Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 21 August 2012
Swine: A Restaurant Review

531 Hudson Street, near Charles Street, West Village
Getting There: 1 to Christopher Street-Sheridan Square

While the restaurant’s name is not necessarily indicative of fine dining, it’s one that certainly suits one of the West Village’s most recently opened haunts. Mixing wines on tap with inventively concocted meat dishes, Swine is the latest salute to all things pork. In its unique bi-level setting, the place manages to combine all of the elements of casual and cool that we associate with places like The Spotted Pig or even The Meatball Shop. And it’s that laid back attitude that allowed us to truly revel in the experience of dining here.

Despite Swine’s informal ambiance, wait times can routinely exceed 30 minutes at the host stand, considering they do not accept reservations. Led toward the upstairs bar in the meantime, the top floor was crowded with patrons presumably in our position- anxiously awaiting a table. Inside, the bar is energetic, with a seemingly oddly placed yet somehow appropriate pinball wizard greeting guests upon arrival to the main floor. Much of the surrounding walls and environment look raw- almost as if painted haphazardly- but that’s all in Swine’s charm. In fact, the downstairs area, with glances at the parade of chefs working in the mostly open kitchen, feels almost like dining in a friend’s basement- fully equipped with an elongated ping pong table smack in the center for larger parties to dine upon.

We grabbed a table in a small nook downstairs, with ample views of the cooks in action, partially obstructed by the bags of fresh bread and the large red meat slicer used for much of the charcuterie heavy menu. Opting for some of the wines on tap, we chose the “Garnacha” ($8), a cold Spanish red, but there is a good variety of beers and wines on tap and in bottles from the affordable ($28) to the more exorbitant ($135). The menu meanwhile is affordably priced to even the stingiest of budgets, much of which is made up of small bites and sharable finger foods. Snacks like “Duck Fat Cashews” ($3) sit aside a selection of toasts like the “Reuben” ($13) topped with beef tongue pastrami or the “Confit Tuna” ($14) mixed with white anchovies and a black olive tapenade.

The selection of house made charcuterie however, is said to be a staple of Swine. Forgoing the experimental like the “Foie Gras Torchon” ($10), the “Rabbit & Mushroom Terrine” ($10), and the “Head Cheese” ($10), we opted for a more traditional meat and cheese board (any 5 for $24). The platter of “Soppresata” ($9), house made “Duck Proscuito” ($8), and house made “Merguez” ($7) was sliced deliciously fresh and served alongside crispy grilled toasts and some tasty brown mustard for lapping. We paired the meats with some of the fluffiest, creamiest “House Made Ricotta” ($5, cow) that you’ll find, served with a peppery jam as well as the “Ram Hill ‘Dante’” ($8, sheep), paired with locally made ‘Anarchy in a Jar’ strawberry balsamic jam, which yielded a nice nutty finish.

With an emphasis on sharing, the small plates section of the menu became our next focus, with the “Pork Belly” ($10) a delicious value for the size. Unlike traditional belly, the triangle was more meat than fat, doused with a sweet chili glaze yielding a decent kick with each passing bite. Plated with a generous portion of spicy pickled cabbage, the dish had us gulping down the chilled wine faster than we’d anticipated, but was sweet and savory at once. Admittedly we had perused the new menu prior to showing up at Swine’s front door, and one item in particular had us salivating from the get go. It also happened to be our server’s first recommendation: the “Bone Marrow & Brisket Burger” ($18). Smothered in creamy gruyere cheese and caramelized onions, the plated burger somehow looked as good as it tasted. Each perfectly cooked medium rare bite was neither overly juicy, nor messy on the plate. Sandwiched between the sides of an oversized fluffy brioche bun, the meat was flavorful on its own- but the entirety of the burger was better than the sum of its parts. And the side of accompanying potato wedges was equally as outstanding.

Whether catching up with some friends for a round of beers upstairs or sitting down for a three course meal somewhere in the main dining room, Swine is a place that purposefully doesn’t take itself too seriously- and proves as such with its menu to match. While the notable burger will likely draw plenty of interest for red meat fanatics, it’s a place with a unique charisma all to itself. Picture if your favorite dive bar began serving up some excellent comfort food. Or if your favorite low key restaurant began catering to a lively bar crowd. Swine combines the best of both worlds without compromising anything. And somehow, they manage to pull it off brilliantly.

Rundown of the Meal

The Boards (3 for $15 / 5 for $24 / 7 for $31)
Salumi & Such- Soppresata* ($9), Merguez ($7), Duck Proscuito* ($8); Cheeses- House Made Ricotta- cow ($5)*, Ram Hill ‘Dante’- sheep ($8)

Small Plates
Pork Belly ($10)

Large Plates
 Bone Marrow and Brisket Burger ($18)*

*Meal Highlight

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. On my recent visit to Swine NYC, I tried the Crispy Pig’s Head Terrine and was pleasantly surprised. The pork chop, however, was unimpressive. Some of the dishes here really standout, however, Swine isn’t consistent with it’s execution.