The Union Trust steakhouse in Philadelphia has been on my list of places to visit for the last few years. It opened in 2009 in a grand old bank building at 717 Chestnut Street. A January visit to Morimoto, a few doors away, reminded me that UT is the last of the big Philly steakhouses I had not yet visited. A slow Memorial Day weekend provided the perfect opportunity to slip into the city and try it out.
I had been told beforehand by a few friends it’s “not as good as Barclay Prime”. You may recall I had two visits to Barclay Prime. One was horrible. The second was a spectacular meal.
My experience at Union Trust was somewhere in between.
The building’s interior is, as promised, grand and impressive. And cavernous. But we were seated in a booth along the back wall and the crowd was light. I imagine the room can be much louder when the tables are full.
Service is attentive, but not overly so. My glass was empty on a few occasions for 5 to 10 minutes and it seemed like the rolls took forever to get to the table. A nice bread basket containing what tasted like a raisin, date and nut bread, a few cheddar biscuits and two fresh baked pretzel sticks were accompanied by butter and mustard.
Union Trust falls into one of my pet peeves: a list of appetizers that include little or no non-seafood options. Union Trust offered a half dozen seafood options, a full raw bar to choose from and a “Kobe” carpaccio. So, if you don’t eat seafood (as my companion this night does not) and you’re not into raw meat…well, you’re out of luck.
I notice this at a lot of high end restaurants.
The salad list was well rounded with an interesting beet salad option, but we ordered a caesar and a wedge salad. The caesar looked and was reported to be very good. My wedge salad came with very little dressing and the center of the lettuce head wasn’t cut out. I had to cut it out myself and then try to make the best of the salad. Eventually I asked for more dressing once the waitress reappeared. The wedge had grape tomatoes cut in half and a nice amount of thick cut pork belly bacon sprinkled throughout. Overall, I wouldn’t order it again.
Dinner came shortly after and was cooked perfectly. The UT menu offers a half dozen wet aged steaks and a half dozen dry aged steaks you can customize from a menu of available rubs, crusts, sauces and toppings.
I ordered the 24 oz. Porterhouse with a roasted garlic crust and herbed truffle butter. My friend ordered the NY Strip with an espresso dust crust and some caramelized onions. Both steaks were tender and delicious, though the strip was reported to have some gristle and tough parts. The rub on my porterhouse was outstanding while not obscuring the tender meat it was crusting.
We ordered onion rings, brussel sprouts and the aged cheddar grits for the table. All three were excellent and the brussel sprouts were aided by a nice mixture of the thick cut pork belly bacon that was with my salad. The flavors mixed together well.
For dessert I ordered the German Chocolate Cake while my friend ordered the S’Mores. The German Chocolate cake was an individual portion but sized to be shared, though the menu doesn’t note that. It was dense and rich and I was not able to finish it despite it being extremely good. The S’more was a scoop of peanut butter ice cream rolled in graham cracker crumbs and then topped with a meringue that was scorched. I think I saw my friend lick his plate clean at one point. It was that good, he said.
I would not turn down an invitation to return to Union Trust for dinner, but given the choice I’d pick another city steakhouse if I were going out for steak again.
Note: I apologize for the not so great pictures. I neglected to bring my camera to the restaurant and pictures from my cell phone had to suffice.
Union Trust Steakhouse
717 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106