There’s a spaghetti at Swan that costs $95. It’s a simple dish, as far as a $95 entrees go: just spaghetti, butter, chives, lemon, and a big lump of Ossetra caviar on top. But the spaghetti is terrible - way too buttery and it leaves a greasy ring around your mouth - and you can barely taste the caviar after you mix the whole thing together. By the end, there’s just an unsexy pool of caviar, lemon juice, and butter left at the bottom of the plate, and you’ll feel obligated to spoon the sad soup of unnecessary overindulgence into your mouth. If it cost $9, we’d still recommend you skip it.
The problem with the caviar pasta also happens to be the problem with Swan as a whole: it’s big and flashy upfront, but once you dig in, you’re left feeling disappointed.
Swan is in the Design District and as soon as you walk in, you come face to face with a pink bar that looks like where Elle Woods would happily get drunk after a long day in court. Everything is covered in light pink and blue and it feels like the dollhouse of a millennial fairytale princess, whose eventual hero would sweep her off her feet in Balenciaga sneakers and $3,000 sweatpants.
If you’re someone who likes to take a break between courses to snap a few bathroom selfies, you may love it here. If you’re allergic to pastel colors, bring an EpiPen. But at least the restaurant’s style is more consistent than the menu, which is described as “European” in the same way that a person who wears a rosary and has a tattoo of the Buddha might refer to themselves as “spiritual.” It’s full of dishes that look and sound interesting but are mostly underwhelming, like the Swan Caesar salad. It’s served standing upright for no reason at all, with the dressing and rosemary breadcrumbs sitting on top of it like a toupee. It stands there for a moment, posing for pictures before it’s tipped over by the waiter to be hacked apart. Even after it’s mixed together, you still end up getting some bites soaked in Caesar dressing and others of just plain lettuce.
The “corn corn corn” is another dish that sounds better on paper than in reality. The thick, warm pudding of polenta, popcorn, and brown butter kind of tastes like movie theater popcorn that studied abroad and it’s too rich to have more than a few bites of. And then there’s that caviar pasta, which you do not want anywhere near your face.
When Swan gets it right, it’s with the simpler dishes. Their octopus comes with smoked hummus and it’s incredibly tender. The petite filet is a great steak - perfectly cooked with a side of au poivre sauce for dipping. And the softball-size creme puff is a pretty delicious and fun dessert to put in the middle of the table and fight over. Still, you can do better for a special occasion meal or a big night out, even in the confines of the tiny Design District.
If you really want to see this place for yourself, skip dinner and just stop by their upstairs cocktail bar, Bar Bevy. It’s more of the same - except darker. And on your way there, take a moment to soak it all in. Do a 360, touch the silver swan sitting on the bar, and scan the room for celebrities. That’s probably going to be the peak of your night here. Swan’s great at first impressions, but the rest needs some work.
Caesar salads were not meant to walk upright. Not only does this fly in the face of salad evolution, it just doesn’t taste too good, especially the soggy rosemary breadcrumbs, which add almost no crunch to the dish.
This is a good octopus, and it also taught us that hummus and octopus are not a bad pair at all, which is knowledge we now pass on to you.
Maybe you’ll like this if you were one of those kids who really looked forward to creamed corn day at the school cafeteria - if those kids actually existed. This is edible, but there’s just nothing particularly exciting here, even though the server might tell you it’s a house favorite
Just light $95 on fire. It’ll be more exciting.
This is the kind of quality steak you want on a nice night out, and it’s the sort of elegant, old-school dish Swan should do more of.
It is satisfying to pierce this fluffy ball of cream with your spoon, and every bit as satisfying to eat the entire thing once your dining companions have smashed it beyond recognition.