ELV note: The only thing that’s changed at Forte in the two years since we wrote the review below is that things have just gotten better — more specials, more Eastern European wines, and lots and lots of oddly named beers and fortified liquors to make you feel like a member of the Russian mob when you’re lounging about the place. Oh yes…and there’s never a shortage of hot women in the joint, either:
Forte isn’t just a Bulgarian restaurant, nor is it Eastern European exclusively. But it definitely has a certain Slavic flair, and a certain louche down-at-the-heels vibe that would be right at home in Portland, ‘Frisco’s Mission District or New York City’s East Village.
That flair is obvious from your first bite of deeply satisfying stroganoff, thick-but-not-heavy pelmeni, and all sorts of rolled and stuffed meats, sausages, and dumplings. All of it is remarkably light and digestible, and not nearly as filling as you would think a table loaded with khinkali (large handmade meat dumplings), adjarski khachapurri (Georgian cheese-filled bread boat), and a great, peppery goulash would be.
But load it up you should, and tuck yourself into their fresh sudjuk (spicy sausage) and Spanish shrimp (gambas al ajillo) with garlic, wine, and olive oil—both of which will have you dropping your fork in appreciation. Wash it all down with a fine assortment of Bulgarian, Czech, and Bosnian beers (or a shot or three from the house-made infused vodkas), and you’ll be singing along with the nonstop, Eastern-bloc videos and toasting “nazdrave” with every sip.
Max Jacobson says: Much has improved here since Nina Manchev took a chance on this quirky neighborhood concept, which offers Bulgarian, Spanish and Georgian dishes, making it one of the most unique restuarants in this, or any city. Guy Fieri visited with his camera crew for….”Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which increased business. The family — Nina, her dad Stefan, and her glam mother — repainted, and placed a small shrine of Byzantine art in one corner of the restaurant. She made her famous Bulgarian-sausage platter for Fieri and it’s still arguably the most delicious thing to eat in the restaurant.
Favorite Dishes: Khinkali; Pelmeni; Beef Stroganoff; Adjarski Khachapuri; Bulgarian Sausage Platter; Gambas Al Ajillo; Chicken Kholodez; House-Made Flavored Vodkas.
FORTE EUROPEAN TAPAS BAR & BISTRO
4180 South Rainbow Blvd. #806