GOING FULL-ON SPANISH

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<p>Chef Javier Gutierrez prepares Paella Velenciana at Toros Spanish Kitchen &amp; Gaming at 11760 W. Charleston Blvd. in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.</p>

“Spanish is the new Thai,” a portentous food lover once opined to me. That was a handful of years ago, and honestly they had it right on the money. There’s no rhyme or reason to which regional cuisine will enjoy a burst of popularity, but being able to see the first rumblings of a shift like that is a real gift.

Honestly, I’m really hoping old-school supper clubs are next, but I’ll always hold on to a pipe-dream of an Alsatian renaissance that will never be…

A new restaurant to cast a lot in with the Summerlin set has opened just off the I-215 and Charleston Boulevrad. The name is Toros Spanish Kitchen, and it is – yes you guessed it – a Spanish-style tapas place. This one is from the same people as Sedona and John Cutter (which happens to be right next door), so you can expect that same smart lunch/casual dinner/gaming island bar kind of thing.

This one does go full-on Spanish, so Spanish that there are many dishes that are completely sourced from Spain. From the cebolla rice (necessary for paella), to the Serrano ham, to even spices and seasonings, it’s really an interesting concept.

Kind of a counter-point to the super modern on-strip tapas houses, Jaleo and Julian Serrano, Toros went for this kind of cartoony Spanish. Like an “It’s a Small World” kind of Spain, everything a worn primary color. I have a degree of respect towards that, especially because the menu doesn’t fall into that all-too-authentic category, but rather stays with the tried and true stuff.

This “all-too-authentic” category is something I’ve found striking me at certain small ethnic places. There’s the TV-friendly version of food, things you could see representations of in the frozen entrée aisle. Then there’s the down and dirty cuisine sprung from the poorest of the poor of whatever country will eat fermented fish anus and goat pelt scrapings.

There’s a happy middle, usually simple, rustic staples.

I get the novelty of the authenticity, but you can be authentic without having to dig up the most obscure recipe of cockroach paste and blood of neighboring villagers.

They’ve got the standard faire; seafood paella, plates of Serrano jamon and chorizo, boqerones (an addictive kind of vinegar marinated anchovy, as opposed to salted), bacon wrapped dates with goat cheese. This makes up the “wheelhouse” dishes, but these and most others have all had a very interesting treatment to them.

The head chef spent time at Julian Serrano over at Aria, and it has definitely colored his creative palate.

Their romesco – that orange colored red pepper puree sauce – is straight up insanely good. With their lamb chop, or with their scallops, it adds an amazing depth. This gave me a moment of, “If I could have a camelback of this and just suck it all day, I would.”

One dish was six lovely slices of Serrano ham, drizzled with a bit of a grassy Spanish olive oil, and accompanied by some marinated piquillo peppers. It is a great way to have the salty, savory slices, the piquillo almost taking the place of the Italian prosciutto/melon dish.

From the light vegetarian bites, to the beautiful rice pudding dessert, there was nothing I had that I didn’t think was completely worth the money and the trip. While it may lack the glitz and glamour of a $2 million paella stove like Jaleo, or the name of a double-Michelin starred chef like Julian Serrano on the wall, it’s had the benefit of a surprisingly well put together menu.

There’s no shortage of competition on- and off-strip, but for their region I think Toro is a great addition to the menagerie.

TOROS SPANISH KITCHEN & GAMING, 11760 W. Charleston Blvd. Phone 702-901-4100. Open 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m.

daily. Mitchell Wilburn is a food and drink writer in Las Vegas. You can read his other food news and reviews on EatingLV.com.