No matter how rich and diverse a culinary tradition is, a moment comes when one tires of it and starts dreaming of something different.
I have a first-hand experience in this: I have consciously sat in a Chinese restaurant while in Bangalore, I have ordered sushi in Bangkok, tom yum goong in Scotland and pizza in the Loire Valley.
Sofia is not an exception. Even when the traveller is all into the idea of immersing himself or herself in the atmosphere and tastes of Bulgarian national cuisine, sometimes he or she starts craving something different. And let's not mention people who reside in Sofia or spend longer periods in it. You might love Shopska salad, grills and stews in earthenware pot, but you cannot have these every single day, can you?
Happily, Sofia has so many hot spots of culinary diversity that you will hardly ever grow tired to alternate the places with Bulgarian and foreign cuisine. The city has its fair share of Chinese restaurants, and enough places for sushi, pizza and pasta, and restaurants where you discover the culinary traditions of Greece and Turkey, France and Peru, India and Nepal, the US and Korea, the Middle East and Russia, Armenia and Georgia,... Probably the only distinguishable absence in this list is one of the latest crazes of the world culinary scene, the Nordic cuisine.
But we are optimists that even it will appear on local soil, eventually. Just like in the broader world, Sofia's culinary scene changes, evolves, adapts to the new world trends. The restaurants with Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, for example, are not a novelty anymore, but a common place to have lunch or dinner with family or friends. The local public also learned that burgers can be a true culinary experience and in Sofia appeared burger joints, which would be an honour for any big city on Europe or the US. The aim for authenticity and the growing requirements of the clients – more of us travel abroad and can experience personally the different culinary traditions in the lands of their origins – has inspired the owners and the chefs to pay special attention to the genuine products and recipes.
The restaurants with foreign cuisine in Sofia not only present us with more and more interesting opportunities to enjoy both new and well-known tastes from all over the world. They help us to travel without leaving the city, they inspire us to dream and to relax, they are witnesses of our everyday life and of our meetings with our closest of friends, of key events in our life and of important business conversations.
In short, the restaurants with foreign cuisine make our life more beautiful. Let's make the most of them!
Turquoise: The magical taste of Turkish cuisine
Turquoise Restaurant (90 Bakston Blvd; phone: 855 1100; www.turquoise.bg) has been for years the top choice for lovers of Turkish cuisine in Sofia. Situated at the foot of Vitosha mountain, the restaurant has a great view and an air of blissful relaxation, and is famed as the best place for Turkish food in Sofia. In Turquoise you enjoy delicious meals like ezme, Çiğ Köfte and Adana Kebab prepared by original Turkish recipes in wooden stove and on barbecue by nine selected chefs from Turkey.
Shades of Red restaurant: The world of culinary temptations
The world is full with tastes and culinary traditions, but in Sofia there is one place where you will find some of the most appetising ones in the elegant atmosphere of the Shades of Red restaurant (1 General Gurko St, Grand Hotel Sofia). Style, refinement and impeccable service – this is the trademark of Shades of Red. The menu abounds with offers with caviar, St Jacques scallops, Black Angus, fresh fish, and risotto, and the homemade desserts will hardly leave you indifferent. Besides with the main menu, you will be also presented with a seasonal one, which is full with so many appetising surprises that will probably impede the answer of the question: "What should I try?" The interior is suitably elegant, but for the coming spring days you will have the opportunity to enjoy the colourful summer garden on open air. Shades of Red is an excellent place for a long family lunch, formal or romantic dinner, corporate party and why not, for the wedding of your dreams – the team of professionals will took care of the tiniest detail. Whatever the reason to dress formally and book at Shades of Red, you will be more than happy with the outcome.
Chekpoint Charlie: Garden of pleasures
Pleasant coolness, tall firs, early-20th Century elegance, and the privilege to dine in the yard of one of Bulgaria's greatest writers, Ivan Vazov: Chekpoint Charlie restaurant (Sofia, 12 Ivan Vazov St, phone: 02 988 03 70, www.checkpointcharlybg.com) gives you more than a gastronomical experience. For more than 10 years, Chekpoint Charlie has been a beloved place for the Sofia Boheme and everyone who cherishes quality food, and its summer garden makes its attraction stronger. Chekpoint Charlie's menu plays on the pleasant variety and filling sizes, manoeuvring between beloved and politicaly borders denying recipes like risotto, salmon, schnitzel and duck breasts, and classical Bulgarian dishes (cheese pastry, meatballs, Smilyan beans, polenta, buffalo cheese and tasty tomatoes). The wine list is carefully selected and the lunch menu is yet another reason to return repeatedly to Ivan Vazov's garden.
Skaptobara & Skaptoburger: Sofia's American spirit
When you want gourmet burgers, fine atmosphere, and good craft beer, and you are in Sofia, remember one word: Skapto. Since the Skaptobara bar (Sofia, 11A Iskar St, www.skaptobara.com) and the Skaptoburger burger joint (Sofia, 20 Tsar Shishman St, www.skaptoburger.com) appeared in town, they quickly won the hearts of people who value good food. The proof are the awards in the annual competition between Sofia's burger joints organised by the largest food delivery company in Bulgaria. In 2015, Skaptobara became King of Burgers with its El Pollo Loco, and in 2016, Skaptoburger won the title with its Cheesus. It will be a grave mistake, however, to limit your choice to only these suggestions. The Skapto family's menus offer a variety of excellent classical and innovative recipes, including vegetarian ones.
Trapezi Restaurant: Greece in Sofia
Trapezi in Greek means "table," and when you sit at Trapezi Restaurant (Sofia, 37 Prof Dr Georgi Pavlov St, phone: 0882 44 30 00, www.amsterdam.bg/restaurant/) you will quickly find that everything is so delicious that your only excuse to leave the table is the thought that you will come back again. The food in Trapezi is authentic, and the menu unites the best of Greek cuisine: fresh fish that you select from the show-case, seafood, BBQ on wood coal. Here you will find regional specialities like chickpea salad from Corfu and grilled Cypriot halloumi cheese, and also popular favourites like taramasalata (fish roe salad) and tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber appetiser), kefalotyri saganaki (pan-seared cheese) and melitzanosalata (aubergine paste), grilled octopus and, of course, souvlaki (skewers) and soutzoukakia (sausages). All of these make Trapezi the ideal opportunity to enjoy something you have always loved or to discover yet another new taste from the immense Greek culinary tradition.
Boom! Burgers: Where burgers are a mission
In 2012, when Boom! Burgers opened the first gourmet burger joint in Bulgaria (Sofia, 15 Karnigradska St, www.boomburgers.com), this modern culture was practically unknown in the country. Today gourmet burgers are known and loved, and Boom! Burgers not only established itself as one of the tastiest locations for them, but also opened a second restaurant (Sofia, 12 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd), which also offers craft cocktails and bourbon. The burgers of Boom! Burgers are made only of Prime Irish beef, the buns are baked every day, and each Wednesday the burger lab offers you to try a new recipe. Add to all of thеse the series of beers that you cannot find anywhere else, and you already know why Boom! Burgers were, are and will remain hot spots on Sofia's culinary pleasures map, and why they won the Best Burger Place 2015 in the Go Guide Food & Drink Awards.
Miyabi Japanese restaurant: The delicate power of perfection
If you think that Japanese cuisine is monotonous, then you don't really know Japanese cuisine, but have restricted yourself to sushi. Since 2011, the Miyabi Japanese restaurant (Sofia, 5 Stara Planina St, phone: +359 887 275 064; +359 886 105 675, www.miyabi.bg) has achieving the impossible: bringing the cuisine of the Land of Rising Sun to Sofia in its complete diversity, delicacy and authenticity of the taste. The skilled chef Petar Mihalchev has created a menu, in which the well known types of sushi share space (and the love of the customers) with more exotic suggestions like several types of Japanese soup, salads with a variety of fish and seafood, a diversity of main dishes, sets of donburi, sashimi and intriguing desserts like taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes with filling of red bean marzipan). Whatever you choose, in Miyabi you will be offered dishes that are fresh, authentic and inspiring to get to know in depth the rich culinary tradition of Japan.
Ristorante Giroditalia: The taste of the original
The first Italian restaurant in the capital opened 25 years ago and today you can still enjoy its authentic, but constantly renewing taste. Owned by two Italians, Giroditalia (Sofia, 19 Angel Kanchev St, phone: 0892 60 07 35, www.giroditalia.bg, FB: Ristorante Giroditalia) is a place where compromises with quality simply do not exist. The fruit, vegetables, poultry and meat are from Bulgaria, but the other genuine products come exclusively from Italy. Only extra virgin olive oil is used in the cooking. Giroditalia's compact, appetising menu is full with temptations that will make you return to the restaurant again and again: carpaccio di manzo, ravioli alla burrata and lunette al tartufo, filetto di branzino con carciofi and cannoli alla Siciliana. Now you know the secret of Giroditalia's longevity.
Morino Urban Wine & Dine: Jazz and taste for connoisseurs
Do you love jazz, good wine and Italian cuisine, and after dinner, a glass of rum and an aromatic Cuban cigar? If the answer is yes, then Morino Urban Wine & Dine (Sofia, 1 Makedonia Sq, Syndicates' Building, phone: 0877 077 225, www.morino.bg, FB: Morino.jazz.restaurant) is your place. Morino relies on Italian cuisine, among the suggestions in the menu special attention deserve the seafood lasagna by chef Fabio, the roasted French farmer rooster, the pork fillet a la Romana, the variety of tapas and plates with Italian, French and Spanish cheeses. Morino offers about 1,000 excellent wines from all over the world, about 100 of these are Bulgarian. The restaurant's collection of rum will satisfy even the most refined taste, and each Friday and Saturday night lovers of good music can enjoy life performances by the best Bulgarian jazz musicians. All of this makes Morino an ideal place for a dinner or a pleasant evening with wine and tapas. The restaurant has a smokers' room, a VIP room and a large terrace with a vista to one of the most beautiful buildings of Sofia, the Ministry of Agriculture. The parking is free.
Tempero Restaurant: To taste life
A variety of culinary traditions and new recipes, created by professionals who have dedicated themselves to good food: the newly opened restaurant Tempero (Sofia, 4 Golo Bardo St, phone: 087 870 4470, FB: Tempero Restaurant) doesn't save efforts and inspiration in its mission to win a place in the hearts of its guests. Even the smallest detail in Tempero's suggestions has been attentively thought over and carefully prepared to maximise the pleasure you receive from it. There are no compromises with the products and recipes, and the friendly but competent staff will make you feel at home. Tempero's advantages doesn't stop with the menu: in the restaurant you enjoy cosy atmosphere, constantly renewed lunch menu, an excellent wine selection, winter and summer garden. Kids will love Tempero, too, because of it great children's corner where they can have fun with the help of an animator.
Shtastliveca: Artistic eclectics
Shtastliveca (Sofia, 27 Vitosha Blvd, www.shtastliveca.com) is a place, where time stops. The interior in artistic eclectics harmonically combines a story of times past. These cosiness and culture make it the most decadent restaurant in the city. Here the standards are refracted through the personal view and inspiration. The cuisine is inspired by the Bulgarian, Mediterranean and Oriental culinary traditions. The menu is diverse, the portions are generous, and the aromas are memories.
Al Dente: The spirit of Italy
The temptation of fresh pasta and of aromatic pizza, the variety of the antipasti and of the salads: there are many reasons to love Italian food. The Al Dente restaurant (Sofia, Bulair St, block 11, FB: Aldente - Pasta, Pizza, Bar., book on: 0879 333 550) however shows that Italian cuisine can be even better than what we are used to. Located close to the park of Hipodruma neighbourhood, Al Dente helps us to immerse in the beauty of nature. Far from the busy everyday life, here you can enjoy incredible Italian food prepared of quality and fresh products. Regardless of whether you are having lunch with friends, celebrating an important life event, or enjoying a romantic or a family dinner, at Al Dente even the tiniest of your desires will be satisfied and you will feel as if in a little paradise.