Swan is the latest instance of an old Toronto restaurant reincarnated. Now under the ownership of Anthony Rose, the West Queen West diner is fully refurbished and looking south towards California for inspiration.
It's a concept close to Rose's heart; he lived there prior to a stint in New York before returning to Toronto and eventually starting an empire of restaurants; Rose & Son's , Big Crow , Fat Pasha , Schmaltz , each offering insight into a chapter of the chef's life.
Inside is the same as it ever was - the booths and bar preserved and the essence of the place remains intact. Rose has begun modestly personalizing the space, hanging a few decorations including his own surfboard. The vibe is very laid back overall.
The menu, which is executed by chef Sonia Marwick, prides itself on keeping things simple, though you'll find fresh ingredients combined in unexpected ways.
Sliced bacon with watermelon ($16) is one such example. It's doused with hot sauce and paired with fresh, creamy mozzarella and mint to create a dish that features clean and contrasting flavours.
A whole head of butter lettuce is presented as a blossoming salad ($12) decorated with pink grapefruit supremes and drizzled with a poppyseed and buttermilk dressing.
More substantial options at dinner include Pacific cod en papillote ($24) steamed in a paper pocket with fingerling potatoes and artichoke, beef short ribs ($34) with turnips and anchovy persillade, and the house burger with fries ($14).
You can wash it all down with dangerously easy to drink cocktails from mixologist Bethann McLaren.
The Liability ($12) is delightful: it's a sweet and sour, frothy blend of Dillon's rose infused gin, lavender-infused Beefeater, honey, lemon, and egg whites.
To finish, there are seasonal sweets like the summer bread pudding ($10). This slice off a spongy loaf is studded with juicy berries and finished with a dollop of thick cream.
What Rose demonstrates at this place is that he's got a talent for accentuating flavours and making them pop without overworking his ingredients. It's the same thing he did with the decor; he brought out the best features without changing its character.