There are some big names in the Fairfield County dining scene and Chef Matt Storch is definitely one of them. His restaurant, Match, in SoNo remains a steady force in the Norwalk dining scene. Sure, restaurants close around him, unable to withstand the shaky Norwalk market, but Match has consistently stayed strong because people know they can always get an extremely well-executed, dependable, delicious meal . . . yet there’s always something new thanks to Chef Storch’s creative spins.
So it only makes sense that he’d bring that same killer combo of dependability and innovation to The Chelsea in Fairfield, alongside his partner Scott Beck and his Chef de Cuisine, Eric Felitto. Sure, the Chelsea has been open and successful since 2012, but Chef Storch knows there are always new people coming into Fairfield, so he invited us bloggers in for a wonderful dinner so that we could let our readers know about all the awesomeness they have to offer.
Well, how else should we start this but with some cocktails we tried out while everybody arrived. Lots of drinks caught our eye, but Dan had to start with the Chelsea Caipirinha. It was bright, had a refreshing lime punch, but wasn’t overpowering like many Caipirinha can be. Yes, it burns, but it’s a smooth burn. ;) And Kristien had the Chelsea Old Fashioned because, well . . . bourbon. Made with Slow & Low Rye, Spiced Raisin Mash, Lemon Juice and Lemon Bitters, Kristien declared this the best Old Fashion she’s ever had. The tartness of the raisin mash was a unique and excellent balance to the punch of the bourbon. So onto the food (some dishes were served smaller for tasting purposes) . . . don’t worry, we had more cocktails later, but we’ll get to that soon.
Tuna Crudo: a bright and rich colored sushi-sized tuna was served in a bright and citrusy soy-yuzu-truffle sauce. Adding some crunch were some cucumbers along with a dainty rice cracker, and the avocado that brought it all together with its rich silkiness. Overall, it was fresh and simple with a nice kick of truffle to add a warm finish.
Bacon: a thick slab of bacon served up in a rich sauce made spicy with cherry peppers and a bit sweet with molasses glaze. To cut all the richness were some tart, roasted grapes. Damn, this is a must-order, screw the World Health Organization on this one, it’s worth it.
Eggplant: sweet/sour/spicy roasted eggplant, served with crushed tomato, and basil served on grilled garlic bruschetta and a few crumbles of goat cheese. This was a nice, simple starter with the goat cheese adding that nice bite and creaminess. We’d order this dish again, but there are definitely much more exciting things on the menu to try if you’re into new flavors.
Apple Cinnamon Margarita: Don Julio Blanco, Apple Cinnamon Syrup, lemon, OJ, and triple sec. This was definitely a fun, seasonal twist on a margarita, but we felt like there was a bit too much cinnamon flavor here because it overpowered the other flavors. We came to the conclusion that if we were drinking this blind-folded, we wouldn’t know it’s a margarita.
Chai Spiced Arnold Palmer: Tito’s, Wild Moon Chai Spice Liqueur, agave, lemonade, iced tea. While we like the idea behind this drink, the chai spice coming from the Wild Moon was pretty heavy and overpowering. In addition, the agave was a bit too much, making this a pretty sweet drink, but that’s based on what we like . . . some people like sweeter drinks.
Pumpkin Spiced Mojito: Bacardi Light Rum, autumn spiced pumpkin syrup, lime, and mint. On paper, you’re not sure how this will work, but in the glass it does work. What made this a nice drink is that it was very well-balanced, going light on the pumpkin flavor and having just a nice undertone. A nice touch was the pumpkin puree/chutney served up on the rim. To elevate the pumpkin flavor, we saw that we could take a sip and let some of the puree come through in our sips.
Duck Buns: hoisin glazed confit leg of duck with scallions, cilantro, sprouts, and toasted sesame seeds in warm buns. The bun was fluffy and had that beautiful doughy give you expect, which contrasted nicely with the rich and slightly sweet duck. The meat itself was delicate and moist and was well-balanced with the bright kick from the cilantro. This was Kristien’s favorite and a definite must order.
Burrata: kobocha squash two ways (roasted and in doughnut form) with a “warm fall squash sauce,” spiced honey, and pumpkin seeds. The squash came out warm and delicate, cooked just right. The donuts were little balls of warm awesomeness with a nice and fluffy texture. The burrata was creamy, but it could have been creamier, though. We liked all the parts of this separately, but it together it was an odd combo.
Mussels: mussels served up in a coconut, saffron, kaffir lime, and smoky mezcal broth and with some grilled dipping bread. That broth though . . . it was creamy, silky, and full of those beautiful Thai curry flavors. And, the mussels were cooked just right, too. Another dish that we’d order again.
Autumn Farm Salad: butternut squash, kale, shaved broccoli + cauliflower, toasted walnuts, and goat cheese with pomegranate and orange dressing. Everything was fresh and had that farm taste, but when compared to everything else, it felt rather simple. That said, we can definitely see people who are trying to keep it a bit healthier really enjoying this.
Gnocchi: ricotta gnocchi in a pomegranate braised short rib ragu, served with basil and chili flakes, finished with Grana. Oh the gnocchi, soooooo fluffy, soooo yummy. And the sauce was rich, strong in the tomato department, with the short rib delivered in delicate bites. While Dan thought the sauce might have been a bit too salty, Kristien thought it was just right.
Ravioli: butternut squash ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce, tossed with Amoretti cookie crumble and Parmesan. Perfectly al dente ravioli with a creamy and warm autumnal taste inside contrasted well with the crispy bites of sweet cookie. We could eat this for days.
Chelsea Burger: Craft Butchery fresh ground beef with sweet/sour onions, bacon bits, and cheddar dip, served on a brioche bun, fries on the side. We’ve heard a lot about this burger and Matt was definitely talking it up as it came to the table, so we knew we were in for a treat . . . well, it was. The burger was served up that perfect medium rare that we love and was definitely meaty as all hell. This isn’t a dainty burger, you’ll get dirty, you’ll get messy. Putting it over the edge was the melty cheddar and the savory bite coming from the bacon. The fries were crispy, but Dan thought they were in need of more seasoning and flavor.
Chicken Scarpiello: pan-roasted half a chicken, spicy cherry peppers, and smashed-fried red bliss potatoes. To say that we’re Chicken Scarp fans is a gross understatement: we’re actually epic fans. So, when a plate of Matt and Eric’s interpretation came to the table we were ready to go all crazy. The sauce was just how we like it: spicy with that dark and tomato-forward bite with just a bit of tanginess to it. The chicken was just so damn juicy, and, tying it all together were the fun smashed potatoes which were a fun play on the traditional style.
China Ribs: baby back ribs, Chinese BBQ glaze, and a crunchy Asian veggie slaw with toasted sesames. Man, those ribs were legit, coming off the bone with just a gentle tug. And, while we loved the cook on the ribs, the sauce made it even better with a familiar punch coming through, possibly from some 5 spice? This is a definite order if you’re a rib fan . . . and who the hell isn’t?
Crumble: apples, brown sugar crumble, scoop of caramel gelato. Yeah, crumble desserts are our weakness and this final dish definitely brought us down from the status of stuffed to rotund. For starters, the crumbles on top were actually crispy, were actually crunchy. How many times have you ordered a crumble when the top is soft and boring? Not here. The apple inside was delicate and spiced nicely, served up warm in both ways possible: in temp and in taste. The scoop of gelato on top added a nice creamy and silky contrast as well as a flavor boost with the inherent saltiness. A definite order.
One of the best things about Chef Storch and Felitto’s food is how they take some of the usual, typical dishes that you’ve come to love from various cuisines, and throw in their own twists and reinterpretations. In essence, they’re taking the foods they love the most, and putting them up on display. And, with dishes like the Duck Buns, Mussels, and China Ribs, it’s clear to see that the food at The Chelsea is definitely speaking for itself in terms of flavor, presentation, and nomworthiness. And, while we had a mixed experience with the drinks, we think it’s just a matter of pulling back a bit on the syrups because they tend to get a bit overpowering. We already have a handful of friends that love coming back to The Chelsea and, after our first visit, we can see why they keep returning.
Although we were invited to try the food at The Chelsea, our opinions, feelings, words and tasting notes are our own.
Address: 12 Unquowa Place
Phone: (203) 254-8200