Above: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup with ramen noodles
Photographs by Jeff Kaufman
Chef Matt Storch was at the helm of Match when the restaurant was named Best American by Moffly Media, and also when it garnered a Wine Spectator award. Yet he’s not one to rest on his laurels. As the restaurant approached its fifteenth year in business in 2014, Storch and co-owner Susan McConnell treated the place to a renovation and a menu revamp. “You’ve got to stay consistent, fresh and at the top of your game,” says this graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, who honed his skills working for celebrity chef Todd English. “People still loved eating at Match, but the venue needed a face-lift,” he says.
We visited on a Saturday night to check out the new seasonal menu and the updated ambience. The menu is more flexible, so families can drop in early for a wood-oven pizzette, and friends can gather for a post-work cocktail and nibbles from the New School Raw Bar or Smaller Cravings selections. Of course, there are Larger Cravings (entrées, plus salads, pastas and desserts), too. Match’s makeover also called for a new cocktail program. To make it a success, the owners brought in Adam Patrick from Walrus + Carpenter in Bridgeport as bar manager, and updated libations with fresh juices, syrups and purées made in-house. Says Storch, “We elevated the bar program to fit the food, using classic liquors in creative cocktails.”
Our waiter—a twelve-year veteran at Match—asked if he could order for us. We agreed, provided he would include at least a few of the dishes we’d been eyeing. Our starters included one that hadn’t jumped out at us but wound up being a table favorite, the Bacon & Mozzarella. This isn’t just any bacon, but a thick slab of pork with a mound of cool bufala (divine in its own right). What makes the dish sing is the cherry pepper-molasses glaze. Chef Storch likes to play with flavor combinations and this one delivers salt, sweet, tart and spice on one plate. Carpetbaggers, made from Norm Bloom oysters harvested in Norwalk, are fried and topped with truffled steak tartare, truffle cream and truffle aioli for a rich, unusual flavor. Octopus frites (octopus legs over potatoes) are tender, thanks to lengthy marinating, with a nice charred finish. Though at first glance the arugula salad appears standard issue, the greens are brightened by lemon and mixed with an aged balsamic, top-quality Reggiano. Greens rest on a parmesan crema that makes the salad a true standout.
One entrée I loved and might have overlooked if our waiter hadn’t been at the wheel was mountain trout. This pan-seared fish is paired with a potato-cream sauce and pops of caviar, shaved fennel salad with smoked salmon and a few potato chips for crunch: It’s an unusual combination that reflects the chef’s creativity. We also enjoyed the squash ravioli, fragrant from fresh sage with added sweetness from an amaretti cookie and smashed acorn squash. Less adventurous eaters will be more than satisfied with the steak frites, as the filet mignon with onions and garlic butter is quite flavorful.
Dessert? Chocolate chip cookies come out so warm and gooey they’re best eaten with a spoon; use it to scoop up the other sweet things on the plate, including chocolate peanut butter gelato, flambéed bananas, pistachios and whipped cream. The dish is a good addition to a menu that satisfies many cravings. Like the neighborhood it lives in, Match is a modern classic that gets better with age.
98 Washington Street, South Norwalk, 203-852-1088
Cuisine: Seasonal New American
Lunch: Wed.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Nightly, beginning at 5 p.m.