The “Hawthorn” in the name of the new Hawthorn Grill at the JW Marriott/Rampart Casino is a nod to the resort’s extensive gardens, and it was an inspired choice. The resort has for too long failed to show those gardens to its advantage, but has made up for it by positioning the restaurant, which opened in January, in a spot overlooking them and equipping it with expansive windows.
There’s also generous patio seating adjacent to the gardens, with curved banquettes under pergolas with misters and fans (as well as heaters) that were sufficient to entice numerous families on a recent scorcher.
The view outside Hawthorn Grill is about as pastoral as it gets in Southern Nevada, and the serenity-inducing effect extends indoors. The dining room, entered past a large bar area, is spacious and equipped with dark furniture, soft lighting, candlelight and, alas, a Baby Boomer soundtrack that didn’t quite fit (“Super Fly?”)
The food, from Joseph Swan (who’s worked at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant and with Michelin-starred chef Alex Stratta) shone from the beginning, with a warm pull-apart loaf that was part white, part whole-wheat, everything on top (with the bagel topping of that name) and soft butter.
And at times it rivaled the glories of nature. Asparagus and burrata ($14) sounded like a refreshing change from the nearing-cliche pairing with tomatoes, but turned out to be so much more. It actually was a salad, the bias-cut asparagus tossed with sliced radish, diced cucumber and sliced toasted almonds, all of it tossed in basil oil. The overall effect was crunchy but to varying degrees, with lots of sprightly flavor notes.
The degree of creativity shown by the salad was impressive and nearly matched in an entree of pan-seared diver scallops ($36). The scallops were classic if exceptionally well prepared, their surfaces thoroughly caramelized. What set them apart was the sort of relish on which they were served, which combined sauteed fresh corn and spinach with shallots and crisp pieces of bacon for flavor and textural accents that played off the tender shellfish.
The name of the Mojito Fries ($9) is a bit of a mystery because the only obvious culinary reference is to the cocktail, and there were no mint, rum or lime in sight. The dish itself was a rousing success, though, with thick, hand-cut wedges of potatoes fried just until the edges were crisp and served with whole cilantro leaves, a lemon wedge, minced garlic and whole red pepper pods, and accompanied by a subtle but effective roasted poblano aioli.
Meaty (relatively, at least) but delicate little lamb T-bones ($34) topped with a chimichurri redolent of parsley, garlic and vinegar would do an Argentinean proud.
That service was pleasant, reasonably prompt and genteel (no rushing us to order) just rounded things out nicely. The Hawthorn Grill is a great asset to northwest Las Vegas and, without a doubt, the best thing that’s happened to the JW Marriott/Rampart Casino complex in a long time.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.
If you go
Hawthorn Grill, JW Marriott/Rampart Casino, 221 N. Rampart Blvd.; 702-507-5955
The essence: The best thing to happen to this resort in a very long time.