Where is the latest Bulgarian progressive gourmet hit for 2019 in Sofia?-Part 1
My last post for 2018 was dedicated to the place where I got inspired to write this blog-Chef’s. My first post in the new 2019 is dedicated to my new inspiration for this year- a unique place that in every way promotes Bulgarian tradition in cuisine, in design, in music. There every sense absorbs the best of Bulgaria, refracted through the visions of the wondrous team of passionately dedicated to their work people that creates hits on the plate.
Do you know what Karmare means? In very old Bulgarian it means cooks. And I went to these karmares, and we talked and I had good dining from their progressive hits. They put so much enthusiasm and professionalism in their creations that there is no more appropriate title for this gourmet restaurant than Karmare. I followed the preparation and its birth from the posts on Facebook by its Chef and waited eagerly for the place to open. I’m not going to ask you if you know him, because since you read my blog, you’ve already met him a few times in my posts.
The one and only, the different, the unique Chef Georgi Boykovski. The same one that impressed me so much in Cosmos.
The emphasis is on the second O, so it sounds like Benkovski[i]. When you see him talking about his work, you will understand that this particular resemblance to the name of the famous revolutionary is very much for him, because there is rebel pathos in his art.
Yes, art, because every dish is a piece of gourmet art, created together with the team, in a room, specially designed for discussion, creative process, tasting, right by the so-called laboratory, where the recipes of the drinks are configured. The latter are also touched to the smallest detail. Every juice is made from natural products, even the sparkling water is home-made. And the cocktails…. I haven’t tried anywhere like them. I thought in Cosmos they made the best cocktails, but Karmare overmatched them, since they even crossed the boundary of the impossible for the taste and olfactory receptors.
No, I’m not exaggerating!!! Ok, have you had a gin-tonic cocktail with a bonito (this fish smells heavily of sea), onions and lovage? Yuck? You’re totally wrong. 😊 This was the most unique thing I tasted as a cocktail in my entire conscious alcoholic experience. I’m sure the olfactory centre of my brain has built a new synapse, just because of this unique combination of odours. It was so delicious and inhumanly fragrantly good that I wanted a few more to drink. I didn’t do it because every dish from the 9-course menu has a drink to it and I didn’t want to spoil the scheme, which I was convinced was very well thought of.
The children were offered fresh juices- combinations of different fruits, vegetables, plus chamomile or thyme. They drank their drinks so quickly and thirstily that I couldn’t even try them.
….. Did I mention that the kids really liked the interior of the place? Red bricks, traditional Bulgarian embroideries, named Shevitza, put in frames, wooden tables of unpolished wood.
…. Chef Boykovski showed me the kitchen. There is diligence in design, even where customers don’t go. The Shevitza and the signs of the place are also there. Wheat class, Bulgarian rose, proto symbol- ypsilon with two stems. There you can also see the logo of Karmare and the slogan “Progressive Bulgarian Cuisine”.
What is a progressive cuisine? Well the word progressive means liberal, advanced, modern, growing. That is how I felt the dishes of these karmare- traditional Bulgarian, but advanced, modern, with a lot of freedom in the creativity.
I keep talking about Experience Economy[ii]. The staging[iii] was so developed that it plunges into the concept not only the client but also the team. The staging works through symbols, materials, inscriptions, the interior around them.
…. In the first appetizer were demonstrated small bites of all the favorites to Bulgarians things- lyutenitsa[iv], chili pepper with cheese, breaded yellow cheese with lacta strawberries, deer leg dry fillet, steamed bread, on a toasted miniature slice with grilled salted bacon- the solo in this folk hit on the plate. There were lakerda in a leaf of red onions, chips of veal tongue, pate, pickles. Colorful dish, designed as a Bulgarian rug. When the children saw it, both exclaimed Woooowwww!
And here I will raise again the subject about children as clients. Always neglected by restaurants, they find them noisy, annoying. When Chef Boykovski found out that we were coming with the kids he was overjoyed. He said they were the most sincere jury for the quality of the food. He asked only to know if we have allergies, specifics in the diet, and whether we’re vegans.
The Karmare have thought of not just vegetarians but also of vegans. The idea is to have four 9-course menus. One is for vegetarians, which is immediately replaced by vegan, if there is such a preference by the customer.
…. Crunchy steamed bread with the second appetizer of krokmach[v], lacta tomatoes, roasted peppers and dill dressing;
Do you know what is lacta tomatoes? Chef Boykovski explained to me. This is where the educational element of the Experience Economy interferes. You don’t just enjoy aestheticaly, you learn new things. Learning is developing the brain. The new information builds synapses, connections in the brain that help us to remember, or to build new skills.
Now about my new synapse on the lacta tomatoes. 😊 These are tomatoes that are left to ferment in lactic acid medium. You can guess- they are probiotics. Then with the waste water from this product they ferment the strawberries, the pickles, even the water. Pretty cool, huh? Progressive! Healthy…. and very tasty! For months the team of Karmare has been involved in the preparation of these fine details from the menu.
…. Crunchy prawns from the third appetizer, rolled in greaves from the legs of Eastern Balkan Pig. And because of these pork-leg greaves the shrimps were so crispy. I note that my sense of smell catches the unpleasant odors of the male pigs as I have already written about. But I didn’t feel it here, it was very tasty. In the shrimps ‘ heads was a complex special bisque that was poured like gravy on the platter. This dish was my two girls’ hit!
…. In the fourth entrée- very fine, such as angelic hair potato chips, on soft potato balls with delicately sealed pieces of brain. That dish was called potato stew. 😊 It has exactly the flavor and taste of it, but 10 levels higher as a feeling. The small balls were like stuffed potato leaves with tender mashed potatoes inside. I’m never going to be able to eat potato stew again, without thinking about that genius altered dish by Chef Boykovski.
…. The fifth starter was crispy again- a slightly sweet snowflake made of sauerkraut and somehow dehydrated, flambéd in front of us to, envelop as a sticker a magnificent sarma of sauerkraut and rice. It was dashed around with light kimchi sauce. So simple, and such an impressive thing. Less is more! Yes, but behind that small ball of Sarma is a lot of preparation.
I have a lot more to write about Karmare, but I know the time for leisure reading is short and now I’m going to stop here. In the next article I will continue with main course and desserts in the 9-course menu. I haven’t said anything about the wine yet! It’s also worth your attention. Of course, it’s Bulgarian again. I’ll tell you too what music entertains your hearing in Karmare.
If you do not live in Sofia and you need a hotel, view the options right here in the search box of booking.com, which I have set for your convenience. You keep all genius discounts and privileges, enter only the dates of your stay.
A: Sofia, 105 Knyaz Boris I str., Bulgaria
T: + 359 899 000 681- Do you notice the number of the last 3 digits? Write in the comments what it means. 😊
E: I’m sorry, but they still don’t have e-mail address
Working hours: Mon-Sat, 12-22:30 pm, Sunday 10-15:30 pm
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[i] Benkovski is a Bulgarian revolutionary from the past, who fought for Bulgaria’s freedom
[ii] Pine II, B. Joseph, Gilmore, James, the experience Economy, Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition. Pine, Joseph, Gilmore, James, the economy of Experience, revamped edition Harvard Business Review Press, Kindle
[iii] Staging- a term from the theory of the Experience Economy by Gilmore and Pine, according to them, the staging of client experiences is essential for business.
[iv] A dip made of roasted and peeled peppers, some tomatoes, salt and oil. It is put in jars to be preserved.
[v] Fermented sheep’s milk with salt, traditional Bulgarian recipe