Sparrow + Wolf
German Slurpee – Tito’s Vodka, Reisling, Thyme, Peach
Full Monty Charcuterie Plate – Culatello, Spicy N’duja, Calabrian Chile Soppressata, Finocchiona, Pâté de Campagne, Lavender scented Lardo, Coppa, Liver Mousse, Apple Moustarda, Housemade Pickles, Mustard, Grilled Bread
Lamb – Toasted Sesame, Apple and Walnut, Warm Bhatura Bread
Hearth Baked Bread – Cultured Butter, Sea Salt
Artichoke – White Bean Hummus, Charred Tomatillo, Mortared Herbs, Pine Nuts, Arugula
Butcher Wings – Burnt Tomato, N’duja Vinaigrette
Happy Hour Creekstone Farms Beef Skewer – Smoked Tallow Butter
Black Truffle Meatballs – Dashi Butter, Bonito Flake
Chinatown Clams Casino – Lap Cheong, Shiitake Mushroom, Uni Hollandaise
Udon – Lamb Bolognese, Taggiasche Olives, Mint, Egg
Campfire Duck – Hudson Valley Farms Duck Breast, Foie Gras, Wood Ear Mushrooms, Salted Cucumber, Plum & Duck Bone Broth
Beef Cheek & Bone Marrow Dumplings – Green Onion Emulsion
Sweetbreads – Grilled Romaine Hearts, Smoked Bacon, English Peas, Fond Blanc
Tres Leches – Vanilla Bean, Orange & Cocoa Nib Crunch
Calamansi Tart – Vanilla Meringue, Blueberry
Black Sesame Crepe – Cherry Yuzu, Marmalade, Whipped Cream
“You’d think Grant Achatz was opening a restaurant in Las Vegas” said one local Chef, a quick quip about cooking with “Unicorn Tears” replied another at the table, and so began a discussion about the endless parade of pictures and details about Sparrow + Wolf even before the restaurant opened its doors, Chef Brian Howard’s little dream seemingly happy to revel in as yet unwarranted hype, until it quickly silenced the doubters within its first two weeks of opening.
Now over two years in the making, Chef Howard’s departure from since-shuttered Comme Ca followed by fumbled leases that eventually led to a sizable space with an enormous exhibition kitchen on Spring Mountain Road, Sparrow + Wolf is described by the Chef as “food from the heart using a modern hand,” and what diners can expect on entry is really quite unlike anything Las Vegas has seen to this date, the wooden hostess podium standing in front of custom built ovens and a team of men and women hard at work, SLO-Boy’s Justin Kingsley Hall already breaking a sweat over the stove even though, at 4:55pm, the restaurant had not yet even opened.
Managed by John Anthony, an industry veteran who willingly took on the challenge of opening a Modern American eatery Off-Strip, it was with seating offered at a four-top towards the back of the restaurant that diners were greeted by a young woman fresh out of a restaurant in Culver City, her ability to show some personality while remaining professional an admirable skill, though the over-explaining of concepts should be better gauged by reading diners while subtle up-sells such as “Bottled or Sparking” with no suggestion of Tap or “Would you like to add an egg to that” seemed a bit sneaky, as were repeated urgings to try items that topped the price list.
Without doubt a trendy restaurant, though not in the way that many would think since the menu is rooted in Chef Howard’s training and travels, those put off by loud Restaurants will be happy to know that Sparrow + Wolf does indeed feature music, though at low volume, with bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers not obtruding on conversation that will likely be sparked by beverages such as Jump the Shark or Spring Mountain Sour, this particular night’s feature entitled “German Slurpee” and identical in texture to those at 7-Eleven, but all grown up and mellowed-out with Tito’s Vodka, Thyme, Peach and Reisling.
Offering several nightly specials, plus a bar-only Happy Hour that just began this week, it was with a shotgun approach that the menu was navigated after a bit of discussion about likes and preferences, a total of fifteen plates divided by four not an unreasonable amount of food as most dishes are well sized for their price, the opening board of Charcuterie allowing everyone to get a taste of each Meat with the N’duja and Liver Mousse both standouts, Chef Howard promising that the program will soon expand with several housemade offerings.
Happy to see the kitchen taking several chances, his ambitions ideally to be met by better turnout than Standard & Pour where outstanding plates such as Venison Tartare were seldom ordered by the timid palates of Henderson, Sparrow + Wolf’s Lamb Tartare takes on an Indian accent thanks chopped Fruit and Nuts plus puffy Bhatura Bread, the $5 “Hearth Baked Bread with Cultured Butter” one of the first *sold* on a local menu since David Clawson was panned for charging for Bread at his restaurant, the fluffy texture pleasant but still a bit tough to swallow as even New York’s Contra and Wildair charge less for their larger rolls based on an aged Sourdough Starter, also served with very good Butter.
Suddenly seeing Artichokes on several local menus, a trendy ingredient best saved for Chefs given the time and effort to prepare it at home, Sparrow + Wolf pairs their crispy leaves with herbs and bitter flavors before leveling it off with White Bean Hummus, the $2.75 each “Butcher Wings” a veritable steal when compared to most when taking into account the plump size of each and a bright, spicy topping composed of Tomatoes, N’duja and a bit of acid.
Not particularly impressed by the Happy Hour Beef Skewer save for the Butter, Chef Howard sending this out gratis, it was at his and the waitress’ urging that the group also tasted four “Chinatown Clams Casino,” the combination of Chinese Sausage, Mushrooms and a big tongue of Uni more than justifying the $7.50 Umami-Bombs, though at $15 for five the group all preferred the equally bold nightly special of tender Black Truffle Meatballs rested in a salty Butter bath and dusted with Bonito flakes.
Continuing to show an Eastern influence with slippery Udon topped in Lamb Bolognese, the $6 upcharge for an Egg a regrettable choice for more than one reason as the runny Yolk made the dish *too* wet, those looking for a better Pasta are encouraged to try a bowl of Beef Cheek & Bone Marrow Dumplings, the Dough a little thicker than some of the Strip’s best Italian spots though the filling is rich, creamy and well met by the foamy Emulsion of Green Onions.
Acknowledging the price of luxury ingredients and the high food costs sustained by restaurants in 2017, the final two plates of the night spoke directly to the prices of their ingredients in terms of their sharability, the Campfire Duck barely enough for a bite each of the Liver or Breast though the flavor seemed on-point while the soft, meaty Sweetbreads were elegantly placed amidst the flavors of Spring with a bit of salinity added by Bacon wrapped around the grilled Lettuce for a dollar less.
Perhaps not a place some would think of for Dessert, the smell of smoke and wood in the air plus an interesting Bar program not really shouting “Cake” or “Pie,” Sparrow + Wolf nonetheless avoids the Hipster trap of serving a deconstructed American Classic or some ridiculous concept such as Celery Sorbet by allowing diners to choose Cheese or one of three sweets, the Tres Leches a boozed up version of the Mexican favorite that spins it towards Tiramisu with the addition of Chocolate while the Calamansi Tart and Black Sesame Crepe both continue to show a global influence, the former reining in the Fruit’s sour notes by way of Vanilla Meringue to create something smooth and light while the
Crepe is savory enough that it could easily be served with a protein were it not for the Citrus-tinged Cherries and thick Cream.
FOUR STARS: Not as skeptical as many at first, but not entirely sure the place would be as great as writer-friends of the Chef made it out to be from preview bites, Sparrow + Wolf is precisely the sort of restaurant Brian Howard promised to create. Still new, and at times oddly priced, it speaks volumes that the kitchen is already executing at the Michelin 1* level of similar places in Chicago or New York and it will be interesting to watch how the project evolves once the initial surge slows down, its long-term success likely to be based on locals, and thus very telling about the future of Las Vegas’ Off-Strip dining scene.
RECOMMENDED: Charcuterie, Butcher’s Wings, Black Truffle Meatballs, Sweetbreads, Black Sesame Crepe.
AVOID: Happy Hour Beef Skewer, $6 (price not listed) Egg that actually works to the Udon’s detriment, Duck (for groups of 2+.)
TIP: Currently taking reservations by RESY from 5p-11p Su, Mo, We and till 1am on Th, Fr, Sa. Closed Tuesdays. Chef’s Table tasting available along with daily specials.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.