After months of planning and a sleight of hand two week renovation, Match restaurant in South Norwalk is poised to reopen this week with a blow-out opening cocktail party celebrating the new Match on Thursday, March 20 at 5 pm. Beginning Thursday at 7:30 pm, reservations will be accepted for dinner with business as usual for SoNo’s beloved restaurant.
Match opened up its still very dusty doors to CTbites over the weekend before the reopening, giving us a behind the scenes look at what to expect from the new Match, from its décor (purple!), new brand (relaxed and modern), to its new menu (more is more) and glimpses of a handful of reimagined and darn good looking dishes.
A steady fixture in the Fairfield County dining scene with chef/owner Matt Storch at the helm for the past fourteen years, Match has built a loyal following and a menu of popular dishes along the way. In fact, when Match first announced it would close temporarily for renovations, many people reacted with equal parts fear and excitement, worried they would lose their beloved dishes such as Carpetbaggers and Wasabi Tuna (or was that just us?), but also looking forward to the restaurant’s facelift.
Here's what to expect...
The New Match
The new Match was inspired by Storch’s desire to shake things up and make the place feel and taste more modern. “We’ve been open for fourteen years, it was time for a change.” The restaurant’s renovation, which took several months of careful planning, paired with two full weeks of all-out renovation work, focused on many angles of the restaurant business from its décor, to the logo itself, the menu and a new bar program. The first big changes came in the form of the team.
Much of the Match staff has been with the restaurant for a decade or more, including Susan McConnell who is now a partner, and runs the front of the house. She has been a consistent and assuring presence since Match first opened. Much of the staff remains the same with a notable addition. Storch’s vision for a serious cocktail presence demanded equally serious cocktail talent which comes in the form of Adam Patrick. Best known for his recent stints as a mixologist and bartender at Walrus & Carpenter and Luxe, he will lead what promises to be Norwalk’s most impressive cocktail program.
A New Look
The décor was guided by Storch’s vision. His was obsessed with a rich purple hue he discovered on his travels, and allowed that to appear in pops of colors and textures in the form of curtains and velvet covered upholstery, and paired it with warm walnut wood, bright white leather chairs, and a barnwood-sided bar. A custom clay wall complements much of the restaurant’s exposed brick walls, a common architectural element in SoNo, and a new series of lighting and fixtures, especially a chandelier with bare bulbs and pipe fittings, finishes a new dining room experience.
A New Menu
As food lovers, we were excited to get a glimpse of what Matt’s vision for the menu would be. He started hinting to us at the very beginning of the year that he wanted to shake things up while still remaining true to Match’s roots. The result? A broader menu, touches of whimsy, and a greater variety of price points. The other big change is flexibility. Match plans to print a menu every day and there are plans for lunch service in the coming months.
The first new section of dishes is called “Nibbles,” and was conceived as shareable small and crave-worthy small plates ranging from $5 to $9 each, including China Wings, Poppers, Tacos du Jour and Bistro Fries each with Storch’s original spin. Storch is especially excited for the “New School Raw Bar,” his take on not-so-raw offerings led by Match’s famous carpetbaggers, tuna and steak tartare, baked clams and crudo, to name a few.
These dishes range from $10 to $16. Feel like celebrating? A trio of “Delicacies” will offer caviar, foie gras, and truffles. You could hang out with these three courses on the menu for just about any occasion, from a quick snack paired with a cocktail to an all-out celebratory affair and some bubbles.
Jumping to the larger plates at the center and right of the menu, you’ll find “Classic Cravings,” “Market Finds” and “Wood Oven.” The cravings are dishes inspired by beloved Match dishes, such as the Wasabi Tuna and Kisses from Angles, to a new rich oxtail broth-based Pho, Osso Bucco, and Steak Frites. Big appetites need apply. For fish and wood oven dishes, Match added a new Octopus Frites dish and kept the Roast Chicken (similar but a bit different, Matt assures us) which appear along with a plethora of new pizzas, including a Bacon-Potato-Egg, a Fried Shrimp, and a Forest Pizza of pesto, brandied mushrooms, and spicy fried rock shrimp. Rounding out the menu are two dishes built for two, including a serious plate of meat, a Bone-in Ribeye.
A Cocktail Program
As for cocktails, this is a place where Match is taking no prisoners. Known for a steady bar crowd, Match is stepping up its game with Adam Patrick leading its bar. This is not a drink list, this is a cocktail program. Fresh juices, exacting execution, and imagination are leading the way on a starting list of 12 cocktails. From an early glimpse at the list, and a close-up of two very lovely cocktails, it’s clear you will want to start and end your night at Match. The entire back of the menu is given over to libation worship. Wine, beer, and “safe rides” anchor the menu but the real draw is a list of creative interpretations of classic cocktails and drinks. Take the “Shirley You Can’t Be Serious.” This traditionally sweet maraschino-driven drink is all grown up with Tanqueray, Averna, and Aperol. The Devil Wears Nada is a combination of Milagro Blanco, Thai Chili, Maraschino, Lime and Salt. The Pear Snap (pictured) is 10 Cane Rum, Poire Williams and Licor 43.
The menu we previewed and the drinks we lusted after, reinforce the Match we all know and love. But a fresher and livelier version. Match has always been a place where we’d feel equally at home with a cocktail and a small plate, or a five-course meal to celebrate with loved ones. What we anticipate enjoying even more is the greater variety of offerings and prices. The more modern space and thoughtful attention to detail and its customers and ensures Match will be here for at least another 14 years.