Alex Stratta Is Back in Las Vegas and Plating Gastronomic Delights

Alex Stratta Is Back in Las Vegas and Plating Gastronomic Delights
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Alex Stratta’s paella.

Alex Stratta is a name synonymous with excellence. This Michelin award winning chef is now bringing his culinary magic to the common diner via his newly opened Tapas By Alex Stratta in Las Vegas. The tapas concept, although seemingly the recent rage in bringing an affordability and approachability to the masses here, has been around for a very long time.

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover.” According to The Joy of Cooking, “the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks or appetizers to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.”

Far removed for those days of practical culinary improvisation, we see this concept of small plates popping up from many major culinary chefs who are bridging the gap between fine dining and affordability. The concept is to share and create an experience with conversation and various small plates instead of focusing on one main entrée.  And we don’t have to worry about the fruit flies invading our sherry, since chef Stratta has honed his culinary skills to now bring a much more sophisticated approach to the tapas-style dining experience.

Nestled amongst the myriad of restaurants in the rustic faux-Italian town square of Tivoli Village, Stratta has opened his version of a Spanish tapas restaurant that has transformed the former PoppyDen location with warm yellow walls, eye-catching red-orange seating, eclectic highlights of white framed mirrors, and lively original paintings painted by the chef himself. As we relaxed into the seats, we were anticipating our turn to try some of the tapas offered by this amazing chef.  He stated, “This is a labor of love,” and by creating everything from the artwork on the walls to the artwork on the plate, he has poured his creative soul into this new venture.

Highly recommended was the Paella with squid ink that created an inky blackness and fresh seafood flavor. It’s cooked to order in shallow pans using bomba rice, dense rice that is similar to Arborio rice. Rice is the most important ingredient in paella, which is the reason many paellas are called "arroces" in spain. The rice is cooked to a socarrat. Socorrat, from the Spanish verb socarrar (meaning to singe), is an intrinsic part of paella, which when done properly creates a crisp bottom crust that needs to be scraped from the metal pan. We were glad we saved this dish to share later in our culinary journey. Although tapas are known as small plates, there was nothing small about the flavors and textures of each dish.

Amid our tasting and conversation, we indulged in the refreshing house sangria. Of course we had to indulge in a glass of Tempranillo to further our Spanish-leaning cuisine experience. Although the wines by the glass were very reasonably priced, we felt the list needed a greater variety of similarly priced bottles.

Last but now least, was the flan. Not just any flan will do, this one has a firm, dense, creamy texture, layered with a caramel crème sauce that adds to the sweetness but doesn’t overwhelm with too much sugar.Growing pains are normal in any new restaurant, and we believe chef Stratta ‘s depth of culinary excellence far exceeds any beginning hiccups. Adjusting to a more approachable dining experience creates a learning curve for everyone involved,  and we can only hope that many will come by to share an several outstanding tapas crafted by one of our city’s greatest chefs.  Having this caliber of restaurant outside of the glare of the neon on The Strip, is both refreshing and exciting. 

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