Ever since Aria Resort and Casino’s debut Julian Serrano has received praises for its tapas and Spanish delights. The restaurant is located on the lower level tucked near the hotel lobby between the entrance for Crystals and Shaboo. It is a bit ironic that one of the most expensive restaurants in the country (dinner at Shaboo starts at $500 per person) is located beside one of Aria’s best values.
This is Serrano’s second restaurant; he also helms the award-winning Picasso inside Bellagio. For more than a decade he has been creating dishes as stunning as the artwork that adorns the walls. A meal at Picasso will set you back a pretty penny; this adds even more value to the wallet friendly offerings at Julian Serrano.
I recall being enamored with the design of Julian Serrano on Aria’s opening night. It was striking, bright and cheerful. It instantly brought me joy. I gazed over the menu and knew I had to dine there. I took the opportunity last weekend, my husband and I were seeing Viva Elvis and I thought tapas would make for a perfect dinner beforehand.
Much like the décor the food is bright and cheerful, it too, evokes joy, and both reflect the notions of Serrano’s native Spain. We shared five small plates before moving on to dessert. Presentations were lovely and it wasn’t all show, the dishes were well balanced, flavorful and splendidly executed.
The only plate that didn’t make us swoon was the stuffed dates ($8). The plump dates were overly sweet for our liking. I much prefer the savory notes of those served at Firefly. The others, however, were wonderful. It was hard to choose a favorite. The white ceviche ($10) is composed of tender white fish dressed with lime, onion, jalapeno and cilantro. As a whole it delivered fresh bold flavors. The escalivada ($8) was a great surprise, it packed far more flavor than you’d anticipate from eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. It was a light and refreshing; a perfect summer treat. Next, we had the creamy risotto ($10). This was comfort food, it was rich, creamy and the wild mushrooms lent a pleasant earthy taste. I’d love a big bowl of it on a chilly winter day. Our last dish was striking; it was Mediterranean stew in deconstruction ($14). It is a playful plate with tender shrimp and flaky bronzinni that is lightly seasoned to allow the fish to shine. When combined with the pureed potato, tomato confit and sofrito you were left with a hearty bite. It was just what you’d expect from a stew.
We were temped to sample more dishes but we opted to end on a sweet note. We ordered two desserts: Santiago’s cake ($8) and chocolate cake ($8). The latter was sugary and oozing with chocolate it was accompanied by mango sorbet, its bitterness curbed the sweetness of the cake. Almonds are the key Santiago’s cake it’s dense and nutty. It was delicious with the Turrón ice cream. The hints of honey and nuts reminded me a bit of fried ice cream. It was a nice end to an enjoyable meal.
If your appetite is big or small, Julian Serrano is serving up bright tasty bites that are easy on the wallet. Paellas and an extensive wine list are also available.