Restaurant Reviews

Union Fish Market

What do you do when your big name chef leaves? Fine-tune the fish.

Union Fish Market
Photo by Katherine Harris

Union Fish Market So you hire a big-name chef and build a restaurant around him, and then he leaves to do his own thing. Do you gamble with another big name? Or do you tweak the restaurant and center the identity on the concept and not a person? It seems a smart move for Kaskaid. When Jim Christiansen left Union, the main-level dining space was retooled and given a new identity as Union Fish Market. The menu now focuses on sustainable seafood in both classic and modern preparations, and the room has been given a touch of fishy d├ęcor with wall stencils and tchotchkes on the shelf.

Since there’s no raw bar, the team has innovated with a “raw cart” packed with ice, oysters, and crab claws and wheeled to your table for presentation. Everything in the cart smelled fresh, and the oysters, when we got them later, were nicely shucked and clean tasting. Of the creative small plates, both the shrimp corn dogs and mini-lobster banh mi were fun and tasty snacks, and the smoked sturgeon rillettes with lefse and lingonberry were delicious and memorable. The ahi sashimi was fresh but lacked the foie gras influence promised on the menu.

Of the big dishes, the Wisconsin trout was lovely with a nice carrot puree on the side; the Skuna Bay salmon was cooked deftly to medium and carried a lovely lilt of yuzu. Jumbo lump crab cakes were fine, but they couldn’t touch Oceanaire’s. Speaking of which, there will ultimately be comparisons, and there are some key personnel onsite with Oceanaire on their resumes, but I’d say Union isn’t aiming for that type of formality (though seafood requires formal knowledge, which I found to be questionable). But there’s a lot of fun to the preparations, and the flash that Kaskaid is known for; with some fine-tuning this could be the version that makes it. 731 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-455-6690,

—S. M.