Photographs by Lisa Wiltse
Modern bar food has come a long way, and what’s been dubbed a “bar-food revolution” in the city is hitting the suburbs, too. SE Uncorked brings a new level of fun and finesse to the light-bite genre with such snacks as steamed pork buns and lobster lollipops, and choice wines on tap. The younger sibling to South End, SE Uncorked has taken over a petite space on Elm Street (formerly Picador), where chef-owner Nick Martschenko and his team have transformed it into a happy hour destination and late night spot. The menu is an artful mix of Asian-inspired dishes, clever takes on American classics, healthy choices, plus a few indulgences.
Creative in the kitchen
Don’t be fooled by the dutch door in front, intended to let in fresh air during the warmer months; you enter the restaurant through a door in back, a nod to the speakeasy concept. With the focus on drinks, snacks and socializing, the décor suits its purpose with plenty of bar seating and communal high-top tables. An open kitchen lets the chefs be part of the action.
At an early Thursday dinner with friends, we were seated at a prime corner booth. The whole menu is pared-down and presented on a gray card not much bigger than an envelope. Drinks are made with fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups and tonic. We liked the “Two,” sparkling pink lemonade and tequila. There are ten wines on tap, and those really looking to unwind can opt for shots, such as Irish root beer or a deconstructed mojito.
There are ten wines on tap.
About those snacks, the Hamachi Nachos bear no relation to the greasy, cheesy variety; these involve a layer of cool, raw hamachi with orange, serrano pepper, lime and cilantro on yucca chips. The scene is casual, but dishes are artfully presented: a zucchini carpaccio is plated as rows of paper-thin veggies topped with parmesan and colorful chive blossoms. Love lobster but don’t want to mess with the shells? Lobster lollipops may be the easiest, tastiest way to sample the seafood, each a grilled half-tail with chili-lime butter on a wooden skewer.
Chef Martschenko has relationships with local farmers and purveyors through South End and the two restaurants occasionally share the bounty. For instance, a whole pig sourced from Millstone Farms for South End was used to create tasty pork carnitas at Uncorked on the night we visited. Though small plates are the focus, you can order a full dinner. We liked the moist coconut-infused chicken with microgreens and leeks, but the over-the-top burger is the big draw. After an icebox cake for dessert, we hung out after dinner for a glass of Portugese tinto. Yes, it’s a place where you’ll want to stay for another round.
Drink Up: The beverage menu changes monthly to highlight seasonal ingredients, such as a bourbon cocktail with fresh cranberries.
Fresh from the Farm: SE Uncorked sources heavily from local farms. One of the chef’s favorites is MarWin Farms in upstate Connecticut, which raises ducks and chickens.
Must Order: Martschenko’s favorite dish is Hamachi Nachos, but regulars love the Double-Double burger, a permanent fixture on the daily menu.
15 Elm Street, New Canaan
Tues. to Thurs., 4:30 p.m.– 12 a.m.;
Friday, 4:30 p.m.–1:00 a.m.;
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.–2:00 a.m.;
Check out the lunch service, starting soon