We have one of the very best climates in the world — for about six months of the year. And during those lamentably brief near-perfect periods, dining outdoors is a great way to pass a Southern Nevada evening.
Finding a place to do that, though, can be somewhat of a challenge. Quite a few valley restaurants offer al-fresco dining areas, but a number of them border busy roadways. And while they’re generally gussied up with shade structures, lots of plants and the requisite water feature, the knowledge that traffic and road grime are just out of view kind of puts a damper on the get-out-in-nature feeling.
Which is why dining outdoors in Desert Shores is such a treat, with two restaurants in the neighborhood’s main commercial center — Marche Bacchus and the newer Garfield’s — having expansive terraces on the large lake there.
When we dined at Garfield’s on a recent evening we would have been at risk of losing not only our napkins but probably our food and wine glasses to the crazy wind, so al fresco was out. But since large glass panels allow for a nearly unobstructed view of the lake with its swans and boats, and since those panels are hinged and were positioned to let in just enough of the wind to qualify as a gentle breeze, we had the next best thing.
The menu at Garfield’s is kind of all over the place. While that can be a sign that a restaurant is unsure of its mission, in this case it’s because this is clearly a neighborhood restaurant as well as a destination one, and accordingly goes for wide appeal. And so there is pizza and pasta but also steaks and seafood, tied together with a loose interpretation of what we used to call "continental," which is fitting considering that the restaurant was named for a cricket player who was knighted on the field.
Among the seafood dishes are Today’s Simple Grilled Fish and Today’s Pan Fried Fish, and on the evening of our visit the latter was sand dabs ($27; it’s market-priced, and our waiter gave us the price along with the description). They’re rare in these parts, delicate little fillets best with just a light sauteing, as was the case here. Instead of the tartar sauce mentioned on the menu they were served with a lighter and more suitable fresh salsa, which we still thought a little overwhelming for the little fish. They didn’t quite match up to the right-out-of-the-water sand dabs we’ve had in San Francisco, but they were awfully good, and the lightly sauteed string beans on the side were a fitting minimalist touch.
A Niman Ranch free-range double pork chop ($31) was moist, full of flavor and quite generously sized. This one comes with a choice of potato, and the garlic mashed, though creamy, were light on the garlic.
We started with a grilled artichoke ($12), which actually turned out to be one and a half grilled artichokes since the plate contained three pretty good-sized halves, blackened on the exterior and succulent inside, though we had to contend with just a bit of grit here and there. A particularly nice touch was the cup of garlic aioli with green garlic, which is milder but still has a clear garlic flavor.
A chocolate souffle ($13) was classic, accented perfectly by a pitcher of creme anglaise in the time-honored yin-and-yang flavor combination. As is usually the case with souffles we had to order this ahead, and after all that artichoke probably wouldn’t have, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Service throughout was very good, but it was a slow evening; our waiter said he’d been far busier the evening before, without the barnstorming wind.
Nearly all of our dishes at Garfield’s had a small "but," which I guess comes with the territory of a neighborhood restaurant. But with a setting like this and great, friendly service, those "buts" are easy to overlook.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or email her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.Review
Garfield’s Restaurant, 2620 Regatta Drive in Desert Shores; 925-8333;
Overall — B+
Food — B
Atmosphere — A
Service — A
Pluses: Good food served in an escape-from-it-all setting.
Minuses: Minor flaws here and there.