Much like a mad scientist, chef Brian Massie has been planted in his lab (a.k.a. the kitchen at Fix in Bellagio), testing dishes that will anchor the menu at Hearthstone, his latest venture with the Light Group. But Hearthstone won’t be just another spot to nosh before hitting the club—it’s located in Red Rock Resort, exposing the Summerlin crowd to an innovative seafood-forward, wine-centric menu completely different from what Massie and the Light Group do at their Strip restaurants, such as Fix and Stack.
“We are moving away from the showy stuff, such as giant steaks and stuffed lobster, to more real food that’s down to earth, with a refined-yet-rustic approach,” Massie says. With less than a month till Hearthstone’s October opening, he is clearly preparing for a home run.
“This is our home base,” he says, referring to a white board with the preliminary menu. “Everything we do when we’re working on a tasting is up here. We reference all the ingredients. We take pictures to show plating, garnishes and meat, so we don’t forget anything.”
At the center of Hearthstone will be two massive ovens within an open kitchen. In front of those is an oyster and charcuterie bar.
“When you walk in, right next to the counter where everyone’s eating, we built an elevated semicircle bar. There’s a big glass wall, and it’s open, and you will see staff shucking oysters, a big slicer, jars of good stuff, hanging salamis and cheese. These are just the snacks, and we hope everybody sits down and has one of these things to start.”
Massie says only 20 percent of the menu will come “from the back,” with 80 percent being prepared in front of the customer. Hearthstone embraces the small-plates trend, and Massie keeps it simple—most dishes have no more than five ingredients. The hearth will touch most dishes, both hot and cold. “All the seafood is done in there; the fish for the chowder, the roasted squash for the salad, the pizzas, the short ribs, a whole salt-crusted roasted branzino, the cast-iron, hearth-roasted New York sirloin. And rotisserie potatoes—we have this rotisserie oven that’s coming from Belgium, and we are the only restaurant in the U.S. that has it.”
Kicking things off, Massie says the restaurant will serve crudité in a custom-carved log. The concept of the dish will remain the same, but the veggies will change based on the season. He pairs it with Green Goddess dressing, which is light and refreshing. Currently in season: sugar snap peas, a variety of radishes, white asparagus, haricots verts, cucumber and fennel. “It’s wine-friendly and a super health-conscious dish. Plus it’s really great for sharing.”
One of Massie’s favorite dishes is the “Crabby Snacks,” Hearthstone’s take on East Coast favorite crab toast, with an updated name derived from the Oscar-nominated film Silver Linings Playbook. With only a handful of ingredients—including Peekytoe crab, Sir Kensington’s gourmet mayonnaise, chopped fennel and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette—this is a crisp and delicate dish, showing the flavor of the crab.
Massie also takes a minimalist approach to carpaccio. “We take tuna, which we fly in from Hawaii. We lightly pound it out into a thin sheet and spread it over the plate like dough. Then we accent it with vinaigrette: yuzu, cucumbers, jalapeños, a little bit of shallot, honey and salt. Simple.”
Next he demonstrates a steak tartare made from short rib flank, a cut that gives the dish a rich, beefy flavor. The minced protein is combined with a dash of Sir Kensington’s mayo and then garnished with shallots, capers, parsley, chive and a little lemon. It is served with brioche coated in truffle butter and truffle salt. This dish, he says, is a wild card: It sells well on the Strip, but only time will tell how it will fare with Summerlin-ites.
From the raw-food-prep station, Massie moves over to the stove where he establishes the process for an experimental dessert that is in the works. Experimental because the dish—which involves the continuous rotating, by hand, of doughy balls filled with sweet ricotta in a Danish aebleskiver pan with individual circular molds for 5-plus minutes—is both labor intensive and complicated, and he is unsure if it will be offered it on a regular basis. The yet-to-be-named “puffs,” similar in consistency to doughnut holes, are served with huckleberry jam and lemon curd.
Perhaps this calls for a dessert special, Chef?