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Last night P. and I met up for dinner. He suggested either SkaraBar or Spaghetti Kitchen. After a quick glance at the online menus we pretty quickly settled on SkaraBar although Spaghetti Kitchen has a pretty intense website.
We met at the University metro stop and walked over SkaraBar in Zaimov Park behind the theater.
The restaurant itself really isn't very big and they've managed to squeeze in a lot of tables. The thing is this doesn't make the space feel crowded. Far from it in fact, it makes it feel cozy.
My big moment in the restaurant was this: I walked in and asked for a table in Bulgarian. P. followed me in. We sit down and are given menus in Bulgarian. We carry on in English for a bit and at some point, the waiter hears P. speaking English and swipes his Bulgarian menu to exchange it for an English one.
Not me. I get to keep the Bulgarian one I've been given but P.'s menu is taken from him even though his Bulgarian is much, much better than mine. As a point of pride, P. then asks the Bulgarian menu back in Bulgarian. The waiter seems slightly surprised by this whole exchange and gives him back the Bulgarian menu.
The menu at SkaraBar is pretty short. Basically it's two pages. This seems pretty reasonable for many small restaurants in the States but in Bulgaria the 10 page menu is pretty standard issue. Often what this means in these restaurants is that it's impossibly hard for me to pick something. Too much choice. And, there's the issue of quantity over quality.
I'm all for a smaller menu of fresh well prepared food. Of course, the problem for me was that even with a smaller menu I still wanted to eat everything on it. Funny how that works. So, we ended up ordering three salads, some bread and a plate of kufteta.
The salads: Селска салата (the village salad with tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper and cheese), Кьопоолу (a salad/spread made out of roasted eggplant and peppers) and a "salad" with tomato sauce and боб–beans (which I don't see on the online menu). The kufteta–Кюфтета от месо–were really great. They were flavorful and cooked to perfection.
P. and I agreed that these might be the best kufteta that we've ever eaten in the country. That's saying a lot. I've lived here for three years and P. has lived here for at least that long–maybe longer. And it's pretty impossible to live here and not eat a lot of kufteta. I've had it all–good, bad and everything in between. Undercooked, overcooked and just right.
And this kufteta? It was unbelievably good.
The one interesting thing about the kufteta at SkaraBar is that they are identified on the menu as kufteta from meat. Oh. I thought that the default assumption was that a kufteta was made out of meat unless otherwise noted. Now I've seen kufteta from potatoes before on menus but never kufteta from meat. I also really liked that someone felt the need to clarify that the kufteta are made from meat but that this person felt absolutely no need to specify which type of meat–pork, chicken or (gasp) beef.
I had a glass of the house wine. It was good. Very drinkable. P. had a beer. Then we had to ask for the check and go home. There was no room for dessert but the dessert I saw other people eating looked delicious.
And on a final note, the menu also lets you order grilled meat by the kilo. I tried to convince P. that we should do this. He was having none of it. This is either because he's boring or because he's more reasonable than I am. Ultimately, it was probably a good thing. We had a hard enough time eating what we ordered.
Now the only nagging question I have is: when can I order a kilo of kufteta?!