At the restaurant Black Swan, they have a cocktail called the “Bloody Swan.”
The Bloody Swan is similar to a Bloody Mary, except that the rim of the glass is covered in Old Bay spice; the drink uses jerk seasoning; and more than just a mere green olive or stick of celery, it features a chunk of pepperjack cheese, a pearl onion, a miniature pickle, a shrimp and a slice of lemon, plucked on an extremely long toothpick. In that order.
We are not done, here. Balanced delicately on top is a strip of sweet, praline bacon seasoned with anis seeds.
Welcome to the Black Swan, where the classic pub menu is transformed into, as manager James Lemieux said, “a culinary experience.”
Everything on the menu here seems simple enough - wings, burgers, BLTs, macaroni and cheese - but this restaurant, located at 1048 Bedford Avenue, has made them into delicacies.
“This was the first bar I came to in New York City, and the first thing I thought was that it had a great menu, great atmosphere, great beer, and a great spirit,” said Lemieux.
The restaurant itself is like the food - comforting, yet classy. Wooden tables and exposed brick meet thickly painted black walls and a large painted silhouette of flying swans. “Its rustic,” said Lemieux, “but refined.”
Surashan Pather, who hails from London, opened this restaurant in April 2010. It's his first restaurant, and he takes care to do it right. As one of the first high-end restaurants to open up on the avenue, some might have seen Black Swan as a huge risk. But according to Lemieux, residents have been receptive.
Since then, several restaurants, including SUD and Do or Dine, have opened up just a few blocks away.
I started off with the wings, available in three flavors - buffalo, jerks, and Thai sweet and spicy. They come with raw celery, carrots, and a cup of the restaurant’s own blue cheese dressing.
The buffalo wings are crispy, tender, and smothered in a spicy, rich sauce. The blue cheese dressing, which is intensely creamy with only a mild tinge of blue cheese, cools down every bite of chicken.
The jerk chicken is a perfect balance of moist meat with a crispy heavily seasoned, crust. The spice comes first, and after a quick fire in your mouth, you can settle down for a long, sweet aftertaste that tastes of Autumn (could it be cloves?). This is then combined with a very subtle smokey flavor.
The Thai Sweet and Spicy wings are vaguely like sweet and sour chicken, but so much more flavorful. The sauce is thick, sticky, and sweet, almost like the sauce on a caramelized apple, but with spicy red pepper flakes and a mild tang that tastes somewhat like liquorice. This coating the chicken is a delicious sweet-meets-savory treat.
The fish taco dish, which comes with three fish tacos, is a little on the pricey end at $15. But it was, indeed, very good. The fish is fresh market fish (I had catfish) lightly fried with a light coleslaw, wasabi cream, and pico de gallo. I love pico de gallo, and this version tastes like a thick gazpacho, with a strong tomato flavor while remaining light.
The cabbage in the coleslaw adds a refreshing crunch, which compliments the heavier fried fish and surprisingly strong flavor of the corn tortilla. The wasabi cream is not as prevalent as I expected it to be, but I prefer the pico de gallo anyway, so that’s fine by me.
When Lemieux suggested the mac-and-cheese I was hesitant to accept, but was very happy with the choice. Like the wings, the mac-and-cheese comes in three flavors: Classic, Sundried Tomato, and Bacon.
Big shells are thoroughly coated with a thick, buttery, exceedingly creamy sauce. Rather than a baked block of cheese and over-cooked noodles, this mac-and-cheese is saucy and smooth. The dish is baked with a crispy layer of cheese and chives to break through the warm, creamy pasta beneath.
The sundried tomatoes add a tart, sweet, and summery flavor to the dish. And the smokey bacon flavor is infused into every bite of the bacon mac-and-cheese, making for a rich, heavy, and heavenly flavor.
Wings, a fish taco, mac-and-cheese and a Bloody Mary -- sounds like a cook-out in the back yard!
Black Swan has a way of taking the classics and making them better. Here, you can assure you will be served superior ingredients and unexpected flavors... and bacon in your cocktails.