Havin’ a Hankerin’ fer HEARTHSTONE

Hearthstone is very zeitgeist-y. This is neither a compliment nor an insult, just a statement of fact.

Everything about its menu is designed to appeal to those who know just enough about food to want something better than Claim Jumper and Panera, but not so snooty, well-heeled and demanding that they are willing to spend $200+ dinner for the really good stuff. In this respect, it is very much like the newly opened Therapy: an amalgam of middle-brow, consumer-friendly signifiers (pizzas, small plates, pastas, burgers, etc. etc.), all designed and executed by good chefs, not a bunch of accountants.

Brian Massie (pictured above) is the head honcho among those chefs, and his extensive experience with the Light Group (Stack, FIX et al) has made him a go-to guy when it comes to crowd-pleasing menus and updated, rustic gastropub fare like this spectacular beet salad, flecked with pistachios, honeyed goat cheese and lemon thyme:

… or this spicy (and we mean spicy) roasted clams with fennel sausage:

…or this mayonnaise-y steak tartare:

…all of which display Massie’s love of spiking classic ideas with strong flavors and tangy accents.

If there’s a weakness to the menu, it is in its cliched, all-over-the-map content. Want quinoa? They gots quinoa. Seeking ceviche? Satisfy your search thusly:

And if you have a hankerin’ fer sum hangar steak, well, Hearthstone can hang a good one on you:

…this one coming with real black truffle butter, and real truffle aioli.

Fake truffle oil (the bane of true gastronomes), seems to be all the rage with some of these something-for-everyone restaurants, and no matter how many scoldings they get from fussy critics:

…many still can’t resist the lure of a little profit used at the expense of their credibility. Thus do they bilk the hoi polloi into thinking they’re getting something luxurious, when all they’re using is a fake chemical compound. Imagine if they were spraying your steak with “steak flavor spray” (and asking you to pay extra for all that intense, luxurious “steak” flavor) and you’ll get the idea.

The article linked to above points out that that the truffle oil you think is so so sexy is nothing more than a petroleum by-product mixed with low rent olive oil. And the thing is, it doesn’t even taste or smell that good — substituting a dirty underwear/stale sock odor for the musty sexual scents of the real thing. Are we being overtly snobby about this? You bet your sweet bippy we are. Truffles — black or white — are the very essence of food snobbery and gastronomic quintessence. Reducing them to a whiff of gasoline-scented, metallic crud is like putting fake tits on the Mona Lisa.

The fact that a number of other new joints in town are still using it with abandon tells you just how far behind the culinary curve Las Vegas remains.

But such things need not concern you here, as Massie and his troops load their superb, wood fired flatbreads, chorizo-stuffed dates, and feta cheese-feted watermelon salad with enough formidable flavor to make you forget about the petroleum-coated, dirty socks in your pasta that you encounter elsewhere.

On a side note, we haven’t experienced Hearthstone’s “Whole Beast Feast,” but we understand it’s every bit the equal of the one at Bazaar Meat, for $100 less. ($420 v. $520).

As for libations, the shit beers (Bud, Michelob Ultra, Corona) are six bucks, and the good ones (Sierra Nevada Hellerweis, Lagunitas Pils, Ballast Point, Deschutes, et al) are all in bottles. That’s another way of sayng that the draft selection here ain’t what it ought to be. (Does anyone really need PBR, Stella and Pacifico on tap?) The good news is that the staff knows its brews and knows how to pour them.

As for wine, the list reads like a liquor salesman threw it together….inĀ  2002. (Eating Las Vegas wonders just how many bottles of $185 Silver Oak, or $2,500 DRC, move through this dining room every night?) The list (like those draft beers) doesn’t come close to complimenting the quality or the ingenuity of the cooking.

On the other hand, the throngs who pack this place nightly (many of whom couldn’t care less about the authenticity of their truffle oil), are probably just fine with it.

ELV paid full boat for his first, rather rudimentary meal here, as was comped on his second superb one. Dinner for two, with a couple of drinks, should run you around a Benjamin.


In the Red Rock Hotel and Casino

11011 West Charleston Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89135



8 thoughts on “Havin’ a Hankerin’ fer HEARTHSTONE

  1. Weird choice to share a name with a popular mobile/PC video game. People looking for them on the internet are going to get numerous links about wizard and dragon card battling.

    I assume that (especially at a casino restaurant) there’s some intern who googles the final selection of names to see if that kind of thing would happen.

  2. Just talked to Chef, btw, and Whole Hog is $350…and based on experience, not only worth it, but enough to feed 6 on its own…and better than Bazaar.

  3. It’s very difficult to reconcile this with your December review, which I just went back and re-read because I remembered it for being particularly biting. You’re of course entitled to change your mind, and I get it – food good this time, not so good the other time. But the December criticisms went deeper. The whole premise of this place annoyed you – everything was a copy of a copy. Not an original idea on the menu, pure corporate calculation. Decor out of a TGIF. I’m not saying this review is a love letter, but the qualities that so nauseated you last year no longer seem to be signifcant at all.

    This is a tough circle for me to square. It’s always enjoyable/intriguing when critics change their mind, but this feels more like an airbrushing.


  4. Much of the menu reminds me of the Italian items offered down the street at Due Forni, although they were better executed there. I’ve also had terrible service on two occasions, once mid-week and another on a Saturday night. Wish I could say I have a desire to try them a third time, but that would be a foolish and pricy mistake.

  5. Sorry John, but the three times( two lunches and one dinner) I have eaten there I have found the food quality just slightly above the bill of fare offered at a BJ’s or Cheesecake Factory only with higher prices. Sadly its Casino level “luxury” food aimed at the holi poli.

  6. ELV responds (mainly to Matt K): Mon. Matt K makes a many a fine point. Yes, we were annoyed at the very concept for Hearthstone when it opened – owned as it was at the time by the Light Group. All we saw was another concept (and a tired one at that). Now that Massie has more independence, he hasn’t changed the menu much from what we saw last Halloween, but methinks (and feels) that he’s pouring his heart into the operation…daily…and from what we tasted, neither he nor his staff is just going through the motions and serving a corporate master. (True, the hotel now owns the joint, but everyone has a lot more riding on its success than when it was just another “concept” being trotted out by a company that was beating that concept to death. For what it’s worth, the something-for-everyone menu still annoys us, but as we wrote, that’s the only formula that seems to work with Vegas’s upper-middle brow restaurant crowd. The only chefs brave enough to pair down their menus and insist the public take their food on its own terms are the Japanese working on or around Spring Mountain Road. God bless the Japanese.

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