Forte European Tapas Bar & Bistro, 4180 S. Rainbow Blvd., gives the tapas treatment to the Bulgarian tastes boiling in the childhood homes of owner Nina Manchev — first in her homeland, then in Chicago and finally the Las Vegas Valley.
“It’s rich, a lot of flavor and unique textures,” Manchev says of the ground pork and beef kebapche and kyufte she still associates with her parents. “But it’s not something where it would be totally different from what people have had.”
Manchev, only 23, is a former Starbucks barista who converted a blend of savings, investments and family inheritance into a dream. The space for that dream was once occupied by a pizzeria.
“This is always something I’ve wanted to do,” she says, “and for me the opportunity came right now rather than in a couple of years.”
The ambience borrows more from Firefly Tapas Kitchen & Bar than anywhere else — owing to the proprietor’s young age.
“It’s more of a hangout,” she says. “Before I opened, that was one of my favorite places to go.”
Contributing heavily to this feel is the decor — an artsy mix of old European currency, Russian propaganda posters and paintings by Manchev. (The concrete floors are paint-splashed, Jackson Pollock-style.)
Manchev says she runs a relaxed place where “people can hang out and all kinds of cultures can collect, rather than making a Bulgarian restaurant where only Bulgarian people feel comfortable, someplace where people can go out and try different things they’re not used to trying.”
Forte — which seats 70 — is open 11 a.m.-midnight daily. Reservations are recommended.
Signature dish: Beef and wine stew over Spanish rice, $8.99
Starters: Stuffed peppers, $6.75; mixed tapas plate, $9.50; marcona almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, $5
Soups and salads: Shopska salad, $6.50; lentil soup, $4.50; solyanka soup, $5.99
Entrees: Grilled Spanish chorizo, $7.50; beef stroganoff, $8.99; pelmeni, $6
Desserts: Biscuit cake, $4; Russian Hat, $4; flan, $4
By COREY LEVITAN