By Jano Tantongco
Not long after Chef James Tchinnis became a partner at Bistro 44 in Northport, he was walking through Huntington village and noticed the quiet Kozy Kettle on New York Avenue, and its owner sitting with his laptop in an empty shop.
Tchinnis thought the soup shop was an interesting concept, but noticed it wasn’t doing so well. He went inside to speak with the owner.
“I went in and I came out and I said, ‘I think we just bought a restaurant, more or less,’” Tchinnis said.
Thus began his flight toward the opening of Swallow at 366 New York Ave. in 2010, a small-plate restaurant that takes a cue from gatherings Tchinnis and his wife Julie hosted at their home.
“We wanted you to feel like you were in our home, hanging out in our kitchen,” Tchinnis said. “Whenever people come to our house, they hang out in the kitchen. I cook and we talk and we drink wine and I feed people.”
And so, Swallow caters to diners’ sharing side by offering plates meant to be passed around and enjoyed by everyone at the table.
In the Lighter Fare portion of the menu, The Roasted Cauliflower ($13) served as an excellent starter featuring edamame, golden raisins, pine nuts and pea puree. The warm cauliflower had a slight crunch, while the pea puree cooled things down. The raisins and pine nuts worked together to bring a sweet and nutty flavor contrasted by a light grating of parmesan.
The “Fried” Quinoa ($16) spins the common, take-out staple of fried rice, and provides a tastier, healthier alternative that shines as the top appetizer we sampled. The plate brings together quinoa, peas, carrots and spinach to make up the “rice.” It also brings in a fresh catch of wild salmon, topped with a sunny side up egg, with tamari sesame dressing that adds that distinctive, Asian flavor.
Onto the Swallow Classics portion of the menu, try a Butternut Squash Cappuccino ($7) to help stimulate the appetite. Though it contains no coffee, it will certainly perk diners up with a rich butternut squash puree with a truffle froth giving it a smooth finish.
Next up, the Mushroom Toast ($15) is a bold cornucopia of cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms lathered in a cognac cream sauce. The mushrooms rested upon a French baguette that was just as flavorful after absorbing the mushroom essence and cream sauce. A bit of baby arugula and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes added a hint of herbal spice to top off this powerfully robust plate.
Moving on, the Steamed Buns ($14) are Swallow’s commendable take on a Chinese classic of peking duck steamed buns. Serving on a bamboo steamer traditionally used for dim sum, the buns are home to a tender duck confit accented by scallions that add a slight effervescence, while the mustard greens throw in a pungent kick. The pickled red onions add a vinegary tang that’s balanced by the sweet, spicy hoisin sauce.
Finally, the Grass Fed Skirt Steak ($17), is a masterful arrangement of contrasting elements centered around a thinly sliced and succulent skirt steak with the Japanese togarashi spice blend turning up the heat. Finish with a dip into the vanilla carrot puree for a pleasing counterpoint that provides a clean finish for the steak. It’s also topped with brussel sprout chips, which are barely there, yet pack a satisfying crisp, and a side of hearty fingerling potatoes help ground the dish.
Coming up, Tchinnis plans to host a Chef’s Table event at the restaurant to benefit the No Kid Hungry charity. The event will feature seven to eight of the top chefs on Long Island who will present just as many courses for diners, with all proceeds going back to the charity. Tickets are $200 with cocktail hour taking place from 7-8 p.m. and dinner from 8-10 p.m.