No, I didn’t get sick.
I know that’s the elephant in the tapas restaurant — the first thing most of you thought about after noticing I’d reviewed Firefly Tapas Kitchen & Bar this week.
For the one or two of you out there who hadn’t heard, the flagship location was closed down by the Southern Nevada Health District in April after a salmonella outbreak that affected nearly 300 people. In May the original Firefly reopened just north of the old spot — in what once was Z’Tejas, for those who remember — in a move that was in the works before the outbreak.
Nearly three months later, I still get nervous laughter along with questions about Firefly, even some outraged emails from readers who don’t see why it deserves a slot in our dining guide.
So here’s the thing: Yes, it was serious, as all involved acknowledged. But there were no serious effects reported, and the restaurant has instituted a number of preventive measures.
And from a practical standpoint, I’ll repeat what I’ve been telling friends and readers for years: If you have any concerns about food safety, the best time to go to a restaurant is after it’s been dinged (or shut down) by the inspectors, because that’s embarrassing and expensive and you can bet they’ll be crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. And sure enough, right over Firefly’s hostess station, there were three A’s, framed for display.
Those who remain outraged can do whatever they want. For the rest of us, I still recommend any of the three locations of Firefly because the food is good and I love the flexibility of this way of eating.
The new Firefly is painted in rich tones that bring to mind fire and fireflies but otherwise is decorated simply, although there’s a pretty cool draped booth in the back that is bound to be popular with bachelorette parties. It feels a lot bigger than the old one, and there’s a lot more room between the tables. Not so much, though, that we didn’t overhear this testimonial from one young man, clearly a Firefly veteran, to his friend the newbie:
“The macaroni and cheese is awesome!”
“The grilled chicken is awesome!”
“You know why I tried the macaroni and cheese? Because I read that it’s the best in the country.”
Not sure about that last part, awards being what they are, I could make the claim that I bake the planet’s best Danish pastries as long as I neglected to attribute that “award” to my husband. But while we didn’t have the mac and cheese this time I have had it on previous visits, and yes, it’s awesome.
If you’re not clear on how tapas restaurants work, you order a few dishes per person in your party. They arrive out of the kitchen in no particular order (and in our case, six of our seven dishes arrived almost simultaneously) and everyone passes and shares. It’s a convivial way of dining and also enables you to control the size of both the portions and the check. (And I should note that Firefly also serves entrees including paella for those who don’t want to share.)
We tried to split things up between Firefly classics and those that were new, at least to us. So here’s what we had on this visit:
Stuffed dates ($5), crisp bacon wrapped around the sweet nuggets stuffed with an almond and blue cheese. This is a dish I can’t imagine not ordering on a trip to Firefly, and they were as lovely as ever.
Fresh garbanzos ($4.50), a rarity in these (and most other) parts and a nice variation on the standard edamame. The papery pods had been coated in a mixture of chili, lime and sea salt, which made getting to the sweet little beans inside a little messy, but they were strangely addictive.
Heirloom tomato salad ($8): In all their multicolored, tastes-like-the-earth glory, the tomatoes had been cut into chunks and served with burrata cheese and a balsamic reduction, emphasizing the best of things fresh and natural.
Albondigas ($5), a classic Spanish tapas dish. The tender and moist meatballs were served in a sherry-tomato sauce and dusted with Parmesan.
Piquillo peppers ($7.50) were stuffed with a garlic-infused cream cheese and mozzarella, which gave some texture to the filling itself, even more when we managed to keep it in the peppers, and quite nice with its tomato sauce.
Eggplant cannelloni ($5), another Firefly classic, rolled tubes of tender eggplant stuffed with goat cheese and tossed with tomato.
An ahi tuna skewer ($9.50), the cubes of medium-rare tuna alternated on the wooden sticks with chunks of fresh mango (a little overly firm, which was our only quibble with any of it), glazed with ginger and soy and served with salsa verde.
And for dessert a classic flan ($4), its caramel-syrup exterior playing off against the rich purity of the custard in timeless fashion.
With the exception of so many dishes coming out at once service throughout was fine; next time maybe we’ll order in stages.
Because there will be a next time, with family and friends. Firefly has definitely regained my trust.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0474.