At first bite: Quiet storm
The unassuming David Clawson Restaurant in Henderson hides many pleasant surprises — and celebrates a return to unfussy, well-crafted cuisine
Since October, there’ve been whispers about an unassuming little spot in the deepest part of Anthem. With no splashy PR events or phoned-in celebrity chef interviews, the buzz about David Clawson Restaurant has truly spread via word of mouth.
That’s good, because it’s unlikely you’re going to stumble upon the place yourself. Surrounded by the big-name behemoths of modern consumer society — Subway, Albertsons, Starbucks, Bank of America — the restaurant wedges itself in a nondescript strip mall with some curious branding. The big blue sign shouts, simply, “DAVID CLAWSON.” No doubt passersby have shrugged off the new development in their neighborhood as an artist’s gallery or maybe a real estate agent with an especially large ego. Hopefully, though, at least some of them will be curious enough to walk through the door. They’ll be rewarded for their curiosity with terrific dishes from a classy, modern — but thoroughly unpretentious — dining establishment.
Which isn’t to say it’s without frills or novelties. For instance, the otherwise intimate restaurant has an interesting kind of “stage” where the chef puts his finishing touches via tweezers and plating spoon on the dishes coming out of the kitchen. The stage is where they finalize any of the 28 menu items that bear minimalist names like “Lamb” and “Rice” and “Soup.” Yet, behind those simple names are some surprisingly complex flavors. For instance, there’s nothing as sophisticated in the suburbs as Clawson’s lamb T-Bone. A fist-sized, grilled porterhouse with a Syrian red pepper paste, it’s an inventive dish enhanced by the menu’s suggested pairing with a Ramey Syrah from Sonoma.
Their “Rice” dish is an interesting concept as well: Niigata koshihikari rice (prized in Japan), sea urchin, salmon roe, and a Parmesan Reggiano cream — something more along the lines of what you’d expect from a big-name Strip restaurant. Like other dishes, Clawson’s plainly named “Soup” hardly does justice to what you get: a bold, robust clam chowder that must have a metric ton of butter in it. (Trust me, I’m not complaining.)
And yet for all its astounding richness, it highlights the oysters wonderfully. The same goes for the crab cake. It’s made with as much lump crab and as little binder as they can manage — and a bit of Old Bay seasoning and basil — and there you go. It’s a classic, unfussy dish whose secret ingredient is the careful attention they apply to it.
And sometimes Clawson’s deceptively simple names hide some dishes that may turn you into a drooling, unrepentant junkie. I have in mind the dessert titled “Fruit,” a sticky toffee pudding with rum, vanilla cream and a highly addictive substance called “sticky apricot love.” Yes, I know Gordon Ramsay Steak’s sticky toffee pudding is an object of worship of among local foodies (including us: We honored it with a Restaurant Award in 2012), but this blows Ramsay’s version away by a country mile. Make sure you’re close to full when you order this, because you’re liable to eat five.
I had a strangely familiar feeling while I ate at David Clawson Restaurant. It was the same feeling I had when I dined at Bay Area institution Restaurant Gary Danko on my honeymoon in San Francisco. That familiar feeling was a comforting sense of decades of culinary experience quietly at work in the background, bestowing on the dishes an unerring confidence. Foodie fans more into the trend of the moment may consider a place like Clawson dated, but I prefer to call it timeless.
It makes sense when you consider Chef Clawson’s C.V. With 38 years spread over luxury hotels (including the Ritz-Carlton), fine dining restaurants and culinary consulting, from Georgia to Colorado, Clawson seems less interested in jumping on the latest bandwagon than putting to work his deep experience in menu-building. David Clawson Restaurant has done an interesting service to Henderson. It’s almost a brave thing to go so far afield of where the crowds are and where the buzz is, and then open something so much more high-concept that what your typical diner might expect. This may be a big litmus test for Vegas culinary culture as a whole, but with food like this, David Clawson Restaurant may be the precedent we’ve been waiting for.
David Clawson Restaurant
2840 Bicentennial Parkway
HOURS Tue-Sat, 5-10p