Linda Rodriguez and her husband, Martin Swift, aren’t the first duo who come to mind when I think of stick-to-your-ribs English food. They are best known for the great Japanese cuisine they mastered while working in the Nobu Matsuhisa empire and brought to their vastly underrated Hachi in Red Rock Resort. But I’m paid to be a bit of a skeptic, never satisfied until a new spot has filled me up with a few good meals. Fortunately, the couple is proving adept at providing a solid gastropub experience—with a few twists—at the Smashed Pig, their new entry in the rapidly expanding Downtown dining corridor.
The couple spent a bit of time running a restaurant in France after closing Hachi, and that experience also shines through in comfort foods such as steak frites.
Bringing solid British chow to the streets of Las Vegas is certainly no dramatic challenge for Swift, a native of the U.K. So it’s no surprise to see the small menu dotted with such classics as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and sticky toffee pudding, and the dishes I’ve tried have been well
above average. The miniature Yorkshire puddings, for example, may throw you at first, being little more than small pastries trying to straddle the divide between savory and sweet. But once you ladle on a few spoonfuls of the rich accompanying onion gravy (which has just a hint of maple flavor), you’ll be immediately sold on the dish’s originality. Even the deviled eggs—the most overdone pub food in town—are given new life thanks to a flash-frying of the whites and the inclusion of some nicely acidic cornichons.
Despite Swift’s Anglo roots, this couple is far too educated and well traveled to stick to one style of cooking, even in an alleged gastropub. Their Asian culinary roots are evident in the daily sashimi course which, on one recent visit, included Japanese oysters bathed in a warm yuzu, soy and sesame broth with grated ginger and chives just warm enough to “sear” the mollusks without losing their freshness. The couple spent a bit of time running a restaurant in France after closing Hachi, and that experience also shines through in comfort foods such as steak frites. While the pub fries that come with the hanger steak might be a bit too thick for some, the beef itself is tasty and juicy, brushed with just a touch of chimichurri for seasoning. While this isn’t usually one of my favorite steak preparations, I could eat the Pig’s version once a week and never grow tired of it.
Another phenomenal dish is the dessert plate of fruit-topped crepes with citrus butter. While simple, they are a wonderful blend of crispy and soft, cold and warm, all wrapped into one. (And the fact that it has fruit in it might assuage more guilt than some of the other desserts.)
The décor at the Smashed Pig is a bit bright, and certainly doesn’t conjure up images of the dark pubs in which I’ve whiled away a few too many hours in England—but a decent pair of shades will remedy that on an evening when the pupils can’t adjust. The staff and owners (who are almost always on premises) are all just as bright and friendly as the lighting, albeit a bit easier on the eyes.
Beer fans will find a well-rounded selection of a half-dozen brews on tap and more than a dozen cans, while wines by the glass range from $9-$15. Toss in a handful of house cocktails, and there are more than a few ways to get smashed at the Pig. But just as its owners are more than simple barkeeps, theirs is much more than just bar food. Swift and Rodriguez have deftly combined British, French and Japanese fare on Downtown’s most popular bar block, which I think is pretty damn smashing.
Al’s Menu Picks
- Sashimi/tartare of the day ($8)
- crispy deviled eggs ($8)
- and steak frites ($24)
The Smashed Pig
509 Fremont St., 702-444-7816, TheSmashedPig.com. Open for lunch 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily, dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Mon Fri, 5:30-11 p.m. Sat-Sun. Dinner for two, $40-$100.