What a great goal to have, when opening a restaurant! After all, this is the singular reason why people will keep coming back for more. And so, that is precisely what owner/chef Nick Martschenko of South End in New Canaan set out to do when he opened his restaurant last year.
I finally made my way there last week for lunch with my foodie friend H.A., and I have to say that Chef Martschenko is solidly on track with his initial goal. The dishes on the menu were all very familiar yet each managed to surprise and delight me in a unique way. Like the Spicy Tuna Poke which had a wondrous heat to it. It was a nice twist to a dish that I am otherwise quite used to eating and usually find it delicious but predictable in flavor.
The Fried Baby Artichokes were so crispy and they paired well with the side of garlic aioli. The fried lemon chips on top were amazing compliment with their crunchy tang. Word of warning: these babies are addictive… so be careful.
Chef Martschenko kept insisting that we order the Tagliatelle Bolognese… and we were doubtful because we already had a lot of food coming. But chef insisted on sending us a bowl of his bolognese anyway. One bite, and it was clear to me why he is so passionate about it. The meat is a combination of ground veal, pork, and beef and the proportions made for a very delicate flavor profile. The equally delicate sauce that went with it did an excellent job of highlighting those flavors without overpowering them. I LOVED this hearty dish and will be ordering it every time I go back. Although, chef told us that we must try his Nonna’s Meatball next time. Those are made with just pork and veal and I can imagine how delicious they must be. Decisions! Decisions!!!
Steak Tacos were another dish we tried. I really enjoyed the tender marinated steak and the grilled scallions on top. The padron pepper salsa and guacamole made the interior super moist. With a few other dishes at the table we couldn’t get to the tacos right away. Sadly, as a result our tortillas got a little hard and chewy. Next time, I shall tackle them first.
Towards the end of the meal, my friend H.A. told me that their Banana Cream Pie is pretty famous. Well! then, we HAD to order it, didn’t we?
OMG! This dessert is TDF (to die for)! The perfectly ripe bananas layered on the tart shell, topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes. YUM!!! As if that wasn’t enough, it comes with a salted caramel sauce. I thought the addition of the caramel and its saltiness was a brilliant touch. Without it, the bananas and whipped cream would be too much sweet on sweet. What the salt did was bring out all the layers of flavors in the dessert and made this a well rounded flavor profile. The tart shell was delicious but a little hard to cut into. We were worried that if we use too much force – then chunks may fly off to the next table over. But just in case that happened, we were ready with our mouths open – to catch any of those wayward chunks. :-) Thankfully, we managed to consume each and every morsel of that pie … we don’t like wastage, you see!
Chef Martschenko is very passionate and creative at his craft. I love how he is transforming everyday menu items into unique experiences and making them his own in the process. I enjoy his playful and flavorful style of cooking. It is not overly fancy – but it is exciting, tempting and deeply satisfying. It is food that people enjoy!
South End, New Canaan | http://www.southendnewcanaan.com