This is something that should have been written a while back, but we were hesitant because we were not sure that Bar Forte (4180 South Rainbow; southeast corner off of Flamingo) was going to have much of a shelf life. It would be difficult to be more un-Vegas, a family-run place with an eclectic menu of some unique Eastern European creations along with some traditional Spanish tapas. All in a setting that would make you feel like you stumbled in off of an alley somewhere in Sofia, Prague or Bucharest. No chance here, right? Well they have been making a damn good go of it, and now that we see many of the local critics chiming in positively (John Curtas has written a few nice recent pieces, and they will be featured on his "Dishing and DIning" segment with Denise Valdez on Channel 8 this week), we can start to feel a little more confident about our own taste buds. So as we lament the closing of Rosemary's, and so many other individually-owned restaurants around the Las Vegas valley over the past two years, let's also celebrate those that are still making it happen.
There was a hesitancy to post about Bar Forte earlier because there is that usual conundrum of wondering if our taste buds were not overly romanticizing a place because we were captured by the owners, and the vibe. That happens. You want so much for them to succeed that you can not be convinced that your taste buds are being honest (once upon a time, about 10 years ago, this was happening at a little place called Lotus of Siam). But as more and more critics take note (Las Vegas Weekly also did a nice recent take), we know that it is not just us. The best way to experience their menu is to treat it tapas-style, and better yet if you have a group of friends for a lot of sharing. There are several creative salads that are nice to keep on the table as sides. Almond stuffed dates wrapped in bacon that are as good as what one would find at Julian Serrano, yet at a much different price point. The "Adjarski Khachapuri" is unique; think of a canoe made of bread that is stuffed with suluguni (pickled cheese), and then an egg cracked into the middle, slowly oozing through bread fresh from the oven. There are stuffed peppers in multiple forms, but we particularly like the version with meat and rice and served with a yogurt/dill sauce. The "Forte Fries" are still cooked with some lard, as fries should be, and are terrific. A variety of Russian dumplings. As good as the octopus is, the rice beneath it is sublime, after absorbing all of the flavors. But perhaps the favorite of all has been their assortment of Eastern European sausages, and unique condiments to even further enhance their flavors. And these are all at totally un-Vegas price points - where else are you going to finish your meal with $2.00 baklava?
So we like Bar Forte, a lot. And now it looks like a lot of other folks do as well.
Forte European Tapas Bar and Bistro
4180 S Rainbow Blvd Ste 806, Las Vegas, NV 89103
We finally made it to Bar Forte tonight, and, just wow. This place is truly a hidden gem. We ate from the Home Cooked European Comfort Food side of the menu, and it was incredible.
S.O. had a special -- the Sausage Party ($16), which was a mixed grill of four different Serbian sausages - well, one of them was more like a bacon/ham sort of thing . All distinctly different, and very tasty. S.O. loved it. It was served with fries, raw onion, and a cream cheese that tasted like a cross between butter and cream cheese.
I had the Hungarian Goulash served over mashed potatoes ($9.99) which was much like Mom used to make, except this was better than Mom's. (She learned how to make it from her Hungarian M.I.L.) I also had Vareniki ($7.25), dumplings filled with potato and covered with fried onions, served with sour cream. Both dishes were very flavorful. S.O. commented that the goulash had the best paprika flavor she'd ever had. The server said they brought the paprika in from the Old Country.
This place is just great -- excellent, unusual food at reasonable prices, and great service. I hope they're around for a long time. We already want to go back.
For any locals, or visitors this weekend, Forte will be celebrating Bulgarian Independence Day in their own style on Saturday night (March 2nd), complimented by winemaker Miro Tcholakov.
Russian Ossetra Caviar over Forte Creme Fresh Buckwheat Blini - MIRO/Trentadue Bubbly.
"Troyanka" brand Bulgarian charcuterie - MIRO Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bulgarian Pork Ribs over Troyan Home Style Potatoes - MIRO Cuvee Sasha
Lomo Iberico (Pata Negra) Medallions, with Brussels Sprouts & Jamon Iberico do Boleti Crispy Bites - MIRO Petit Syrah
Cabrales and agaed Mahon Cheese with Marcona Almond Cookies - MIRO 2007 Angelica Port
The cost is $60 per person, with cocktails at 7 PM, and first course served at 7:30. Reservations required by February 27.
Some nice updates on the good folks over at Forte. They made the list for the current edition of "Eating Las Vegas: The 50 Essential Restaurants", and are doing a remodel of part of the dining area to be able to add to their wine list. Even better, on a night-before-Thanksgiving outing we got to try a couple of new items that should be hitting the menu soon - an exquisite buttery duck prosciutto, and a truffle salami that was also first-rate. Apparently caviar will also be added in the near future. Also a rich dark chocolate cake (a takeoff on their biscuit cake) which paired nicely with their sour cherry infused vodka, will make the dessert menu.
And, of course, the same "when you are in our restaurant you are in our house" kind of service. It is nice to see them getting the attention that they have earned.
We dined at Forte last week and here is my take with accompanying photos:
I was somewhat surprised to discover on entering that the interior was Spartan and more reminiscent of a biker bar than a fine dining establishment. Our waitress turned out to be very informative and helped guide us through the menu. We ordered Adjarski Khachapurri, Selska Ljutika, kiufte (sausage), Hungarian Ghoulash and a biscuit cake.
For those who have not been to Bulgaria or Russia recently, Adjarski Khachapurri is a boat shaped loaf of bread served directly from the oven with cheese and a cracked egg that are cooked and mixed together tableside. The Selska ljutika is a refreshing salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers tossed in olive oil. The Hungarian goulash over mashed potatoes was excellent, but took second place to the biscuit cake which is described in the menu as a liqueur dipped honey tea biscuit layered with creamy mascarpone, decadent espresso and chocolate. Dinner for 2 without drinks $39 including tax and gratuity. I rated our meal 3.5 Forks out of a possible 5.
re: Dave Feldman
I am working in Las Vegas this week
Given the given economy and the array of celebrity chef restaurants trying dumb down their menus and package them at discounted prices I was tempted to try something independent and off strip. I'm so glad I did.
The reviews of Bar Forte were intriguing as was the menu. Some of the E. European offerings transported me back to Friday night dinner @ my Grandmothers.
The menu is vast, comprised of small plates (tapas) . A mix of Seafood, Grilled items, Russian, Spanish and Bulgarian. The best way to experience the menu was a little like throwing a dart at a map. I just started picking....
The meal began w/ a garden infused vodka martini w/ a pickle in it. (my grandfather used to drink pickle juice from my grandmothers homade pickles and a shot of vodka...evoked so many nostalgic memories)
Bar Forte offers many different homemade infused Russian Vodkas....
Accompanying this an order of Marcona Almond Stuffed Dates, Wrapped In Bacon which had a nice char in a cherry reduction sauce.
Then I sampled both the Octopus In Olive Oil Spanish Herb Rice, Drizzled With Spanish Oil and the Stuffed Squid In Its Own Ink. (The octopus reminded me of my grandmothers pickled salmon.)
Next came the Grilled Spanish Chorizos Mixta (charred perfectly served w/ a nice fresh dilled slaw), The Khinkali (Hand Made Traditional Georgial Style Dumpings Filled with Meat and Spices...reminded me of my grandmothers kreplach from her chicken soup) ,
Adjarski Khachapurri ( Traditional Georgian Bread In The Shape of A Boat, Filled With Suluguni-Style Cheese and A Cracked Egg....amazing flavors the salty feta, warm crust baked bread and the egg which cooked from the heat of the bread)
Shopski Clay Pot (almost like a souffle of Roasted Peppers, Tomato, Scallions, Feta Cheese and Eggs Baked in an Authentic Clay Pot...very light)
Blini W/Meat, Filled With Ground Beef, Served Sour Cream again just like my grandmothers Meat blintzes....
The meal ended w/ a sour cherry vodka on the rocks and a shot of the fresh raspberry vodka and an order of baklava (stuffes w/ what was a more E European filling...reminiscent of rugelach) absolutely delicious.
The prices are very reasonable...dinner w/ Cocktails was under $90 for 2.
Its difficult to convey how wonderful Bar Forte is. The freshness, the flavors and passion for amazing food shines through.
There is so much more I want to try....there were some lamb specials, the Borscht, the herring, the strogonoff....
Bar Forte may be a once a month visit.
So many great independent restaurants in Vegas....this is at the top of my list!
I also have heard several great reports about Bar Forte, and was hoping to see some chowhounds had tried it..thanks for the great report!
Now, for the important question: is there ANYTHING on the menu that my newly vegan/pescatorian husband will eat if I drag him across town there for date night? Now that I live AND work exclusively in North Las Vegas/Aliante, I just don't head down there at all. DH will eat fish, but no meat, eggs or cheese. If its too much of a lost cause, maybe I can convince the other senior staff in our group to go there for our next monthly dinner......
PS: Anybody try the Borscht? I LOVE Borscht. Are they open for lunch?
Although the menu is geared towards meat/cheese dishes, (http://www.barforte.com/menu/ ), there are a few items for your husband to explore - the seafood tapas can work, and a few items on the vegetarian tapas section will also fit, in addition to the salads.
Have not tried the Borscht yet, but it is on the list for a visit in the near future. Could they make a meatless version? Perhaps, and that may be the case for a few of the other soups as well. They are closed for lunch on Sunday and Monday, but open at 11 AM the other five days.