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December 2, 2010 Table for Two Superb seasonal offerings at Unums

Give yourself a holiday present: Visit or revisit Unums.

With its wrought-iron rails, two-tier dining space and wraparound bar, it’s definitely in our Top 5 list of restaurants in terms of atmosphere and food.

We find the tasteful tchotchkes, warm colors and Cheers-friendly atmosphere a great combination of the neighborhood meeting place and fine dining.

We were there on a recent chilly night to taste the restaurant’s seasonal offerings and were in time to see them put up the Christmas decorations. It put us in the holiday mood.

We’ve had mixed experiences with Unums: One time, a member of our party got their food later than everyone else; another time, some of us loved our entrees and others had complaints.

But on this recent trip, everything was nearly perfect, from the cool jazz on the sound system to the mashed potatoes.

We started with drinks. Mr. T for T had a glass of Big Fire Pinot Noir ($12) and Mrs. T for T had a glass of Martin Ray Chardonnay ($10.50).
But next time, Mrs. T for T swears she’s going to work up the guts to try either the Hot and Dirty Martini ($11.50), with Stoli vodka with cherry pepper and olive juice, garnished with a jalapeno olive and pepper spear, or Unums’ version of the Classic Martini ($12), with Hendrick’s Gin and dry Vermouth with muddled cucumber.

With our drinks, we happily dipped crusty bread in savory rosemary olive oil and ordered the Eggplant Involtina ($11), thinly sliced and fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes roasted with pomodoro sauce and buffalo mozzarella, and the Arugula Pear Salad ($8), with crumbled blue cheese, candied pecans and champagne vin.

Both were scrumptious, but if we were told there was only one dish we could bring to a desert island, this salad would be it.

The perfectly ripened late-autumn pears were mixed with fresh, peppery arugula; creamy, crumbled blue cheese; and candied pecans in a bright, citrus and champagne vinaigrette.

We didn’t know what to choose for entrees. We considered the Pumpkin Ravioli ($15), with candied pecans and spinach in a cream sauce, and the Spice Crusted Chicken ($19), with a cumin, coriander and chili powder crust, and served with purple mashed potatoes, roasted squash puree and tropical fruit salsa with smoked paprika aioli. Both dishes were on the specials menu.

They sounded fall-like and hearty, but in the end, the Seafood Cioppino ($30), a glorious stew with loads of lobster, scallops, mussels and cod in a white wine broth over spaghetti, was Mr. T for T’s choice. He loved it.

Mrs. T for T chose the Braised Short Rib ($25) over mashed potatoes as the ultimate hearty fall dinner. The rib was tender and fell off the bone, but was on the small side and a little too fatty, leaving little meat to eat. However, the cherry wine sauce and wilted spinach on top were superb.

Desserts (all $7.50) had a few seasonal choices, as well, such as the Pumpkin Gelato with fresh whipped cream and candied pecans, Pumpkin Cheesecake and the seductive Chocolate Fruit Martini, bittersweet orange chocolate ganache, berry compote and a biscotti.
We think the latter should be consumed with a nice dessert wine such as Sichel Sauturnes ($10).

Going to Unums is definitely a fine dining treat, but you don’t have to forgo the restaurant if your budget doesn’t allow for such extravagance.

There’s a bar menu served Tuesday-Saturday from 5 p.m.-closing with choices such as a Prime Burger ($12), Spicy Peanut Chicken Satay ($10), Tempura Sea Scallops ($16), Oven Roasted Rosemary Drumettes ($10) and Flatbread Puttanesca ($11), to name a few.

And we’re told that after the first of the year, Unums will have a new bistro menu on selected nights, with items such as Lobster Shepherd’s Pie and a tricked-out grilled cheese sandwich.