At the newly expanded Swallow, the theme is small plates, and the results are big.
More than doubled in size this year, with ambitions multiplied many times over, it's one of the sharpest restaurants in downtown Huntington.
The decor is contemporary and eclectic, much like the food. Stylized portraits of musicians from Beethoven to Elvis decorate the main dining room, as do vintage birdcages and an artfully arranged collection of wooden spoons placed near the open kitchen. Above the action is a lightly graffitied sign for the F train, Jamaica Center to Kings Highway.
In the bar area, you may have your drinks while watching a movie. Last time, it was "Pulp Fiction," which, of course, did offer some commentary on burgers and milkshakes, plus a brief discourse on the vegetarian life.
You'll be full of opinions, too. Chef-owner James Tchinnis and executive chef Paul Miranda guarantee it. And they provide a lively show, situated next to The Paramount entertainment hall.
Recent winners include the grilled baby octopus accented with pomegranate seeds, pancetta and shishito peppers; soy-braised short ribs finished with green onion, cashews and chilies; grilled skirt steak with horseradish, capers, shallots and a hint of pinot noir; and the savory shrimp po'boy with heirloom tomatoes and sauce rémoulade.
Precede or accompany any of the dishes with the "pan con tomate," or grilled bread spread with seasoned fresh tomatoes; and deviled eggs, turned sinful with Serrano ham and chipotle pepper. Crisp asparagus fries with a mustard aioli improve on the potato variety. The fattiness of the Vietnamese BBQ pork bun is almost balanced by pickled carrots, cucumbers and chilies.
Sauteed chicken liver on a grilled crostino equals a large small plate, zesty with shallots, garlic and bacon. Slice it thinly. The cut of hamachi crudo set on watermelon gazpacho also could be a main course in some restaurants. The fish similarly would benefit from a well-wielded sushi knife.
Swallow's tasty little butternut-squash cappuccino is as appealing as it was when the spot opened in 2010. When they return to the repertoire, try the elegant zucchini carpaccio and the fragrant roasted cauliflower. Now, enjoy the spins on chocolate cake and Key lime pie.
Last year, Swallow East opened in Montauk. Both fly high.