In early February, Union Chicken opened in Sherway Gardens shopping mall, in west-end Toronto.
Union Chicken’s first location, the room is bright — thanks to plenty of natural light — upbeat and fun. Guests eat at individual or communal tables in a space where reclaimed factory lighting, maple tabletops and a wood-panel ceiling foster a homey yet urban feel. An eating bar fronts an open kitchen.
The restaurant serves only organic, free-range chicken raised in low-density flocks on Ontario family-run farms. No hormones or antibiotics are used, and the birds’ diet consists of non-GMO grains free from pesticides, herbicides and animal byproducts.
Cooked on a spit-style rotisserie, the generously portioned half chicken is juicy and complemented by a dipping sauce that greatly enhances the meat’s deep flavour. Fried chicken wears a crispy, greaseless, perfectly cooked batter, drizzled with hot sauce and maple honey syrup, that gives way to moist meat.
Sides also shine. Crispy Brussels sprouts are nicely caramelized, rotisserie sweet potato goes down like silk, and smoked bacon enhances baked beans carrying a slight chile heat. Super-fresh salads include one built on butter lettuce augmented with avocado, spiced seeds and ranch dressing, and another anchored by spinach, quinoa, cauliflower and chickpeas. Excellent coleslaw is coarsely cut (a good thing) and animated by red onion, sesame seeds and just a touch of sweet mayo.
Desserts are superb. There’s silky dark-chocolate parfait, layered with chocolate crumbs, and sticky toffee pudding that’s rich, moist, garnished with soft, sweet apples, drizzled with caramel sauce and served with excellent cinnamon brown sugar ice cream.
Spearheading Union Chicken is a team with excellent pedigree: Yannick Bigourdan, serial entrepreneur and owner of Toronto’s The Carbon Bar; Adam Teolis, The Carbon Bar’s opening general manager and Four Seasons alumnus; Michael Angeloni, former executive chef of Toronto’s Grand Electric; and Dan Kennedy, a restaurant operations expert with extensive national food chain experience.
A second Union Chicken location is slated to launch in late 2017 as part of Toronto’s newly restored Union Station train terminal.
Catering and buyouts are by request only (email email@example.com). The Sherway Gardens restaurant seats 75 people inside and 30 on a patio.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,300 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.