Paella near and far, plus local small plates from Fleming’s and Marbella

On the way back from a short visit to northern Europe, I visited New York and Washington, where food experiences feel more diverse than ever. José Andrés—who has three restaurants at the Cosmopolitan—has gone from paella and tapas to lobster rolls and chicken wings at his daring new D.C. spot, America Eats Tavern (405 Eighth St. NW).

The restaurant got its name from a compilation of recipes called America Eats (University of Iowa Press, 1992), commissioned by the Federal Writer’s Project during the Roosevelt administration. Andrés reinterprets traditional recipes from various American regions, some dating back as far as the Revolutionary War. Vermicelli cooked into a pudding, circa 1802, is an early mac and cheese. At the bar, try Milk Punch, a libation developed by Benjamin Franklin.

The concept took many years to research, but it may disappear in January. Plans are under way to make the whole location one giant Minibar, the prototype for E Bar at the Cosmopolitan. Maybe he’ll do one here, but in the meantime, get there if you can.

While we’re talking paella, they are cooked on a wood fire at Andrés’ Jaleo (Best New Restaurant, according to Vegas Seven’s 2011 Dining Awards), and while excellent, they are a tad short on socarrat, Catalan for that crispy, caramelized bottom crust. That’s why I fell head over heels with the paellas at Manhattan’s Socarrat (259 W. 19th St.). These paellas come in individually sized iron pans, and have remarkable crunch while staying moist.

Back here in Las Vegas, portion sizes are trending downward. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Summerlin (8721 W. Charleston Blvd., 838-4774) is offering a new small-plates menu, ranging in price from $15.50 to $22.95. Choices include lobster tempura with soy-ginger sauce and filet mignon skewers with bacon-gorgonzola fondue and sweet-tomato salad.

Even smaller plates will be the ticket at Marbella Tapas Bar & Music of Spain, slated to open Oct. 27. It will feature ceviche, sangria, paellas and a wide variety of savory tapas, as well as familiar American fare such as pizza and burgers.

Beginning at 10 p.m., the restaurant, housed in the former home to Ruth’s Chris (4561 W. Flamingo Road) will morph into a nightclub, staying open till 5 a.m., just like you’d find in Ibiza or Majorca. There will be Spanish flamenco as well as more conventional pop, so look for lots of action and a colorful crowd.

Hungry, yet?

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