bartender/hostess(?) for a glass of water. In her Aussie/Kiwi accent she told me that they were closed (even though they weren't) and she sneered that I should "go back to whatever bar I'd been drinking at, and ask them for water". I can't remember the last time I'd been treated like such s**t. I dearly hope Union closes or burns down to the ground, and this Aussie/Kiwi sweetheart is deported. 0/5
Mari replying to a comment from Tim Das / January 18, 2010 at 10:45 am
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Wow, Tim Das. Friday night, AFTER last call, eh? While I do agree with you that you should have been treated better, have you ever worked this kind of job? Can you imagine what kind of idiots come in and hassle her? In the last half hour of work, whatever you job is, can you say that you are sunshine and flowers?

I'll tell you what--I can't remember the last time I've read such an overreaction.

Tim Das / January 18, 2010 at 11:17 am
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Mari,

I don't appreciate your judgement.
I was well-dressed, quite polite and legitimately interested in the establishment. In short, the complete opposite of the drunken idiots which may or may not hassle this hostess/bartender after last call on a friday night. And while you may think 'long day at work' and 'tough job' are reasonable exceptions to treating people with human courtesy (even though hospitality is a service industry), I most certainly do not. The worst part was, the hostess/bartender wasn't angry or tired, she actually blew me off in a very sweet tone of voice with a smile, delivered with a sneer, and the content of her words was unbelievably insulting.
Now with all the restaurants in Toronto with lovely, friendly staff and management who treat patrons, potential patrons and strangers with respect- why would I or anyone else ever eat at Union?
I'm just doing my part to let the restaurant-going public know.
But thanks for sticking up for rudeness and discourtesy, Mari- keep up the good work.
-Tim
Mari / January 18, 2010 at 11:19 am
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It's the least I can do.
Eric26 / January 18, 2010 at 04:53 pm
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I still think I'm going to go there. I'm more interested in their food than their late night tap water.
MrPotato / January 18, 2010 at 05:49 pm
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So I went down there last night at 2:15 and proceeded to ask for their finest glass of tap. The waitress carefully poured the finest glass this lad has ever laid eyes on. As she handed it to me with a smile on her face I couldn't help but think how stupid this whole scenario seems. As I handed back the glass and was offered a napkin to wipe my mouth I thought to myself...one day I will eat here. One day...
Jon / January 18, 2010 at 07:24 pm
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Err,

Can we know who wrote this 'review', or is that too much to ask?
gbird / May 19, 2010 at 03:21 pm
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Soooo... is the food good or not?

dan / June 26, 2010 at 07:34 pm
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worst service ever!!!
Samayita / February 19, 2011 at 03:39 pm
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I absolutely love this place.. Chef Teo regularly has new flavors up his sleeves.

The first poster is a complete idiot. Even if this aussie/kiwi girl was supposedly rude (which I find hard to believe given the account of the poster himself of strolling into a bar after last call to ask for water)- wishing a legitimate wonderful business with real values to burn down to the ground just shows what kind of man he is.
Matt / March 11, 2011 at 02:07 pm
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This place is incredible. Great food, great drinks, great people, great atmosphere. Highly recommended.
carl / March 15, 2011 at 03:44 pm
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I absolutely love this place, and not just for the food, but also for the service. They are always so polite and chipper, and know quite about about each dish that they serve. I have been back twice, once for dinner and once for brunch (corned-beef hash was amazing), and plan to go again soon.

p.s. You really missed out, Tim Das. Their tap water is the best in the city. Hands down.
sonya / May 23, 2011 at 01:42 pm
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I eat here all the time. As much as I can. I love the food, the menu always changes and its always delicious. The staff are super nice (especially the Aussie :)) and are knowledgable about what you are eating. Teo is great and excited about what he's making. Definitely one of my top favs in this city.
arthur / June 22, 2011 at 09:38 am
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In by 9:00 out by 11:45 Half the menu was not available. Left restaurant without dessert or drink. Waiter showed no concern of waiting time. Finally went up to kitchen and was told that they were short handed. Food options we picked from was just ordinary. Do not remember me.
James / August 21, 2011 at 05:00 pm
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Tim Dias,

I don't care how you were dressed or what your demeanor was, your ACTIONS were those of a jackass. Since you were treated with the disdain you deserved, I am more interested in trying Union. You have to give respect to get it, and sidling up to the bar after last call to ask for tap-water without actually paying for anything shows absolutely no respect for the establishment. Did you use the bathroom, too? You weren't a patron of the restaurant. You didn't even eat there. Find an unattended garden hose next time, and stop pestering people who work for tips. Shameful. Simply shameful.
Liz replying to a comment from James / October 19, 2011 at 03:39 pm
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I agree! Thank you!!!! Love people that expect FREE things and receive a smile, ignorance is bliss. But I will try Union soon.
Linda / March 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm
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Oh come on, he was asking for a glass of water. It's not like he asked for a massage. Jesus, the general attitude in toronto sucks. If she didnt want people walking in then lock the damn door.
Tim Das / March 20, 2012 at 09:08 pm
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I have no idea why people treat me like s**t! It can't have anything to do with my tendency to announce in public that I hope certain restaurants will "burn to the ground," can it?! Or wishing deportation upon people with funny accents?! WHY DO PEOPLE THINK I'M A JERK?! I SOOOO CAN'T TELL!!!!
Melissa / June 9, 2012 at 01:32 pm
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So- a few friends and I ate here last night after coming across some recommendations online. We ordered a tasty bottle of wine to split and had a few really incredible dishes. The smoked salmon app. was so fresh and with a fun hint of heat. We had a few of the mains like the bbq sticky ribs, spicy polenta, and the chicken with veggies dish. We were all so very happy with the food. Great atmosphere, very attentive staff, speedy service, and I would hands-down recommend this place. What a lovely spot!
Shelley / August 19, 2012 at 10:21 am
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So I personally know Tim AND I have been to Union. Crappy encounter aside... the food and drink menu was great. It's trendy, so expect to spend $$$ for small plates, but taste wise...excellent! I tried their salad and cheese platter. Atmosphere was cozy and intimate with some really nice accent pieces around the restaurant. In defense of my friend, customer service at any hour should trump end of day blues. Tim is not a jerk - he has standards!
Liz / September 28, 2012 at 02:39 pm
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I cant imagine a suit would really improve Tim lol
Victoria / November 2, 2012 at 07:35 pm
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Tim Das: I agree wholeheartedly. I happily tip well and pay servers with respect and courtesy, having worked in the service industry for the better part of a decade. I know bad service when I see it, and those who do the bare minimum of their job requirement can leave a sour taste for any establishment.

It doesn't matter if a glass of water is free or if it is past last call. If your doors are still open and your establishment is still bustling with patrons, it is not too much to ask to offer the courtesy of a glass of water to a potential future customer. Not even as a bar staff to a customer but as a human being to a human being.
Greg Pinch / November 30, 2012 at 10:31 am
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What kind of a moron walks into a restaurant and asks for a glass of water because he feels like it and then has the nerve to dis the establishment because then didn't treat him the way he expected them to.
You want a glass of water then go home and get yourself one.
Seriously, that has to be the most ridiculous post I am ever seen.

Btw if you walked into MacDonalds and asked just for a glass of water you would not get one either.

Perhaps next time you drop into an establishment at such a ridiculous hour.. you might consider saying to whomever is working: "This place looks nice. I will come in some time. Have a nice evening"

I have eaten at Union a number of times and I think it's great on all levels.

Abe / January 12, 2013 at 06:13 pm
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Great biography of the chef. All I got from that was that the fries are good. Brilliant.
Jackie / February 26, 2013 at 03:05 pm
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The menu is posted on the glass facing outside the restaurant. If you want to read the menu you do not have to go inside at all.
The Union salad and the sticky ribs are delicious.
One of my favourite restaurants in the city - And The staff are super friendly.
Nomi replying to a comment from Tim Das / March 2, 2013 at 03:06 pm
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Tim, while I'm sure we believe that you're a very nice guy who was genuinely interested in the establishment, there's no way SHE could have known that. You have to try to see things from other people's persepctives. You know your motivations, but she does not. If she's trying to close the bar and someone walks in to ask her for something they're not even going to pay for (or tip on, like water), then it's kinda her job to get them to leave. It's not safe for her or the establishment to let people continue to wander in after hours. Maybe she's not being paid anymore. Maybe she wants to go home. Maybe the restaurant's insurance doesn't extend past 2am. It sounds like she tried to be polite as possible in getting you to leave. I'd cut her some slack.
Baron / September 26, 2013 at 10:10 am
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The place is lovely. I have been both for lunch and dinner and had great experiences both times. Great food, drinks, service, and atmosphere.
The Australian is adorable and was nothing but kind.

The water though...wow. I can't believe it's tap!
Vac / December 2, 2013 at 04:46 pm
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What a bunch of losers on here - Tim, you had every right to ask for a glass of water. Unless you walked in and said "can I please have a glass of water, even though I have no interest in this place nor ordering anything of cost off the menu, and I might even piss on your wall on my way out?" then I see absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a glass of water.

Everyone else on here can go home and write a nice song about being cool, pretentious Toronto snobs.
Yvonne / June 30, 2014 at 07:57 am
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I hate Toronto pretentious hipsters hostess and waiters. Do not go to this place!!!! Run!!! People are awful!!!! Food is mediocre!!!!

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