Bouncing Back Better Than Ever
by Milena DiFiore
Sparrow + Wolf’s Chef Brian Howard aims for impact and it shows. “We’ve survived so many challenges … This was the time to reset, gain momentum and get to where we were before [the shutdown].” Chef Howard is resolved, but optimistic. “I want to throw a dinner party every night … Good food, good music and good hospitality.”
The modern-American hotspot opened in May 2017, just three years ago, in the heart of Chinatown and yet, in many ways, is an island unto itself, with layers of complexity to a scalable, ingredient-focused menu built upon local, ethical sources like Desert Bloom Eco Farm, located just outside of the valley. Dishes are simple, yet meticulously curated, and drawn upon from the neighborhood, seasonal factors— expect menu changes every six to eight weeks—and even family. Take two out of the newly added 20 dishes, for example: the Smashbang Burger is a deconstructed version of the beloved Chinese dumpling recipe passed down from Howard’s mother-in-law. The Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Ribs are slow-cooked for 24 hours, then smoked over almond wood emphasizing the dimensional use of ingredients in the kind of dish that should intimidate no one.
Sparrow + Wolf has been doubling down on the focus, even ramping up improvements to their in-house bakery program and adding cold-pressed juices to their cocktails (see “The Penicillin” and “The Vaccine”). “Mixologists are liquid chefs,” Chef Howard explains. The practice originally started to encourage sustainability while simultaneously enhancing flavor and vibrancy to dishes. Seeing the disconnect, he encouraged the liquid chefs to use many of the same ingredients he and his team were using in the kitchen. “Not only does it diminish food waste,” he says, “but it helps balance the damage that comes with the buzz.”
Even with two-and-a-half months of being quarantine-closed, Sparrow + Wolf held true to their mission while encouraging those in and out of the industry to stay positive and connected to a craft. They fashioned the #SparrowAndWolfChallenge, where each cocktail created (and hashtagged) provided a meal for first responders. The challenge garnered over 3,000 tags from places all over the world, including Miami, Austria, Hong Kong and New York.
Chef Howard hopes to see Chinatown venture away from commercial ambiance and encourage a boost of creativity. You can bet his actions mirror his sentiments. When dining at your table, you will likely notice the striking, dutiful mural reflecting the restaurant’s namesake (copied onto the back of the new menus). The artwork is courtesy of Heather Toledo, a new addition to the staff, making her the first artist employed with the restaurant. Her next work, on the restaurant’s street-facing exterior, will be even harder to miss.
Sparrow + Wolf has been patient, as an entity must be. “Growth was and is the goal. With a menu that is more scalable, we’re able to bring this to more cities.” Is Chef Brian Howard foreshadowing? It’s possible, but what we know is that year three for Sparrow + Wolf will be their best one yet.
Sparrow + Wolf
4480 Spring Mountain Rd. #100
Las Vegas, NV 89102