On and off The Strip, Vegas's most forward-thinking chefs are transforming tapas-style dining.
Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant’s roasted black cod.
The small-plates dining trend is no longer just a trend; it’s simply the way we want to eat now. Inspired by traditional Spanish tapas, chefs across the country began adjusting their menus and presentations years ago so diners could create their own shareable meals by selecting several small, more affordable dishes, and everyone soon discovered that eating this way is about as fun as it gets. Today small plates are as ubiquitous on menus as pizza, sushi, and tacos.
Now Vegas chefs are thinking outside the box when it comes to small plates. Legendary fine-dining chef Julian Serrano has already done his native Spain proud with the tapas at his namesake restaurant at Aria, but recently he doubled down with Lago (Bellagio, 866-259-7111), where luscious Italian dishes, like zucchini-provolone pizzettes, short rib cannelloni, and broiled langoustines, pack huge flavor in a small package. Celeb chef Brian Malarkey’s snacks at Searsucker (Caesars Palace, 702-866-1800) run the gamut from bone marrow with bourbon glaze to spicy shrimp with bacon grits. In Downtown’s hip dining district, chef Bradley Manchester’s Glutton (616 E. Carson Ave., 702-366-0623) offers plates so rich and robust (think pickled mushroom poutine and sweetbreads done Buffalo-style with whipped blue cheese), a single just-right portion is all you can handle. Around the corner at Radio City Pizzeria (508 Fremont St., 702-982-5055), a full-scale menu makeover by chef Sean Collins has introduced vibrant veggie dishes, like rosemary potatoes with onion ash and caperberries and warm beets with bitter greens and whipped mascarpone.
Beef tartare with pickled radish and beer mustard at Searsucker.
And in Chinatown, where izakaya (the Japanese version of Spanish tapas bars) have always been popular, several Asian fusion small-plates eateries have popped up, making it difficult to choose where to go first. Try Inyo Asian Variety Restaurant (6000 W. Spring Mountain Road #1, 702-248- 0588), where former Blue Ribbon and Little Buddha chef Gregg Fortunato is cooking a variety of delectable bites, like whole squid with garlic soy butter, roasted black cod with sweet miso, and black tiger prawn red curry. If your mouth is already watering, don’t forget to bring along a friend—the more plates, the merrier.