Chef Nick Martschenko’s (South End) newest venture, SE Uncorked, is already creating an incredible buzz throughout New Canaan for its great food and great vibe. Inspired by the speakeasies of the Prohibition era and taverns in the UK and Australia, Chef Nick told CTbites that his vision is for “guests to be comfortable and relaxed in a heavily beverage, comfortable environment with foods designed for a pub versus restaurant theme.”
Located at 15 Elm Street, both the exterior and interior have been completely redesigned. The brick-faced exterior features a drop-down wood shelf, windows at eye-level and a wood carved sign announcing “Uncorked” with the familiar South End circle-logo with the additional prelude… “Snacks & Taps.”
From the moment you walk through the rear wood-hewn door you understand the concept behind the mantra of Snacks and Taps. Guests enter a dining area like none in New Canaan. The entire right wall is filled with a single banquette, the center of the dining area has several wooden high top tables and the bar occupies the entire left wall with thick wooden shelves holding the libations for the guests. The front of the room has a long wooden bar shelf with a “pass-through” to hand guests dining outside their food and drinks.
The atmosphere is casual, laid back, kick up your feet, eat great food, watch the ball game on two separate TVs and have a few beers, a couple of glasses of wine and hang out with friends. The menu is geared to creative fare and filled with an array of bold and delicious options. Uncorked pours all the beverages from taps or individual bottles and cans with four beers, ten wines and two waters on tap, plus a wide selection of local breweries and national brand beers. Likewise all of the juices are made in house and mixers are poured from bottles and cans.
The menu is divided into smaller and larger selections and I sampled several of each.
Fish and sushi lovers should choose the Hamachi Nachos, a delightfully refreshing small plate of sweet and spicy. Freshly flash fried yucca chips were topped with large cubes of Hamachi that were marinated in grapefruit and orange juices, garlic and shallots. They were served with an orange section, cilantro oil and finished with a thin slice of Serrano chili and a sprig of micro cilantro. This cerviche on steroids delivered an amazing array of flavors and textures from the sweetness of the oranges and spiciness of the serrano chili to the soft and delicate fish to the crunchiness of the yucca.
For the adventurous, the house-made Merguez sausage sandwich was fantastic. It was served on a long Martin potato roll and accompanied with Tzatziki and swirls of harissa sauce. The sausage was wonderfully seasoned with a minimal level of spiciness. The creaminess of the sweet Tzatziki and the spiciness of the harissa were great fantastic together. Choose one of the beers for this sausage.
There are two very different carpaccios. Creating a complex dish from a few simple ingredient is the foundation of the Scallop Carpaccio. Thinly sliced scallops were marinated in lemon juice, Espelette pepper and red pepper and presented with dollops of pickled mustard seeds, slices of radishes, olive oil and thinly sliced serrano chilies. The scallops were sugar sweet with just a touch of citrus and a background of pepper. The pickled mustard seeds elevated the dish with great sour notes and for additional spiciness, pop one of the chili slices on the fork.
The Zucchini Carpaccio was presented in a fish scale pattern with a touch of grated Pecorino and drizzled with olive oil and salt. This refreshing dish accentuated the simplicity of the zucchini with just a hint of salt from the cheese. It would be a great accompaniment with a glass of brisk white wine to begin the meal.
The Fried Cheese Curds included bite sized pieces of Wisconsin cheddar cheeses that were lightly coated with a mixture of beer, cornmeal and flour and flash fried and paired with a Sriracha aioli. The mild cheddar was a perfect canvas for the spiciness of the Sriracha. Order the curds with a light beer for a great snack.
Uncorked’s rendition of Shishito Peppers began with quickly blistered peppers, which were joined with an aioli that contained a surprising ingredient, poached tuna. When the mild peppers (beware that about one in ten is very spicy with no advanced warning) were dipped in the aioli, the combined flavors were delicious and distinctive.
As a tribute to the bars of Australia, Uncorked also serves Oysters Kilpatrick. The roasted oysters were topped with Benton’s bacon and a house-made BBQ sauce. The combination was very bold from the bacon and sauce and I thought the sauce overpowered the oysters.
The entrées include a variety of options including meats, fish, and chicken, plus another great burger.
No less than three months after South End tied for my top burger in southwest CT, Chef Nick created the Double Double. The only similarity to the South End burger is it will be a serious contender for next year’s top spot. The patties were seasoned with Worcestershire sauce and slowly cooked onions, seared to medium-rare and joined on the toasted sesame seed bun with thinly slice zucchini pickles, melted American cheese and SE (South End) burger sauce. The Worcestershire sauce and onions added wonderful depth to the meat and the zucchini pickles were a lighter touch than traditional pickles. The burger was accompanied by some of the best fries in Fairfield County.
A dish that exploded with a combination of flavors is the Chicken. The chicken was marinated in a mixture of coconut, lemongrass and ginger, slow cooked and finished in a hot pan. It was served atop a bed of crispy olive oil potatoes and served over a large swath of leek purée and a drizzle of leek oil. The chicken offered a beautifully crisped skin and a moist and buttery texture, with tropical back-notes with potatoes that were incredibly crispy. A single forkful of all of the ingredients was outstanding.
For those looking for a steak dinner, Uncorked offers a Kobe Flat Iron Steak with a complex butter and au poivre wine sauce. The steak was perfectly prepared to medium-rare, sliced and accompanied by French fries and a small salad. The beef was rich in flavor and the sauce and butter added a wonderful lusciousness to the dish. The fries were fantastic and created a more pubby presentation to enjoy with a beer or a glass of red wine.
For a lighter entrée, Uncorked offers a Coriander Crusted Sliced Tuna over a Panzanella salad, which included pickled red onions, sliced heirloom tomatoes, plus fennel and basil from Uncorked’s garden. The rare slices delivered a Middle Eastern twist, while the salad offered robustness from the tomatoes balanced with the bright acidity of the Banyuls vinaigrette. The croutons made from house-made bread offered a wonderful textural contrast.
Save room for dessert because Uncorked is serving two incredible throwback desserts. The first was an interpretation of an Ice Box cake, but I would call it a dense chocolate pudding pie. A wonderful graham cracker crust was filled with the creamiest and most delicious chocolate pudding I have tasted in a long time and topped with vanilla gelato and swirls of chocolate sauce. This was a must-have dessert.
The other throwback dessert is a tribute to Chef Nick’s childhood when his grandparents would take him for spumoni. Scoops of vanilla and pistachio ice cream were topped with fudge, toasted almonds and Luxardo cherries, and finished with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprig of mint. It was full of great flavors from the sauces and the Luxardo cherries were a delightful addition.
Overall, Uncorked presents an atmosphere that is alive and the food is vibrant and delicious. Chef Nick and his team have done an outstanding job in creating another go-to spot in New Canaan.
- Coconut infused chicken $24
- Merguez sausage $18
- Hamachi nachos $17
- Scallop carpaccio $13
- Uncorked double double cheeseburger $19
- Ice box cake $8
- Spumoni sundae $8
- Zucchini carpaccio $10
- Fried cheese curds $13
- Shishito peppers $12
- Yellowfin tuna $28
- Kobe Hangar Steak
Not to my liking