Tapas by Alex Stratta
Spanish Osetra Caviar – Bottarga Stuffed Egg, Pimenton
Foie Gras Conserva – Fig-Almond Bread, Spiced Apricot Jam
Potato Tortilla – Caramelized Onions, Eggs
Roasted Eggplant Dip – Romesco, Chickpea Crisps
Baked Monte Enebro – Pistachio Crust, Caramelized Onions
Valenciana Paella – Rabbit, Snails, Broad Beans
Fried Oysters – Crisp Bacon, Lettuce Cups
Seeded House Lavash
Black Kale Fritters – Pine Nuts, Sour Cherries, Green Apple
Medjool Dates – Crispy Pancetta, Apple-Mustard Sauce
Bacalao – Olives, Oranges, Fennel
Grilled Octopus – Garbanzos, Celery Hearts
Bone Marrow Dip – Chimichurri, Serrano Crisps
Chicken Croquetas – Greens, Raspberry Crisps
Patatas Bravas – Chile Sauce, Saffron Alioli
Saffron Alioli – Sweet Onion Cocas, Pimenton
Fresh Churros – Chocolate, Spices
Arroz Con Leche – Vanilla, Almonds
Frozen Nougat – Pistachio, Citrus, Turkish Apricot
Chocolate and Almond Cake – Cajeta, Sweet Sherry
Bunuelos – Vanilla Cream, Powdered Sugar
Double Espresso on Ice
Lustau, Pedro Ximinez PX Sherry
Undoubtedly a beautiful development, the sort of place that seems miles away from The Strip – or even Summerlin, really – anyone who has lived in the Las Vegas area for more than a few months is likely to have heard the difficulties faced by restaurants inhabiting Tivoli Village, yet earlier this week it was none other than former Michelin 2* Chef Alex Stratta who decided to challenge history, his Tapas by Alex Stratta opening in the space formerly inhabited by Poppy Den with a menu that immediately had me thinking “he’s going to do that, there?”
Last seeing Chef Stratta’s cooking at his Wynn flagship in September of 2008, one of my first fine dining experiences in Las Vegas, it was just after 6:00pm on Saturday that myself and five others sat down at a small table just inside the lively al fresco dining patio and with service that was exceedingly professional, if not a bit overbearing with descriptions, guiding the rest of the evening a large order was crafted in several rounds, a total of twenty tapas tasted over the course of three hours bookended by refreshing glass of sangria and some of the richest, sweetest sherry I’ve tasted in ages.
Taking a surprisingly traditional approach to Spanish small plates, the menu divided into six sections with several options available to please most dietary restrictions, it was largely in items from the menu’s front side that selections were made and although prices trend a bit higher than they probably should for dishes like the $25 Foie Gras, $10 Croquetas, $15 Fried Oysters, or $18 Deviled Eggs with Caviar and Bottarga it would be a fool’s folly to question the quality of any of the ingredients or preparation – each on par with the best versions in town.
Convivial in atmosphere, with plates intended to be shared despite portions that do trend small, other classic options selected amongst savories entailed spot-on presentations of Patatas Bravas as well as Potato Tortilla and although requests for extra bread had to be made more than once both the Baked Monte Enebro with crunchy pistachios and the unctuous Bone Marrow Dip were absolute showstoppers, the former an absolute must order for anyone fancying funky cheeses while the later was silky smooth and complicated without being fussy one bit.
Executing standards like dates as well as octopus with a deft hand, and somehow finding a way to present crispy fried kale as a novelty amidst accoutrements both sour and sweet, diners looking for more bold flavors would be well served to order a plate or two of the unexpectedly chilled salt cod with citrus while those desiring something slightly less ‘fishy’ should turn their eyes towards the intensely flavorful roasted eggplant with dainty chickpea crisps or the deceptively described “Saffron Alioli” that seamlessly pairs soft bread and caramelized onions to light heat and aromatic sauce that saw both bowls eventually wiped clean.
Denied the ‘daily specials,’ which are not yet ready to roll out on their pre-specified days of the week, it was with much anticipation that one of the restaurant’s four signature paellas was presented to the table and showing the gusto of a chef willing to take chances the Valenciana iteration of the dish proved to be the undeniable star of the evening, an enormous portion priced a bit aggressively at $26/pp with both the bunny and escargot shown off in full form, with little done to mask their characteristic flavors, while rice ran the gamut from a fluffy top-layer rife with aromatics right down to the blistered bits that stuck to the pan, a bit of scraping well rewarded with plenty of concentrated flavor that added even more texture and just a touch of char.
Transitioning to sweets with a double espresso on ice that saw itself, like water refills, long delayed it was perhaps unsurprising that desserts at Tapas were mostly authentic old world recipes with top-tier ingredients and skilled staff serving to add panache, and although the airy Bunuelos, perfect churros, and cake tinged in chocolate and sherry were all admittedly quite good it was a trio of spoon soft delicacies that undoubtedly stole the show as rice pudding proved a textural masterpiece rivaled only by Border Grill for best in the city while a chilly semifreddo speckled with fruits and nuts was everything a holiday fruitcake is not – soft, smooth, and something craveable year round.
THREE AND A HALF STARS: Still new, with kinks in service and pricing yet to be worked out, Tapas by Alex Stratta faces an uphill battle selling traditional tapas in a development where Brio has wait-times while more innovative spots sit empty or shut their doors, but clearly harboring the sort of passion and talent ready to reward those willing to take a chance with some of the city’s best Spanish Cuisine this is the sort of place that Tivoli and Summerlin needs, whether it knows it or not.
RECOMMENDED: Valenciana Paella, Frozen Nougat, Baked Monte Enebro, Bone Marrow Dip, Saffron Alioli, Arroz Con Leche.
AVOID: Rarely one to quibble price, provided the quality is on point, I was absolutely shocked at the portion of Foie Gras offered for $25 – undoubtedly the highest per ounce I’ve ever seen, Michelin 3* tables overseas included.
TIP: Currently open at 5:00pm there is rumor of brunch to begin soon, the promise of lunch dependent on customer feedback given the challenges of the surroundings.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor