Since before it even opened its doors in the fall, David Clawson’s eponymous Henderson restaurant had foodie tongues wagging. Clawson has worked at top restaurants and hotels across the country, including various Ritz-Carlton locations, San Francisco’s Le Méridien and Vail’s Lodge at Vail & Game Creek Club. His first solo project is a casual spot with modern booths, simple tables and a 20-seat counter that surrounds an open kitchen, where you can dine while watching the chefs at work. (Think L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon with less flash and much more reasonable prices).
The internationally influenced menu consists exclusively of small tasting-sized plates, and is cleverly arranged in two columns. To the left, about 25 dishes are listed with a single word that describes their main ingredient: pork, oyster, salad, duck, etc. The right-hand column displays a few more words that might list the particular cut of meat or type of oyster, as well as other ingredients. It’s simple, clean and to the point—the first indication of what the chef’s food is going to be like. On the flip side of the menu, wine pairings are suggested for each dish.
Having sampled about half of the main menu so far, I’ve yet to encounter a bad dish. And several have been extraordinary. The single can’t-miss item is the rice. Clawson uses Japan’s highly prized koshihikari variety from the Niigata prefecture, and blends it with a Reggiano cream to create a mildly cheesy risotto-style mixture. He then tops that with delicate briny uni and a sprinkling of salty salmon roe. Blend them together and you get an intoxicating porridge worthy of any of Las Vegas’ top Japanese restaurants. And at a mere $9 for a filling portion that’s large enough to share, this is without question the best bargain on the menu.
Another standout is a large, thick piece of salmon smoked in-house with pecan wood and served with mustard and dill potatoes. The fact that it arrives chilled surprised everyone in my party, but the result is akin to gourmet lox.
A beautifully seared foie gras comes with pears, shallot jam and a touch of ginger. The potatoes are excellently seasoned with ham hock, garlic and chives. Lo mein noodles are simple, seasoned with garlic and “more garlic,” and I loved every bite. And while I was nervous when my waiter bragged that the lamb “wasn’t too gamey”—I like my lamb gamey, dammit!—I love the way the admittedly mild meat was complemented by a dash of olive tapenade and a bed of the Middle Eastern pepper dip muhammara.
All of this praise, however, comes with a few caveats. First, pricing can be random. While the rice dish and noodles are amazing bargains, that lamb was no more than a few forkfuls and still priced at $18. And don’t get me started on the “bread,” listed as “milk, plugra butter, alaea sea salt” with a price of $4. It was little more than a single, slightly oversize Hawaiian roll with unremarkable butter—a total price gouge. The bottom line: Meals here can vary greatly in price if you want to leave satisfied.
Next, be sure to make a reservation—preferably through their website. The restaurant is only open from 5–10 p.m. five days a week, and they don’t seem to appreciate walk-ins. When my party of four arrived on a Saturday at exactly 5, they seemed worried that seating us in the empty house would disrupt service later. (Thankfully, they kindly accommodated us.) And they only seat until 9 p.m., something I’ve seen them strictly enforce at 9:05. So to avoid aggravating yourself or the staff, plan ahead, and be prompt.
Finally, be aware of the location, and how long it’s going to take you to get there. If you don’t spend a lot of time in the Sun City Anthem area, you may have forgotten how far away Bicentennial Parkway is. I’d love to see Clawson open something more centrally located. But in the meantime, it’s worth a trip no matter where you live.
Al’s Menu Picks
- Rice ($9)
- salmon ($12)
- noodles ($7)
- and lamb ($18)
David Clawson Restaurant
2840 Bicentennial Pkwy., 702-466-2190. Open for dinner 5 p.m.- close Tue–Sat. Dinner for two, $60–$150.