White Chocolate Grill? I don’t know about you, but the name didn’t do much for me but keep me guessing.
Is it a bakery? Is it a cafe where they only serve desserts? And how does one grill white chocolate, anyway?
My hunch is that it wasn’t named by a restaurant consultant, because the name provides basically nothing in the way of information. Maybe that’s the point, but I think it does White Chocolate Grill a disservice. The name has the ring of a gimmick, and there’s a lot going on here, none of it gimmicky.
Well, OK, there is one gimmick: The menu lists the desserts first, maybe to justify or support the name (there is a lot of white chocolate among the listings), maybe in a nod to the by-now-shopworn "Life’s uncertain; eat dessert first." But at least they have the sense to pretty much ignore the positioning.
And before we’d get to the white chocolate, we’d have a couple of courses to get through, which provided some surprises, almost all of them good. The house-specialty tomato-gin soup ($6), for example, sounded pretty straightforward on its face, but what was served deserved a far more grandiose moniker. The creamy tomato-soup base (with a slight kick from the gin) was chock-full of chunks of firm, meaty mushrooms, plus a few jots of bacon. The base itself was more creamy than your usual tomato soup, so what we ended up with was a sort of tomato-mushroom soup hybrid, aromatic from the liberal use of thyme. It was rich but not overly so, hearty but just enough, and the best soup I’ve had in a long time.
The Dancing Crab Cake ($22) suffered a bit in the name game, too. What name would I choose? I don’t know, because "two crab cakes made with truly impressive, large lumps of crab and not much filler, and sauteed just until gently browned" is probably too long, but that’s what they were. I actually was rather surprised to see the size of the crabmeat lumps, with so many places using the tiny shreds these days. Again, delicious.
As were the side dishes we chose, a big heap of just-sweet-enough honey-glazed carrots, and a pile of plump Israeli couscous.
As was the grilled pork tenderloin with apricot glaze ($18), which was, as it turned out, precisely what was promised, the lean meat cooked just enough that it remained tender and moist, the glaze at once earthy and sweet, but never cloying.
As was the grilled fresh artichoke ($10). It had been split and grilled for a bit of wood-fired smokiness, then graced with a liberal dusting of Parmesan cheese. No greasy breadcrumbs, no greasy sauces; this preparation did justice to the sublimely delicate flavor and appealing texture of the artichoke.
One problem: It and our soup were ordered as appetizers. Our waitress brought the soup promptly, but it seemed that we waited nearly forever for the artichoke. We hadn’t complained, but we were starting to wonder what was going on when a harried management type brought it, apologized and mentioned in passing that she’d "take care of it." Which she did. We actually hadn’t expected it– the apology sufficed — but that was a gracious touch.
Service throughout was, however, for the most part good. I wondered how they were going to handle the timing considering the artichoke delay, but it worked out just fine. We also liked the fact that the wine list contained a variety of decent, lower-priced bottles from upstart and lesser-known wineries. We had a bottle of the Trinchero Cabernet ($36), and noticed that a couple who came in soon after us did the same. The wine service was fine, and this was just the sort of wine for a weeknight dinner in the suburbs.
While we waited for the artichoke, we had plenty of time to look around. White Chocolate Grill originated in Scottsdale, Ariz., and gradually is expanding outward. And the streamlined rock-and-wood decor that gently evoked Frank Lloyd Wright did remind us a little bit of Scottsdale, and also that parts of Henderson have become quite Scottsdalean, for better or worse.
And we finally did get to the white chocolate, in the form of the French white chocolate bread pudding ($7), which was as well conceived and executed as everything else.
On the evening of our visit, White Chocolate Grill was jumping, and I’m not surprised. Maybe it’s because of the Scottsdale roots, but this company knows how to serve the suburbs.
Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.what: White Chocolate Grill where: 9510 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson phone: 436-7100 overall: A- food: A atmosphere: A service: B pluses: Good, creative food. minuses: Late-arriving artichoke.