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
* 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.