When our server at DW Bistro told us the chef was a native of Jamaica who had grown up in New Mexico and that the menu featured influences of both cuisines, I fought so hard to keep my eyes from rolling that I about gave myself a migraine.
Fusion is a wonderful thing if it's done well. But fusion confusion has been all the rage lately, with mashups of cuisines that clash so badly they bring to mind "Glee's" mix of "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "The Thong Song." And that's pretty much what I was thinking when confronted with the Jamaican-New Mexican theme at DW Bistro.
So here's the good news: At this restaurant, clearer heads have prevailed. Yes, there are Jamaican and New Mexican influences on the menu, but no, not together. And the chef apparently hasn't been tempted to throw 10 different things onto one poor beleaguered piece of meat, instead honoring the integrity of the food, bringing out its best instead of overwhelming it.
For example? For example, a starter of jerk chicken lollipops ($12) and an entree of New Mexican-style slow-cooked pork ($13).
The jerk style has become such a visible export of Jamaica that it's almost a cliche, but if the seasoning is formulated carefully, it's a deft layering of sweet and hot, and that was the case here. The chicken was served with a buttermilk ranch dip to temper the seasoning, but we were pleased to note that the chef resisted the current tendency to overwhelm his jerked chicken with an overabundance of heat. We also liked the form he used; pulling the chicken up off the bone into lollipop shapes is hardly a new innovation, but it concentrates the meat so that the seasoning is more effective, and it makes it easier to eat. Precisely cut little sticks of grilled pineapple stacked on the side were the perfect smoky-sweet touch.
The pork, braised until it yielded to the gentle touch of a fork, was a triumph of hearty home cooking. Again, the seasoning had been handled judiciously, the peppers used to deepen the flavor of the pork without adding an excessive amount of heat. It was served in a bowl, over rice, and was so large it provided lunch the next day.
Grilled lamb chops ($24) didn't strike me as particularly Jamaican or New Mexican, but there's nothing wrong with that, and they did demonstrate the chef's talent with seasoning. The sage in the soy-based marinade balanced the naturally somewhat gamy flavor of the lamb, which was a lovely medium rare, just as we had ordered. On the side was saffron rice with chorizo, and while I never expect much saffron with saffron rice, the chorizo was a nice touch.
Another nice touch was the bread selection, served from a basket by a tongs-wielding server (who came by more than once): pretzel rolls, brioche rolls and sea-salt muffins, all of which were excellent.
Service throughout was nothing short of excellent. My hipster alarm had pinged when we walked through the door, but the host/manager and our waiter were pleasant and efficient, our waiter taking extra care to ensure we would get the lamb chops we wanted (there are jerk chops on the menu as well). The interior is sleek and pleasant, with stone accents and neutral colors.
As we ate, I mused about the fact that while Jamaican and New Mexican cuisines seem a little disparate, they have at least one thing in common: Both were developed by less-than-prosperous people making the best with what was at hand.
And DW Bistro reflects that beautifully.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at email@example.com.