Friday, September 17, 2010

Restaurant Review: Swell

Posted on 09.28.10 for 09.17.10

Don't you love happy accidents? I do. Finding Swell was a very happy accident.

For our anniversary, A and I planned a weekend in the city. Unfortunately, that Friday I didn't feel well. We decided to go anyway, since we had been planning this little weekend semi-getaway (does it count as a getaway if your destination is only 45min away?) for months. By the time we were settled into our hotel room, I really wasn't doing so hot. A thought some food would do the trick, so we literally walked across the street to the closest restaurant to our hotel. That restaurant happened to be Swell.

The place is tiny. On the bottom floor I think there was only a small bar area right off the small cooking area. Most of the seating is upstairs.

This was our table. See the one next to it? There was one more table the exact same size and distance to the right of it. There were two more tables the same size and distance directly in front of our table. And that's the size of the whole dining room. Tiny. A real hole in the wall. I was so excited. I've always wanted to try a random hole in the wall restaurant. (OT: Who hates pictures taken on Auto? Raise your hand!)

And the food? Pretty good! Most of it, anyway. Let's go from bad to good, shall we?

These are the happy hour oysters. I believe they were Pt Reyes. Happy hour oysters were supposed to be $1 each, but I, without thinking, agreed to have the oysters "swell." "Swell" turned out to mean added toppings of ponzu, wasabi tobiko and green onions...for $1 per oyster. Oops. To make it worse, I'm not a huge fan of tobiko in large quantities, so I ended up scraping most of that off. Double oops. Can you see the oysters under the tobiko? No? They were tiny. $2 for a tiny oyster covered in a garnish I don't like. Boo.

I have pictures of each individual piece, but I thought that would make this post too long. Check out my dropshots if you want to see them. From left to right:
- Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, asian pear wrap, nori, apple aoili, jalapeno
- Miso Black Cod Brulee, purple potato salad
- Sashimi Grade Yellow Fin Tuna, hass avocado, shiro dashi, toasted sesame seeds
- Hokkaido Scallops, granny smith apple, yuzu aoili, wasabi tobiko
Yes, I took a shot of the menu.

Urchin has an...interesting flavor. I never had it before, and I wasn't sure what to expect. It's not a flavor you can really describe. The pear complemented it well, though. Not sure I'd willingly order it again, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to try it, at least.
OMG, black cod brulee. I wanted to order more of this. So good.
The tuna was basically fancified sashimi. Or sushi without the rice and nori. Yummy. Not mind blowing.
Scallops. I hadn't had raw scallops before this, and I really liked them. They're smooth and creamy. The tart apple went so well with it.

The winner of the night. Truffle risotto with roasted wild mushrooms. It should be noted that I am a truffle/mushroom super fan, but seriously...yum. Yum. My mouth is watering at the memory.

Dessert. Creme brulee trio from left to right: ginger, miso, espresso. They were all good. The sugar was a little burned, but the cream underneath was a wonderful texture. Ginger was my favorite because I love ginger in dessert. Miso creme brulee sounds so odd, but it was a delicious, salty-sweet brulee. Think kettle corn or salted caramels, just slightly saltier. The espresso was dense and savory. Definitely yummy, but not my favorite.

Overall, I thought Swell was a great random find for our anniversary dinner #1. We overheard a waitress telling another patron that Swell is going to turn into a ramen house, so if you're interested in trying them out, you have to go soon. Check out their website HERE, and their yelp reviews HERE.

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