Forte European Tapas
Thick Pita – served with olive oil
Spanish chorizo chips con salsa tartufada
Chebureki – Georgian style deep fried beef dumplings
Marcona Almond Stuffed Dates wrapped in bacon and topped with Jerez Sherry Reduction
Calamares rellenos en su tinta – stuffed baby squid marinated and served in their own ink over Spanish herb rice
Adjarski Khachapurri – Georgian boat shaped bread filled with picked cheese and a cracked egg
Bulgarian Easter lamb with spring salad, arugula mashed potatoes, lamb jus
Sofiiska baniza – Feta cheese rolled in hand made phyllo dough and baked
Thracian Clay Pot – Bulgarian-style charcuterie, egg, tomatoes, peppers, onion, feta baked in a clay pot
Biscuit Cake – honey biscuits, mascarpone, chocolate, Lavazza Espresso, spiced rum, walnuts
Baklava – Walnuts and lemon honey syrup
Literally hidden by a gated patio in a strip-mall on Rainbow but featured in numerous publications as well as ‘Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins” Forte European Tapas had been of interest to me even before moving to Las Vegas and recently opting to open its full menu for lunch a visit was planned – six persons cramming into a small high-top near the front door for a multi-course meal marred by hassled service and uneven culinary techniques throughout. Small in size and kitsch in décor with heavy woods accented by posters, graffiti, and Christmas lights as American pop played overhead it was less than sixty-seconds after the final member of our party arrived that orders were requested and having twice deferred only to be given the first of two strainers of warm bread a somewhat rushed order was placed with a request for items to be appropriately paced – a concept that, along with beverage refills, proved as foreign as the food with the table soon overburdened and serviceware for sharing few and far between. Opting for specials and staples from diverse regions including Spain, Greece, and nations of the former Soviet Union it was with oddly ‘truffled’ store-bought potato chips mixed with dry chorizo that our tasting began and rolling next into the duo of oily Chebureki and overcooked dates propped up by an outstanding sherry reduction it was with good fortune that the meal would soon improve, the tender whole squid restuffed with their tentacles and cooked in ink subtly sweet over aromatic rice. Left precious seconds to digest and discuss a second wave of food soon smothered the table once more and finding far more success than round one both of the breads proved superlative with big flavor and a pleasant degree of grassy funk that I only wish had been present in the tender but flavorless lamb, a ‘special’ by title only and completely forgotten compared to the bombastic mélange of meat, cheese, and vegetal aromatics contained in the clay pot. At this point sated but happy to finish with something sweet, two-parts each of baklava and biscuit cake rounded out the afternoon with the former benefitted not by lemon nor liberally applied simple syrup while the latter proved exquisite; a delicate balance of crunch and cream with mild sweetness harkening tiramisu but dressed up with honey and nuts that were perhaps stolen from the baklava and used here to better effect.
TWO AND A HALF STARS: While budget friendly and certainly different in offerings than other Vegas restaurants, Forte is at best a spot for nationals to feed a craving or for locals to dip a toe in something new. Suffering from understaffing and unevenness in preparation a careful group could certainly put together a good meal of the various tapas but those looking for a repast in the style of the represented regions will likely leave feeling both rushed and underwhelmed.
RECOMMENDED: Breads, Biscuit Cake, and the Clay Pot.
AVOID: Specials were not very ‘special’ and fried items proved greasy and overcooked.
TIP: English is a second language for the entire staff; be very specific and persistent in requesting refills and share plates.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor