When Nina Manchev opened Forte Tapas 10 years ago, her objective was to shed some light on the cuisine of her native Bulgaria. It wasn’t easy.
“There was a stigma around the culture and the food. ... It wasn’t considered an exciting cuisine,” says Manchev, whose family relocated to Chicago for a year before landing in Las Vegas in 1990. “Even one of the first reviews we got compared it to [the movie] Eastern Promises, which was funny but not what I want. I want people to see the culture in a positive light. ... I think we’ve been able to accomplish that.”
Forte has long been a favorite for hospitality- industry workers and curious local eaters, but its colorful blend of Spanish and Eastern European flavors has earned it greater exposure. A stint on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives didn’t hurt, either. “That was huge for us. People felt more comfortable with the cuisine and saw that it [was] just really delicious food,” Manchev says.
To celebrate the big anniversary this summer, Forte is revving up with new chef Tylor Urias and a refreshed menu featuring signatures like stuffed sweet peppers, beef Stroganoff ragu and the cheesy bread boat known as khachapuri, along with new dishes like truffle and root vegetable agnolotti in fennel sauce. Forte’s Spanish Josper broiler is getting more play as well, cranking out grilled meats, seafood and veggies. “It makes the menu more playful and fun, more evolved Spanish, but it’s not that different from the Bulgarian approach,” Manchev says. “It’s still all about fresh ingredients and letting each thing shine on its own.”
FORTE TAPAS 4180 S. Rainbow Blvd. #806, 702-220-3876. Daily, 4-10 p.m.