Dining review: Bistro rocks creative fare

Nov. 24—Union an American Bistro doesn't quite roll off the tongue and I never heard anyone call it UAB, which sounds more like a bank than a restaurant; nonetheless, this Castle Rock eatery serves creative and satisfying food.

Given the packed house, it's apparent others agree.

Dark décor and noisy ambiance aside, the focus is on well-prepared meals with good service.

We started with Italian eggrolls ($11). Such cultural mashups have the potential to run amok, but not here.

Think elevated mozzarella sticks. Fresh tomatoes with gooey mozzarella cheese fill crispy wrappers drizzled with balsamic glaze. The rolls are served with peppery and nutty arugula pesto. Initially, we used a fork and knife to cut bite-size pieces, but we soon dropped the manners to use our hands.

Our server said these and the flatbreads are among the most popular appetizers.

We weren't disappointed, but next time I'll try the Thai flatbread chicken ($15) or the beef flatbread tenderloin tips ($16).

Entrees are equally inventive. My ravioli ($24) was so much more than pasta pillows filled with pureed butternut squash. A rich, browned butter sauce coats each one with half a dozen seared, plump shrimp encircling the main attraction.

Toasted sage and crispy bits of fried prosciutto are sprinkled throughout. As if this isn't enough, balsamic syrup is artfully drizzled over the entire entree.

This is not just another pretty plate. Browned butter delivers a subtle nuttiness complementing the semi-sweet butternut squash. As much as I enjoyed the shrimp, they weren't necessary, but they do add elegance to an otherwise peasant dish.

Braised short ribs are typically served here with sweet potato wedges, but when mashed potatoes are identified on the menu as "famous," there's a need to find out why. Who knows where they gained their claim to fame, but the spuds are creamy and given the amount of au jus with the beef proved to be a good accompaniment.

The meat was off the bone and fork tender. Al dente green beans completed the serving.

Side salads are $5 with an entrée. We shared a Caesar, which proved to be a good choice for many reasons. It was large and further demonstrated the kitchen's creativity. Instead of crunchy croutons, we were surprised when our forks easily pierced the cubes served atop the romaine. These are fried polenta!

And the small tart crispy wisps are pieces of fried pepperoncini. These were nice treats after our palates took over from what our eyes were expecting.

A little more dressing on the salad would have been nice, though.

Service remained consistently attentive throughout the meal even with most tables filled and our server doing double duty on the enclosed patio.

I always appreciate when a restaurant manager checks on tables, which occurred here. All was well, so we didn't spend much time with him; he had plenty of others to stop by.

FYI: A 3% kitchen gratuity is automatically added to the bill.

Union an American Bistro

Description: Creative bistro fare

Location: 3 Wilcox St., Castle Rock

Contact: 1-303-688-8159

Prices: $13-$42

Hours: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. — 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday

Details: Credit cards accepted. Enclosed patio. Alcohol. Wi-Fi.

Favorite dishes: Italian eggrolls, butternut squash ravioli.

Other: Gluten-free and vegan options available. Reservations recommended.