A Peek Inside the Chocolate Factory

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Hexx

A Peek Inside the Chocolate Factory

HEXX Patio by Anthony Mair

HEXX Patio by Anthony Mair

Things are always changing in Las Vegas, and a quick look at the Paris hotel and casino shows the Sugar Factory has been quietly replaced by Hexx Kitchen and Bar, a previously unheard of in Sin City bean-to-bar chocolate concept and restaurant. It’s the brainchild of Chefs Matthew Silverman and Matthew Piekarski and although the 24/7 spot still dominates much of the resort’s Strip-side space with whimsical takes on classic diner cuisine, the real magic is occurring in a small space just inside the retail store.

 

Hexx is among just a few places in the United States producing its own chocolate with this level of care and quality from single-origin sources. A counter in back offers free tastings with a full kitchen and team of chocolatiers in plain view, with Silverman and Piekarski almost universally present and willing to talk shop with great fervor to those seeking to be more in-the-know.

Seemingly a bit makeshift at first, the highly polished kitchen is filled with everything from mixers and grinders to laminators and shakers in several sizes, ever churning and moving at a great variety of speeds, because “there really is no industry standard” according to Piekarski. Though an open environment of competitor-consultants such as San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate, were cited as sources of inspiration and guidance, Silverman says “the whole community wants to see each other succeed.”

HEXX Chocolate by Anthony Mair

HEXX Chocolate by Anthony Mair

 

To date Hexx is producing bars in five varieties, using hand-separated dried beans from the great cacao regions of the world and nothing but organic palm sugar added to create varieties ranging from 70 to 74 percent dark. A tasting of the hexagon-shaped chocolates shows no lack of smoothness or nuance: the citrus of Madagascar present as a light tingle on the tongue, notes of fig highlight Peru and the florals of Ecuador are a personal favorite that is used for Hexx’s own hot chocolate.

 

Truly a passion project, the idea was hatched by Silverman during his cheese making days at Summerlin’s Vintner Grill. The original plan for Hexx was formulated nearly a year prior to its launch at the unlikely space where Piekarski and Executive Sous Chef Derek Desroches were already pleasing the masses. The patio view of the Bellagio fountains, confectionary retail shop and energetic service remain in place, but a full overhaul of the Sugar Factory’s interior design and menu has seen nearly every aspect of the experience significantly upgraded.

HEXX Grilled King Salmon by Anthony Mair

HEXX Grilled King Salmon by Anthony Mair

 

Gone are the days of routine entrees, fishbowl cocktails, shiny suckers, and overwrought desserts. The focus is now on a balance of creativity and quality ingredients spread across a quartet of menus offered at various times of day. Breakfast includes items as simple as “overcooked” bacon and eggs or as distinctive as fluffy carrot cake pancakes and cinnamon rolls cooked in a waffle press. The Spaghetti Carbonara is among the best in Las Vegas and joins a particularly juicy Kobe beef burger as worthy choices for lunch while the Grilled King Salmon and Lamb Osso Buco are perfect for dinner. Desroches and Piekarski cite a long list of local purveyors and suppliers, reaching their goal to “impress diners of all ages and experiences at any time of day.”

HEXX Banana Nut French Toast by Anthony Mair

HEXX Banana Nut French Toast by Anthony Mair

 

Not yet producing at a high enough capacity to completely fill the dessert menu with signature cocoa creations, but instead relying on the considerable talents of a pastry team helmed by Carol Garcia, the sweets menu at Hexx similarly ups the ante. Highlights include a delicate Pineapple Upside Down Cake crowned in vanilla and buttery coffee cake paired with espresso and the absolutely inspired S’mores Crème Puffs with graham flour infused choux around marshmallows and cocoa cream beneath a dark chocolate glaze. The sundaes include hand-crafted accoutrements and are made with ice cream from Georgia-based High Road Craft Ice Cream, although a signature Hexx chocolate flavor is in the works.

HEXX Lamb Osso Bucco by Anthony Mair

HEXX Lamb Osso Bucco by Anthony Mair

Future plans for Hexx’s chocolate production include an expansion to a new factory as demand outgrows the current space and with the aforementioned ice cream and new in-house dessert options soon to follow, a reclamation project for “imperfect” beans is likely to come, as well as a line of cocoa themed lotions, scrubs and soaps to improve sustainability and fill store shelves.

Having only become so in tune with chocolate during the last year of working with Chef Silverman, when asked “why?” the other Matthew has but one answer to pair with an already encyclopedic knowledge of the craft: “because it is something that everyone ‘knows,’ but only few really understand because there are no specific rules,” – a similar sentiment no doubt applicable to running such an artisan operation at the heart of a city with over forty-million visitors who would be well served to stop by to taste, as well as to learn.

By Michael Uzmann

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