By Bob Barnes
Since its opening in 2017, Hawthorn Grill at the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort/Rampart Casino in Summerlin has offered both a respite from the bustle of big city life, and a comfortable and serene environment to enjoy upscale steakhouse fare, American classics and creative cocktails.
Situated in the Spa Tower on the south side of the resort, nearly every seat has views via floor-to-ceiling windows of the expansive outdoor patio with numerous waterfalls surrounded by lush foliage, where it’s not unusual to spot wild rabbits and turtles. The main dining room exudes a classy yet cozy feel with a high-pitched ceiling, chandeliers, warm hues of dark brown and beige and cozy semi-private booths and plush banquettes.
The menu is overseen and created by JW Marriott Executive Chef Megan Shaver and Room Chef Lianna Bajarin. Shaver grew up in upstate New York and is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has worked in exotic posts including Hawaii, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. She has been at JW Marriott Las Vegas for five years and in her current position for two years, but with JW Marriott for a total of 12 years.
Bajarin, a native of Hawaii, came to Las Vegas in 2010 on a CSN softball scholarship and after cooking for her roommates became convinced that a career as a chef was well suited for her and consequently later graduated from Cordon Bleu Las Vegas. After working at the Aliante’s MRKT and Bistro 57 she came over to JW Marriott and worked her way up from chef de partie at the buffet to sous chef positions at the Café and Hawthorn Grill and to her current position of Room Chef, which she has held for the past three years.
Chef Bajarin describes the menu as “kind of a melting pot from my childhood, like the Seabass marinated in miso (served) with ‘forbidden rice’ and bok choy and the Fire Roasted Seafood served hot in a pan with seafood broth family-style like in Hawaii.”
Chef Shaver commenting on which dishes are the restaurant’s most popular, says, “The (18-oz Creekstone Farms Prime Dry-Aged) Cowboy Ribeye, Beef Tartare and Chilean Seabass and on our happy hour menu the Crispy Cauliflower, French Dip and my favorite: Beef ‘Char’ Tare Tacos with black garlic aioli and our housemade taco shells.”
The chefs also make use of the JW Marriott herb garden, which produces enough to be used as ingredients in some of the dishes, offering as fresh as fresh can be.
Other menu items worth your consideration include the Long Bone Short Rib, smoked in the restaurant’s smoker and served with tallow potatoes, grilled seasonal vegetables and house smoked sauce; Seafood Tower with chilled crab claws & legs, poached shrimp, daily oyster with cocktail sauce, tequila mignonette and horseradish and option to add a 12-oz lobster tail; Angus Beef Tartare with soy-cured egg yolk, capers and pickled mustard seeds; Whole Fried Branzino with spring pea risotto, sauce bercy and scallions; and Cauliflower Steak with black rice, sauteed spinach and coconut curry sauce.
Desserts include the unusual Upside Down Smores Cheesecake with graham crust, whipped chocolate ganache, toasted marshmallows and salted caramel gelato; and Strawberry Shortcake which goes all in on the sweet and tart fruit with vanilla sponge layered with strawberry ganache and whipped cream with macerated strawberries, strawberry coulis and strawberry tuile.
Complementing the fare are more than 150 wines, mostly from California, Italy and France, which can be viewed in the hallway at the restaurant’s entrance. There are about two dozen by the glass, such as JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles.
Several signature cocktails are available to pair with your dinner and some created especially for the spring and summer seasons. The Spring Fever is made with house-made sweet & sour, basil syrup and Empress Gin Float; Berry Bliss contains Stoli Blueberry Vodka, St Germain Elderflower Liqueur, blueberry puree, simple syrup and lemon juice; and the Shark Bite contains handcrafted jalapeno-infused Suza Tequila, Blue Curacao, lime juice and simple syrup.
Habit Forming at Hawthorn Grill
25% of the patrons of Hawthorn Grill are hotel guests and the rest are mainly locals, several of whom have made it a habit to dine here two to three times a week. A good time to feed your habit is during the daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. in the bar and lounge, which offers select beer, wine and cocktails for $5 and food menu items from $5-$22 including Truffle Steak Fries, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Whiskey Glazed Wings, Hawthorn Burger, French Dip and the aforementioned Beef “Char” Tare Tacos.
Convenient complimentary valet parking is located on the south side of the property at the Spa Tower lobby just steps from the restaurant’s entrance. Hawthorn Grill is open Sunday to Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m.