John Curtas is …

FORTE – Strong Like Bull

ELV generally gets about as excited about mittel-European food as he does about Dancing with the Has-Beens.

But what’s going on at Forte* is too good to ignore.

Before we get to how drop dead delicious the food is, allow us to recount a brief and embarrassing conversation on our second of three visits at this modest little hot spot in a tucked away corner of Spring Valley:

ELV (to the young and lithesome owner/operator Nina Manchev): “Are you the chef?”

“No,” she replied, pointing to Stefan. “He is.”

“Wow!” is all we could muster. “How long has he been cooking such fantastic stuff.”

“Practically my whole life,” she said.

“Is he your husband?” ELV asked without the slightest hint of incredulity.

“My father,” she smiled.

And thus did ELV begin the second of his three meals here, red-faced** but still hungry for the best Bulgaria has to offer.

Forte isn’t just a Bulgarian restaurant. Nor is it mittel European exclusively. But it definitely has a certain Slavic flair that’s obvious from your first bite of deeply satisfying stroganoff, dilled potatoes, thick-but-not-heavy pelmeni, and all sorts of rolled and stuffed meats, sausages and dumplings. You would think this food goes together with a Vegas summer like Charlie Sheen and good taste, but it is all remarkably light and digestible — something of a surprise when you consider loading your table with khinkali (large, hand made, Georgian meat dumplings), adjarski khachapurri (Georgian cheese-filled bread boat) or a great goulash.

But load it up you will, with everything from fresh sudjuk (spicy sausage) to Spanish shrimp (gambas al ajillo) with garlic, wine and olive oil that will have you dropping your fork in appreciation. Wash it all down with fine assortment of Bulgarian, Czech and Bosnian beers (or a shot or three from the house made infused vodkas), and you and your crowd (for Forte is best experienced with a crowd), will be singing along with the non-stop, Eastern-bloc videos and toasting Chef Stefan with a hale and hearty “nazdrave” with every sip….and without embarrassment.

FORTE TAPAS BAR & BISTRO

4180 South Rainbow Blvd.

Las Vegas, NV 89103

702.220.3876

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* Pronounced for-TAY – meaning the strongest part of the sword (near the hilt) or something at which someone excels…both of which describe the cooking here.

** ELV wasn’t (and isn’t) sure who he insulted more with his question (father or daughter?), but decided to tuck his dignity between his legs and dig in regardless.

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5 Responses to FORTE – Strong Like Bull

  • The primary pronunciation of “forte” (from the French language) as in strong part is as “fort”, although “for-TAY” has become so common as to have become accepted in English. This is a recent development, though. A word spelled the same pronounced “for-TAY” (from the Italian language) means loud. At this point, only a true pedant would mention it, but you brought it up, and this just means I’m in the right place. Look it up if you don’t believe me. I have no knowledge of how this restaurant’s name is pronounced nor whether its derivation is French or Italian or something else. It sounds like either might apply.

  • Georgia is on the Black Sea, next to Iran and Azerbaijan. Perhaps some people call this MittelEuropa. I call it Central Asia. But I do like the food.

  • ELV,

    Have they got their smoking situation under control yet?

  • ELV,
    I have an inquiry that your skill set might be able to accommodate. This may not be the proper venue to ask, but I don’t know where else to ask and I think you may have the best answer to my question. I am planning a wedding in Las Vegas in the future, and I want to have a nice reception dinner as well as rehearsal dinner. I think you might have the best opinion on what might appeal to our audience. My bride to be is a vegetarian, and we are interested in a sit down dinner for the reception. We are not too picky beyond that and open to any suggestions. Also, we are not on your lawyerly budget, so if you know of a place that can help for a discount that would help us out. I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I am also an American hero, and a fan. Hope you can help, if not, nothing lost, and keep steering me towards delicious and obscure Vegas dining.
    Thanks,
    Dwight

  • Dwight-
    to get further discount, you should become a “food critic” and demand to be comped at various restaurants or threaten with a negative blogging. i’ve heard that works well, right ELV?

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