It’s no secret that Brian Howard is one of the best young chefs on the famed Las Vegas strip. The Detroit native has called Sin City his home for years and has proved his culinary skills with some of the city’s premiere dining establishments including Bouchon, Alize, the former CatHouse and Lutece. He helmed the Cosmopolitan’s Comme Ça just two years ago.
After Comme Ça, Howard wanted to fulfill his dream of opening his own venue. Having looked for the perfect location for quite some time with disappointments along the way, he found a place for Sparrow and Wolf in Chinatown, blocks from the Strip and the famed megaproperties housing world-renowned chefs.
On a cool, overcast afternoon, we attended a soft opening complete with a traditional Chinese lion dance to bless Chinatown’s newest dining locale with prosperity and peace. In attendance were general manager John Anthony and chef de cuisine Justin Kingsley Hall, both veterans of the city’s food and beverage industry. The décor has stone and wood accents, and communal tables lend a sophisticated but relaxed ambiance. We perused the many vintage cookbooks and bartenders’ guides that are available above neatly stacked bundles of wood near the front hostess stand while we eagerly waited for our seat at the center bar and our chance to sample one of the signature cocktails and several menu items.
Having now been at this newest Vegas hot spot numerous times, we’ve tried most of the menu. The well-executed dishes are American cuisine with reimagined classic options. Howard can turn the best ingredients into a thoughtful menu that reflects cultural diversity and his Midwestern roots. Being in Chinatown, the dishes represent a melting pot that translates into a visual feast on the plate and the palate. “The menu features signature items based upon seasonality, with the ability to highlight dishes on a rotating weekly basis,” he said. “Our plates are meant to be shared with friends.”
The mixology program is just as thoughtfully designed, and it’s worth spending time sampling the many crafted cocktails. “Seasonality plays a big role in the cocktail menu,” said Anthony. “We will always have something fresh representing that style.” An ideal way to begin a meal is with the Get Off My Lawn, a perfect blend of Camus VS Cognac, Amari Blend, maple, cherry, and cedar bitters. After our first sips, we began our meal with the chef’s expertise: charcuterie. Although there is a choice of two or three selections, we went “Full Monty” with slices of mortadella, prosciutto, and chicken liver pate alongside grilled bread and seasonal pickles and mustard.
The Chinatown Clams Casino comes with a side of history. This is not your grandmother’s version by any means. This variation has an Asian touch with lap cheong and shiitake mushrooms and is topped with uni hollandaise. The butcher wings are an excellent choice with burnt tomato, and the ‘nduja vinaigrette provides a flavorful finish. The Argentinean red shrimp dipped in cascabel, chile butter, samphire, cilantro, and lime provides a delectable entrance into an evening of culinary surprises. The beef cheek and bone marrow dumpling is a savory bite packing a full-bodied flavor punch in a small bite, and of course you won’t go wrong with classic sweetbreads presented with grilled romaine hearts, smoked bacon, English peas, and fond blanc.
Sparrow & Wolf also offers a tasty bento box, a three-tier selection of premium oysters, shellfish, cured meats, terrines, and seasonal condiments.
Chef Brian Howard’s Sparrow & Wolf was anticipated by many in the industry and has far exceed our expectations. It is proving to be one of most sought after dining experiences in a city burgeoning with restaurant options. Because this is a hot spot, reservations are strongly encouraged.