SE Uncorked (New Canaan) – Outstanding Vibes and Vittles

Uncorked burgerChef 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.”

Uncorked teamLocated 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.”

Uncorked insideFrom 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.

Uncorked tapsThe 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.

Uncorked NickThe menu is divided into smaller and larger selections and I sampled several of each.

Uncorked NachosFish 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.

Uncorked sausageFor 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.

Uncorked Drink 2There 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.

Uncorked squashThe 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.

Uncorked curdsThe 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 peppersUncorked’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.

Uncorked oystersAs 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.

Uncorked burgerNo 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.

Uncorked ChickenA 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.

Uncorked steakFor 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.

Uncorked Drink 1For 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.

Uncorked pieSave 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.

Uncorked sundaeThe 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.

Really Liked

  • 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

Liked

  • Zucchini carpaccio $10
  • Fried cheese curds $13
  • Shishito peppers $12
  • Yellowfin tuna $28
  • Kobe Hangar Steak

Not to my liking

  • Oysters Kilpatrick $21

South End (New Canaan) – #1 (Tie) on 2015 Best Burger List

IMG_0314-0012015 was a difficult year in choosing the number 1 burger in southwest CT and the coin flip did not help. In the end I decided that it was a tie between South End in New Canaan and Harlan Social in Stamford.

IMG_0315-001The “South End Burger” created by Chef Nick Martschenko starts with fantastic beef, topped with Benton bacon, American cheese, South End burger sauce and served on a poppy seed roll. The flavor of the meat is perfect, and Chef Martschenko chars the exterior while maintaining a medium rare interior that oozes tons of juicy goodness. The bacon is crisp and flavorful and complements the meat. A few slices of B&B pickles adorn the burger and add another delightful sour component and the melted American cheese encases the patty. The sauce was a chunky spiced ketchup-y delight, which adds another flavor level. The roll was light and allows the other bold flavors inside to shine. The fries are delicious, lightly salted with a dusting of parmesan cheese and is a great partner for the burger.

Click to add a blog post for South End on Zomato

My Top Five+ Fairfield County CT Dishes from 2013

2013 was an amazing year for food lovers in Fairfield County…several great restaurants opened, several chefs moved and are now creating incredible meals in new locations, several more restaurants announced their openings and I cannot wait.

During the year I enjoyed hundreds of courses in Connecticut and on my travels. With all of those flavors and textures, it was an incredibly difficult task in choosing my five favorite Fairfield County dishes for 2013. In fact, I did not since I couldn’t whittle the last one from this list, so it is six, plus three special categories.

Here are my favorite dishes from 2013:

  • elm – The “Tagliatelli Neri” is over the top umami heaven. The dish begins with hand-made cuttlefish ink pasta topped with Peekeytoe crab, sea urchin, sea urchin butter, Calabrian chili, garlic bread crumbs and brightened with Meyer lemon juice and oil. The flavors dance on the palate and textures from the silky pasta to the crunchy garlic bread crumbs, are like none I experienced anywhere else.
  • Match – “Pho” is an incredible Vietnamese soup that Fairfield County needs to embrace. The broth is made from oxtails, ginger, onion, cinnamon, and star anise. When served, thinly sliced rib eye is added and cooked and then finished with cilantro, noodles and Sriracha. This dish is absolutely magical in its complexity of flavors and textures.
  • South End – “Nonna’s Meatballs” are comprised of pork and veal (that’s right, no beef) that are lightly mixed with tons of sheep’s milk ricotta and Parmesan cheese, then lightly fried and cooked in a crushed tomato sauce. The soft and tender texture of South End’s meatballs separates them from all of the others…they are fantastic.
  • Nola –The “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle” is one of my favorite combinations in the area with butter-poached lobster, Queso Fresco cheese, topped with a brown sauce served with sweet, crispy waffles. The outstanding flavors are complemented by the best brown sauce north of Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter.
  • Mama’s Boy – The “Shrimp and Grits” just keep getting better. Perfectly prepared U15 white shrimp, red peppers, scallions, and Tasso sit atop Tennessee sourced grits and finished with a simple garlic butter, white wine, and cream sauce. The grits are my favorite and when paired with the shrimp create an outstanding dish.
  • Bar Sugo – The “Spaghetti Neri” includes squid ink pasta, smoked tomato sauce, shrimp, bread crumbs and Bottarga. The pasta and shrimp are complemented by the smokiness and spiciness of the tomato sauce, but the entire presentation is elevated by the Bottarga, which adds a delightful brininess to the dish.

Top Hamburger – The Whelk – Over 70 hamburgers comprised my 2013 Hamburger search and The Whelk’s hamburger was my favorite. Full of rich flavor, encased in a great bun and topped with some great cheese, onions and house made pickles.

Top Bolognese – Cava Wine Bar – My colleague at CTBites, Lou Gorfain, and I scoured lower Fairfield County for our Bolognese round-up and my personal favorite was Cava’s Gnocchi with Bolognese. What set this apart from the others was the soft, ricotta gnocchi that were pillows of deliciousness.

Top Pizza – Locali – This newcomer uses age-old pizza-making techniques, San Marzano DOP tomatoes and house made mozzarella. The flavors, texture and the perfect amount of char from the wood burning oven produce some of the best Neapolitan pizza this side of the Campo dei Fiori.

Best Restaurant Burgers in Southwest CT – #2 South End Burger

South End Restaurant in New Canaan opened in 2012. The brainchild of Owner / Chef Nick Martschenko and his business partner Keith Siskind, South End is a hot spot in town. On any night the restaurant boasts a busy crowd enjoying Martschenko’s modern day interpretations of traditional food. With one of the best meatballs in the area it is a go-to spot. And the hamburger is fantastic. The “South End Burger” is one of the best hamburgers I have ever eaten.

Best_Burgers_in_CT_Restaurants_2013_jane

(Photo courtesy of Jane Beiles and CTbites)

The “South End Burger” created by Chef Nick Martschenko started with fantastic beef, topped with double smoked bacon, American cheese, South End burger sauce and served on a Wave Hill poppy seed roll. The flavor of the meat was perfect, and Chef Martschenko charred the exterior while maintaining a medium rare interior that oozed tons of juicy goodness. The bacon was crisp and flavorful and complemented the meat. A few slices of B&B pickles adorned the burger and added another delightful flavor and the melted American cheese encased the patty. The sauce was a chunky spiced ketchup-y delight, which added another flavor level. The roll was light on flavor and allowed the bold flavors inside to shine. The fries were delicious, lightly salted with a dusting of parmesan cheese and was a great side for the burger.

Check out the entire top 10 list at http://www.ctbites.com at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/19/ten-best-restaurant-burgers-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

South End on Urbanspoon

South End – A “Modern Tavern” in New Canaan

In early July CTbites previewed the opening of South End, the newest addition to the New Canaan restaurant scene.  Nearly two months of frenzied activity has confirmed the local appreciation that the creative cuisine of Chef Nicholas Martschenko is alive on Pine Street.

Overseeing the front of the house is Keith Siskind, his business partner, and the duo redesigned the interior at South End to create a relaxing atmosphere by intertwining rustic charm with modern comfort. The tables are carefully arranged to allow for pleasant conversation and the overall noise level creates a vibrant buzz without overwhelming intrusion. With upwards of 85 seats, 30 of which are contained around the energetic bar area, South End offers pleasant ambience to enjoy the wonderful cuisine that emerges from the kitchen.

The duo’s ambition to create the “Modern Tavern” is a rousing success. Siskind developed an excellent relationship with two local breweries, New Canaan’s Charter Oak and Stamford’s Half Full (Bright Ale) and both are prominently displayed on the taps overlooking the bar. In addition to these local brews, South End’s taps are serving a Pilsner from Brooklyn Brewery and Palm, a Euro Pale Lager from Belgium. The bar is also stocked with numerous beers, liquors and wines.

While enjoying a beer, wine or cocktail and perusing the menu, you may want to consider nibbling and sharing two of South End’s wonderful appetizers; Nonna’s Meatballs, which are absolutely delicious, or a selection of Artisanal Meats and Cheeses, served on a piece of reclaimed wood.

One of my favorite hot appetizers was the trio of Prosciutto Wrapped Figs stuffed with goat cheese and served with blistered grapes and finished with Saba syrup. They were delectable with an outstanding flavor combination of the sweet figs offset by the saltiness of the prosciutto and the deep sweet-sour composition of the Saba syrup.

The recently introduced Roasted PEI Mussels were served in a tomato and fennel broth that was slightly thickened with rouille and served with slices of grilled garlic bread. This dish delivered a fantastic combination of flavors; the tomatoes adding a sweet quality to the tender mussels while the fennel added a delightful licorice accent to the broth.

I recommend South End’s Heirloom Tomato Salad (end of the season upon us) that includes several varieties of seasonally ripe tomatoes, a touch of a tomato gelee, plus a tiny scoop of basil ice cream sitting atop a slice of mozzarella. The flavors of the tomatoes were sweet and delicious and when combined with the mozzarella and basil ice cream and a little of the pesto created a wonderful balance of flavors and textures. This was a refreshing and delightful dish.

My favorite appetizer / entrée was the Grilled Fresh Bacon, served atop mustard spaetzle, and paired with peach chutney and a sherry sauce. The meat was slow-braised and incredibly moist. The sherry sauce was brushed over the meat to create a wonderful balance of flavors and the slightly crisp edges of the spaetzle were a great offset to its soft texture. The peach chutney added a sweet and delicious complement to the slightly sour sherry sauce.

Chef Martschenko’s talent to create incredible pasta dishes was evident in several of the pasta dishes that I enjoyed. All of the pastas are house-made and shows the passion he developed as the Executive Chef at i Trulli.

My favorite pasta was the Tagliatelle Bolognese, a version that should remain the cornerstone of South End’s ever-changing menu. The pasta was the perfect thickness to handle the rich flavors of the veal, pork, and beef based Bolognese. The sauce was a traditional preparation and finished with rosemary and basil. On each visit this dish was ordered by at least one person at our table and in every instance the entire table tasted and thoroughly enjoyed the rich flavors of the sauce combined with the texture of the pasta.

Another recommended choice is the Veal Cannelloni, house-made crepes stuffed with veal, spinach and ricotta cheese and served with a Sicilian pistachio sauce.  A second recommendation is one of several variations of the Orrechiette, whether with a delicious braised rabbit or ground Italian sausage. The sauce that accompanies the Orrechiette changes often and I have enjoyed the braised rabbit as well as the sausage and broccoli rabe.

The entrées include selections of fish, meats and poultry. Three of the entrees that I thoroughly enjoyed included the Roasted Amish Chicken, the Grilled Pork Chop and the Scottish Organic Salmon.

The Roasted Chicken was described by Chef Martschenko as “the epitome of the modern tavern” cuisine. It was served atop spinach plus a wide assortment of mushrooms. The tarragon jus was a perfect complement to the perfectly roasted chicken. The chicken was succulent and the skin was crisped to perfection. The mashed potatoes were served in an iron crock and were whipped with oil and finished with butter and cream; totally decadent and absolutely delicious.

The Pork chop is first slow braised, then finished on the grill and served with diced potatoes (sweet and russet) plus spinach; the cooking method created a perfectly consistent and juicy doneness to the meat and the quick grill added a textural difference. The sherry sauce was outstanding, reduced almost to a consistency of a demi-glace, with intense flavors and perfectly complemented the pork, the crispy potatoes and the bacon.

For a lighter choice, the Salmon is a delightful option. The asparagus vinaigrette brought the entire dish together and was served with a variety of beans and peas, potatoes and a wonderful selection of mushrooms. The salmon was incredibly moist on the interior and the skin was perfectly crisped.

Chef Markschenko is also preparing scrumptious desserts including the South End Sundae and Raspberry/Nectarine Cobbler. The Sundae pairs pistachio and vanilla ice creams, a fudgy chocolate sauce, Luxardo cherries, roasted almonds, and is served with an anise biscotti. The ice cream was delicious, but the highlight was the Luxardo cherries; and when covered with some of the rich fudge, was a perfect ending to the meal. The Cobbler delivered a perfect balance of crunchy and smooth, with the fruits baked to maintain a crisp texture, the sweet streusel topping added addition crunchiness and the smooth toasted almond ice cream created a perfect partner to the cobbler.

After a mere two months, South End is a welcoming restaurant in New Canaan serving delicious and constantly changing choices. Chef Martschenko continues to develop flavors and combinations for his guests in New Canaan enjoy while Siskind has created a relaxing and friendly environment for all to enjoy. The New Canaan restaurant footprint now extends to Pine Street with the addition of South End.

–          South End – 36 Pine Street – New Canaan, CT, 06840    –

203-966-5200

Originally publishes on http://www.ctbites.com on  September 30, 2012

South End on Urbanspoon