Le Swan breathes new life into one of Toronto’s oldest and dearest diners, Swan. The “Le” is an indication of the whimsically sophisticated French fare now served here.
The menu starts out bisected into “French” and “Diner,” classic French items on the left corresponding to American counterpoints on the right.
The original seating and intimate booths have all been preserved. Hand-painted touches by artist Danielle Worrall, a zinc bar top and what looks to be the mirror from now-shuttered Black Hoof put a subtle personal stamp on the refreshed space.
Salad Nicoise ($15) takes all the components of the classic salad to the next level. Crisp frisee dressed with champagne vinegar is plated on a classic mayo, tuna and mustard tonnato, and topped with oven-roasted halved cherry tomatoes, bean, flat-top-seared pickled potatoes, and gently poached, silky Hooked albacore tuna loin.
Steak Frites is $32 for a quite modest portion, but they are indeed both done to perfection and the size ends up feeling satisfying and healthy, especially since both components are so rich.
The steak is a rarely used Denver cut, a tougher part of the shoulder though more beefy tasting and tender appropriately treated here. It’s dry-aged 40 days and butchered in house, then given an iconic pan sear with butter, garlic and thyme.
Bone marrow butter is another nod to Hoof, an incredibly satiny combination of veal fat, shallot and chive. Fries are an equally stunning accompaniment, actually going through a labour-intensive two-day process involving a brine, two blanches, and freezing overnight before flash frying to order to airy, crispy golden brown.
A Rotisserie Chicken Platter ($42) stars local pasture-raised poultry from Ontario’s Fenwick Farms, chosen for its specific size, texture and taste. It’s brined for a couple days with lemon, thyme, garlic and honey before going into a tall rotisserie oven in the back and being basted every 20 minutes with duck fat, shallot, garlic and thyme.
Veg has actually been sitting under the cooking chicken and soaking up all its dripping fat, rendering them incredibly tender and delicious yet snappy, and a pool of fragrant, swoon-worthy chicken jus is perfect for dipping everything.
Fondue is only available after 11 p.m., a tantalizingly retro blend of Emmental and Gruyere with white wine, garlic, nutmeg, white pepper and lemon juice served with hand-torn Blackbird baguette.
Provence ($14) is a slightly bitter cocktail with gin, dry vermouth, absinthe and herbes de provence garnished with fresh oregano.
Swan was owned by the same people for almost 20 years before changing various hands and eventually being offered to restaurateur and long-time fan of the restaurant Jen Agg (Grey Gardens, Cocktail Bar), who now runs Le Swan with David Greig, James Santon and Jake Skakun.