For seriousness, yo.
|Can’t believe I got them to do this. More silly pics if you scroll down 😛 (L-R: Carl Van Dekker, Moises Aguilar, Nick Martschenko, and being held, Michelle Mauro)|
I joke around a lot on here when talking about the sleepier towns and cities in Connecticut. Sometimes I’m half serious, other times I’m dead serious, they can be boring. Admittedly I don’t get excited when doing reviews in places like that because the atmosphere tends to be… *THROWBACK WORD ALERT*… whack.
Towards the end of 2015 there was a new bar/restaurant that caught my eye and I badly wanted to get in there and review it for Westchester Magazine, and now on here. Not only were the drinks great, but the food blew me away, the ambiance drew me in, and it even slightly changed my opinion of a sleepy town like New Canaan. South End Uncorked is ALL THAT, and I won’t soon forget the amazing experience I had there.
If the “South End” name sounds familiar, that’s because right down the street is Uncorked’s big daddy, South End, a busy restaurant in its own right, known for masterfully crafted New-American cuisine. So yes, both are owned by the same dude (he’s earned the right to be considered OUR dude, btw), Chef Nick Martschenko.
|Don’t fall for the false door in the front like I did. To enter you actually have to go around back.|
Chef Nick decided to expand in New Canaan when the nearby, and former Picador location, became vacant. He told me that the idea for Uncorked was to fashion it after the new age speakeasies in NYC, and it’s very on point. Uncorked reminds me of the cocktail bars I go to in the East Village, and when you’re in there you do sort of forget that you’re really in Downtown New Canaan. What’s reminiscent of The City’s hotspots is the cozy size, not super small, but small enough that you feel as if you’re part of an exclusive crowd. That said, no standing room allowed, you might have to wait a bit to enter at peak times and days.
|Chef Carl in action!|
|Chef Moises plating up Hamachi Nachos.|
What I find really cool about the space are the seating options (if available). There’s really not a bad seat in the house; you can grab a hightop in the middle or perhaps a seat by the building’s front windows to people watch, and if you’re lucky, a seat right at the bar or even better, a stool at the chef’s table to you can watch the action (that’s where I sat).
Side Note: If you haven’t been to the O.G. South End, go there too. You’ll love it.
SE Uncorked’s moniker is “Snacks + Taps,” but chances are you’ll start with the booze when you go, so I’ll start with it here.
Drinking is something you want to do here, responsibly, of course.
First, the actual “Taps” part consists of 10 wines on tap and four rotating beers (more selections in bottles and cans). The rest of the boozy selections are what I particularly like… creative cocktails and fancy shots.
|Four (was my personal favorite. Sweet but strong.|
The cocktails have numbers over names (1-5) and each are artfully crafted and there are no shortcuts when it comes to the ingredients. Each drink consists of fresh squeezed juices, or homemade syrups and so on. I was lucky enough to sample every single one, in moderation, otherwise I would’ve had to sleep in the back seat of my car at the New Canaan Metro-North Station. The good part? I didn’t dislike any of them, you’ll find a favorite like I did, but I even enjoyed the ones with spirits I don’t normally mess with.
|Deconstructed Mojito! Other shot pics not available. Michelle, Nick and I consumed them too fast.|
The shots are equally as creative (albeit dangerous if you do too many!) and super fun. They have a classic shot & beer called “All Roads Lead to Jameson” (shot of Jamo and a High Life pony) and there are the more addictive ones like the Oragechata (shot of tequila followed by a cinnamon sugar coated orange wedge) and my personal fave, the Deconstructed Mojito where you pop a mint Jello cube in your mouth, followed by a shot of chilled rum and finish by sucking on the lime. Another goodie here is the Irish Root Beer (amaretto, Kahlua, stout beer), a take on a Car Bomb, with a chocolate shake quality to it. Yes, you have to chug it 😉
It’s a damn miracle I was still standing. It’s a good thing I have a high tolerance.
HUGE shout-out to Michelle Mauro for developing one hell of a delicious and fun bar program.
You know you NEED to drink at Uncorked, but the food takes no backseat to the booze; it goes hand in hand. I sampled and shoved down as much of the menu as possible, with the exception of 2-3 items (maybe?), and everything had positives.
|Curds be so good tho.|
|Buffalo Rock Shrimp w/ blue cheese!|
It’s a good idea to start with the small stuff, better if you’re with a group so you can order a bunch and share. One of the many standouts are the beer battered, deep fried cheese curds w/ Sriracha aioli; they’re lightly battered, crispy, and gooey, and with a good pilsner or lager it’s the perfect pair.
|Pork Buns in yo’ face!|
|Smoked Gouda & Poblano Soup. There’s a video somewhere because it gets poured at your table.|
|I’m not a huge chicken liver type of guy but the bacon/onion jam helped it a bit. Love the addition of the soft egg.|
Something that blew my mind were the Steamed Pork Buns (pickled zucchini & carrots, house kimchi). They were easily some of the best I’ve had in the area with a soft bun, and tender pork that’s finished on the flattop for some char and texture. Also not to be missed is the cheesy, slightly spicy Smoked Gouda & Poblano Soup that’s cooled down and sweetened up with the addition of tomato-mint jam.
|Hamachi Nachos in a league of their own.|
My surprising pick are the Hamachi Nachos, a great sushi-style pick, with fresh Hamachi atop a crispy yucca chip that’s dressed up with a citrus punch from the grapefruit and some appreciated heat courtesy of a bit of Serrano pepper.
|Inside those golden empanadas.|
|Pork Carnitas Tacos are money. Love that chicharrón on there!|
Another small plates highlight were Dora’s Corn Empanada’s (braised chicken, tomato, green sauce), a gluten-free empanada with a crust made from corn, tapioca and color from annatto seeds. (Mostly everything on the menu is gluten-free, btw, except sandwich buns).
If you require a larger plate, fear not, they have those. If you’re seeking something on the lighter side, the Coconut-Infused Chicken Breast (painted leek, micro green salad, crushed olive oil potatoes, leek oil) is a good choice. You can really taste the coconut that’s infused via sous vide with a marinade that includes coconut milk and lemongrass. A second, “on the healthier side” item is the Yellowfin Tuna (white beans, spanish chorizo, baby kale, clam butter) that comes out an immaculate medium rare and is complimented by the sausage and butter which give the light fish some added and appreciated fattiness. Had it not been for this next dish (BURGER), the tuna would have been my favorite of the night…
|The full shot so you can see those hand cut Parmesan fries better.|
|Come closer, baby.|
So… Here we are… The Uncorked Double Double Cheeseburger. Already one of the great loves of my life. It’s a take on a fast food burger, specifically In & Out’s Double Double, but this one serves the purpose of those seeking a fancy version of that while still being greasy and sloppy enough to cure that burger craving. The inclusion of a “special sauce” and homemade ketchup take the burger to another level over anything with the typical Hellmann’s and Heinz. There’s way more flavor here. It comes out medium rare to medium with classic American cheese melted on top, and yes, there are two beefy patties of a secret meat blend that Chef Nick would not divulge. Respect though, a man’s gotta have his secrets. I could go on and on and this burger but I’ll chill. It was, however, my favorite burger that I ate in 2015.
|Good chance I’ll get the Dog next time and finish it.|
|Indulge, it’s allowed 😉|
Also totally worth it was the house made all-beef hot dog with a spicy, cherry pepper relish that’s very much in that Chicago dog spirit but without all the frills. It’s straightforward and delicious.
And if you’re wondering, yes, there are sweets here too. Uncorked has a Root Beer Float, ice cream, sorbet, a Spumoni Sundae, but make sure you at least get a bite of the Old School Ice Box Cake, a dense chocolate that’s not too sweet, and it’s made on the premises by Chef Carl Van Dekker who uses his grandmother’s recipe.
Come here. Eat here. Drink here. And have fun. You will 🙂
South End Uncorked
15 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT 06840
|Just throwing these in cuz Nick be actin’ silly.|