Desert Companion

At first bite: Nothing can tapas now

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The dishes go deep at Tapas by Alex Stratta
Elizabeth Buehring

The dishes go deep at Tapas by Alex Stratta

Back from his long hiatus, Alex Stratta makes a bid to re-establish himself with small plates in Summerlin

When Alex Stratta quietly reemerged in the Las Vegas dining scene, it was something of a Bigfoot situation: You’d spot him doing a consultation here, a wine dinner there; you’d hear about some talks he was in to do something or other. Such sightings were a big deal, considering that Stratta had had two namesake restaurants in the Wynn, played Iron Chef Italian on Iron Chef USA (where he defeated Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelsson) and earned two Michelin stars. Because of this, and his long hiatus, his return has generated great anticipation. 

Stratta’s new spot is situated on prime real estate in the already high-rent Summerlin shops of Tivoli Village. It’s in the same space that Angelo Sosa’s ill-fated Poppy Den once churned out its hot and cold dishes (in more ways than one). One hopes Tapas by Stratta doesn’t suffer its predecessor’s curse of abandoning its high-minded ideals too quickly, doing away with everything that made that restaurant interesting.

Tapas by Stratta has upstairs and downstairs seating sections, with the upstairs being something more of a hip, loft-type affair. There’s a fine bar, with a cocktail list specializing in Barcelona-style gin and tonics. These differ from the sickly sweet, slushy things you buy at nightclubs; rather, these are served in a burgundy glass with large chunks of ice and a near 1:1 ratio of gin to tonic, served with a pungent garnish of fresh spices and aromatics.

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The menu is mainly a long, long, long list of tapas, with a handful of rotating daily specials and large-format paella. You’ll find everything from a charcuterie board with strips of decadent Serrano ham, to a simple plating of jamon Iberico de Bellota, to deviled eggs with Spanish Osetra caviar and grated bottarga (three types of eggs in one dish!). Perhaps the best dish on the tapas menu is the bacalao salad, delicate flakes of the salt-preserved cod and slivers of black Empeltre olives, oranges and fennel. The bacalao, which has a flavor similar to a scallop, pairs its salinity perfectly with the sharp acid and oil of the salad.

The gazpacho is a simple one, but done with that fine-dining technique of which Stratta is a master. Pureed and separated into a perfect consistency, it’s served with fresh avocado, cucumber and a drizzle of olive oil. It is a dish that allows good, fresh produce to absolutely sing, so try it while the season is prime. 

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Bacalao salad with preserved cod
Elizabeth Buehring

Bacalao salad with preserved cod

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Valencia paella
Elizabeth Buehring

Valencia paella

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Charcuterie plate with toast and Serrano ham
Elizabeth Buehring

Charcuterie plate with toast and Serrano ham

For those who’ve missed Stratta’s fine-dining creativity, you can find it in the daily specials. These are full-on entrees, for a surprisingly good price. There are two a day, each a very interesting proposition: oil-cured duck, whole snapper, crispy pork jowl. The grilled sepia is the leviathan version of a Japanese izakaya-style grilled squid; it eats more like a giant seafaring steak. Though a squid this thick is a touch hard to eat, the broth of fennel, coconut and roasted tomatoes make it a pleasure.

The paellas are priced and portioned per person. Even the smallest pan is a meal unto itself. There are four styles to choose from, and the Valenciana is the most intriguing. Rabbit as a classic base, and broad beans as a regional addition bring a savory, tangy, rich flavor. The butter-topped escargot shells are a nice touch, as well, but the herb butter does tend to render out quite heavily.

Tapas by Stratta has gotten some polarizing feedback, but that comes with the territory. This fine-dining demographic is notoriously not easy to please. Little things can irk them, things that wouldn’t faze a Strip restaurant. Hopefully the mercurial nature of the local clientele will not alter Stratta’s reentry onto the Vegas dining scene, and that, instead, like bigfoot, his presence will pull in curious locals and tourists alike to try some truly interesting Spanish-style cuisine. 

Tapas by Alex Stratta
in Tivoli Village
702-483-3555 tapasbyalexstratta.com

HOURS
Sun-Thu 4-9:30p
Fri-Sat 4-10:30p

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