Taste

Las Vegas chef Brian Howard talks hot chicken, menu philosophy and more

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Chef Brian Howard
Photo: Wade Vandervort

Brian Howard is known for creating delicious dishes that introduce unexpected spices and ingredients, often with addictive results. Now that he’s been cooking in Las Vegas for close to two decades, he’s noticing his food and sensibilities are becoming simpler and more mature.

“But each dish still has to have that moment of wow, this is unique,” says the man behind Chinatown hot spot Sparrow + Wolf (4480 Spring Mountain Road #100, 702-790-2147).

That philosophy is driving the expansion of his Spaghetti on the Wall hospitality company and its new concept, Halfbird, a chicken joint that could debut as early as December at Spring Mountain and Wynn.

“Everybody is doing chicken now, but we don’t do what everybody else does,” Howard says. “I fell in love with roasting birds at Bouchon. I did it every day for five years, probably 40 or 50 a day.”

Halfbird will serve original sandwich creations and fun sides. His hot chicken won’t be Nashville-style, it’ll incorporate green curry and Szechuan peppers.

Heading into year five at Sparrow + Wolf, Howard is staying focused on building company culture and taking care of regulars and new customers. Coming out of the pandemic, he was tempted to revert back to original menu items and prices to reconnect with locals, but he quickly discovered we want more.

“I wanted to do a $39 tasting menu and put a burger on the menu, but people didn’t want to order it,” he says. “Our guests demanded more. I couldn’t put a chicken or a salmon on the menu here, which is cool, because it speaks to what we do here and how much they like the concept. We have to continue to evolve.”

You won’t find signatures like bone marrow dumplings or clams casino on the current menu, either, but you will need to try hamachi with candied rhubarb and fried capers ($19), Korean barbecue-style grilled squid ($16) and oxtail ravioli with miso and horseradish ($24).

“They’re all signature dishes,” Howard says. “None of that matters. It’s got to have finesse, it’s got to look great on the plate, people should want to take a picture of it and it’s got to eat really well. It just has to make sense.”

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Tags: Food, Chef
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