Which powers united on the anniversary night of Bagri restaurant in Sofia?
Happy Birthday, Bagri! Be persistent, creative and united with like-minded people in your sustainability cause!
Placescases.com went to a special dinner with a tasting menu, not from anyone, but from Chef Boykovksi– the rebel in the Bulgarian cuisine, which has no filter of the expression, nor the fantasy of his gastronomy. His dishes are just as bold and provocative as his posts in Facebook.
The special anniversary dinner was named “Unity Makes the Power” to announce that Georgi Boykovski is the new chef of Bagri. I liked the name of the menu: B ‘n B. Georgi likes rap, hence the title of the dinner. I discover many references in that B abbreviation: B as Bagri, B as Boykovski, B as “Bravo, bro!”, “Mind your Business, Buggers!” You can expect everything from B. 😉
As a continuation of the current policy for sustainable practices, support of Bulgarian farming, extravagance and differentiation in the cuisine, this dinner was provocative, surprising, exciting, well-feeding and cheering to us!
I refer to my favorite theory of Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, The Experience Economy. This dinner was a memorable experience and now I am happy to tell you about it.
To learn more about The Experience Economy, explore the posts in this category of the blog.
Let’s recall that, according to Pine and Gilmour, to be memorable for the client, an experience must possess 4 essential qualities: to be entertaining, aesthetic, educational and escapist. This magic mix is obtained when the restaurant serves its customers as if it puts interactive theatrical production, in which the clients are both audience and actors.
Movie watching time: 3:21 min.
If you are interested in finding out what kind of theatrical show Georgi Boykovski and his team put on the stage of Bagri, keep on reading.
Why was the dinner an entertaining experience?
I wonder where to start. The whole dinner was an entertainment by itself.
From the very beginning we started with cocktails, each more interesting and nicer than the other. I still remember how the first time in Karmare restaurant in Sofia, they greeted us with a welcome drink cocktail with an infusion of bonito. That was one off! You will learn more about the cocktails if you continue reading further.
Wait, since I mentioned Karmare, it is re-opening soon with Georgi Boykovski as a Chef too. So, he will be double-cheffing. How will he combine all these commitments with his TV appearances and new projects, only he can figure out. I hope he has good sous-chefs.
If you’re wondering what Anton Vassev, the previous chef of Bagri, is going to do, he’s in Cosmos now. There were quite many castlings in the fine dining field of Sofia. ANDRe is already in the former Bankovic on Aksakov str., Jun Yoshida and his restaurant Happy Pig are no longer static, but mobile, however Karmare re-opens in the same place.
I’m going back to the anniversary tasting dinner.
The following list of most interesting moments is by order of serving not by preference:
- Nitro Popcorn or more proper Nitro pop-tomato. Ice granules from lacto tomatoes. Yes, Georgi loves that term- lacto. For it is used a very hip in the gastronomy field technique, but it is as old as the world. With one word this is fermentation, which he does with all sorts of fruit and vegetables- strawberries, raspberries, mushrooms, tomatoes. The nitro pop-tomatoes were perfectly matching the krokmatch.
What’s a krokmatch? A traditional Bulgarian product made from sheep’s milk, boiled with salt and thus preserved. Georgi drew attention to me that only this milk can be used for krokmatch because only it has the necessary fat.
Valeri Neshov from Before 10 also confirmed that fact. He was the first one who offered this product in his restaurant. If someone serves something called krokmatch, but made from another milk, it is not exactly this, rather something that should be called otherwise. Good news-restaurant Before 10 re-opened in the same place. I can’t wait to enjoy the delicious dishes of old Bulgarian recipes there.
- Roasting river crab skewers on stones and fire with anise liquor. Georgi said “Now you are on a picnic and you will cook your food yourself”. Of course, the crab was cooked before that, we only burned it a little to eliminate the last molecules of beef tallow, in which they were soaked and to obtain a smoky smell. The stink of tallow is a great challenge for me, but the burning did the job to eliminate any single note of it.
- It was even greater surprise when we had to roast a skewer of chocolate. Georgi said, “How come we can roast meat, and we can’t roast dessert?!” Well, we were roasting it too. 😊
- Well, they brought us pork in leeks, that’s right, IN LEEKS, not WITH LEEKS. Pieces of pork were hidden inside the leek, cut into 2 lengthwise. And when they were bringing in the dish there was something like hair burning in it. Fortunately, that was the leek’s hair. Chief Boykovski said that they do this on purpose, to add smoke and sense of autumn.
- The biggest entertainment of course was that everything was delicious. My favorites:
- From the very first appetizer we enjoyed very much the gypsy banitsa with burned bacon.
Gipsy banitsa used to be beloved breakfast for Bulgarian children in the past, when food was scares in the average Bulgarian household. It is a slice of bread, topped with oil, salt, red pepper and savory. It’s quite delicious actually!
Next to it there was lyutenitsa, a traditional dip, based on minced red peppers, tomatoes and egg-plant and breaded cheese. This dish reminded me of the first appetizer in Karmare.
Georgi Boykovski is keen to show that he is building on the traditions in Bulgarian cuisine and the most beloved by the Bulgarians dishes.
- Potato stew. When we tried it for the first time in Karmare, Georgi said that he is curious about how this traditional Bulgarian meal would be perceived. He explained that the potato is a difficult product, very neutral and it was not easy to impress people with it. Well, this stew was remarkable, especially with its scent and presentation. This plate was a time machine which brought sights, sounds, smells and tastes from childhood when your grandmother and mom cooked traditional Bulgarian dishes. The magic engine of this machine was the savory. The potato balls were like gyoza stuffed with the stew, and on top was those crispy purple potato chips.
- There was a dish completely new to me- pumpkin pie, but it was not like the one I described in the review about Karmare. This one here was like a waffle- between two very crispy crusts were the ingredients- the tastes and aromas of the pumpkin pie, and on the side there was a yellow sauce in which you dip the waffles. You eat with your fingers! Again, provocation and fun of course! Now you ask, where did I see an aesthetic experience in this finger-eating-thing?
What was the aesthetic?
Let’s continue with the previous dish. The sauce in which we dipped the pumpkin pie was a cold fine consistency with a bright yellow color, flavors of tropic and a feeling of sun. It was made of seaberry or sea buchthorns, or hippophae. I stop here with the explanations. Keep reading further and you’ll know what kind of food this is.
The colors that were combined in the dishes were vivid and contrasting. Our eyes were enjoying and absorbing all the nuances.
The appetizer with krokmatch, roasted peppers, nitro pop-tomatoes and green dill oil with whey were like a three-dye.
Talking about colours, I have to mention the interior of the house- the scene of this extraordinary performance. The green moss on the walls, the wrapping paper lamps, the wooden tables, as if from an untreated tree, they remind about natural products, sustainability, farming, careful selection and respect for the work of the producers. I have already described this in The colours of Bulgaria in restaurant Bagri with Chef Anton Vasev, Sofia.
Now there was a new element- a hand-made flower from paper. Very fine workmanship and very beautiful. In the end, they gave us an advertising autumn leaf, hand-made by the same master.
Because in this blog I describe everything through the 5 human senses, I must add what provoked our hearing. Typical for the restaurants in which Chef Boykovski cooks, we enjoyed Bulgarian folk music in modern arrangements– Kotarashki, the Avigea by Ivan Shopov, and I think I heard Belonoga.
What was the educational?
I’ve learned things about gastronomy again.
I wrote about Nitro pop-tomatoes above. I wondered what that was. I was immediately clarified- baked tomato, frozen with liquid nitrogen.
The first dessert was very different and something new for me. Georgi taught us that its purpose was to clean up the flavors and aromas, to refresh before the two desserts in the final and the last cocktail. They served us a frozen apple, inside with a syrup of hibiscus and lemon verbena, as well as fermented cherries.
Now you will say why fermented, and not fresh and sweet. Because it is autumn in Bulgaria now and there are no fresh cherries, unless they are imported.
Bagri ofers locavor type of cuisine, which means the products they use are grown here in Bulgaria. If it is not their season, they are preserved with fermentation.
He learned from us that the apple dessert was great and it perfectly did its job- refreshing, cool, offloading the accumulated flavors and aromas, and preparing for the strong dessert finish. I loved the scent of the verbena!
Throughout the whole dinner, everything was duly presented and explained. What I asked was answered. No secrets. But the most interesting thing I learned was about the sea berry. They also call it Sea Buckthorn and Siberian pineapple. I’ve never heard anything about this fruit, let alone tried.
Sea buchthorn turned out to be a shrub, with small yellow berries, which grows on the seashore. It loves a lot of sunshine and sandy soils. That’s why the sea is its normal areal.
This was what we learnt from Chef Boykovski. Sea berry extract has strong and therapeutic properties. And its fruits are also very tasty.
This is the first time I’ve tried dessert with sea berries. I was truly surprised and I loved it!
How did we escape from reality or why was the dinner an escapist experience?
Dishes and cocktails took turns and partnered- we feel time passing by. Every meal was telling a story, and all together they knitted their fables in a common happy chocolate end.
We started with New Fashion cocktail with a pomegranate shrub and kombucha of wild strawberries.
Shrub is a concentrated syrup of fruit, sugar and vinegar. You can drink it as it is or in a cocktail combined with other drinks.
It was based on gin. First it smelled like a vinegar but taking a sip you find a whole other thing. A big surprise for the senses. In the same way as you present the bad character in a play, and in the beginning you hate him/her, but then things shift and you find yourself sympathizing with them.
As you try it, contemplate and wonder about this metamorphosis, the first starters are coming. The drink resonated well with the Nitro pop-tomatoes.
The stew of potatoes and the river crab brought their fiancée Green Mary. Like Bloody Mary, only from green tomatoes and naturally the same color. Young and green, but hot was this bride- spicy, and the crumbs from the dried tomato peel on the edge of the glass reminded that her character was slightly rough. It was very tasty and a little provocative!
I did not understand how old was the red wine from Gamza grape by Bononia Etate, but it was very nice. It flushed the pork with leek really well, balancing their strong flavors.
After this Bulgarian suite, the French guy finally came. Brandy Alexander appeared with a chic hat from milky foam. A shy but sophisticated ‘girl’ came down from Vitosha mountain, in the form of a dessert on a skewer- chocolate with lacto boletus, topped by black currant ice cream, blueberry jam, cocoa crumbs…. Very rich aromas! They sensed each other, got married, and they lived happily ever after in our memories!
Time passed unnoticed and now when I write this story it feels the same. That is why it has become so long.
Chef Boykovskii and his team theatrically served their creations, told us the narrative of their story and included us in the performance. In the finale, he told us that he was the negative character of the play and not to try to sugar too much his personality.
Stand-up ovations for the team of Bagri, the playwright Chef Georgi Boykovski and finale curtain! See you soon in Bagri theater!
Don’t worry about getting to Bagri in Sofia. Just use the Google map here by clicking on the red pin of its location and then select directions:
А: 10, Dobrudja str., Sofia
T: +359 88 507 7927
If you are already planning a trip to Sofia I recommend that you book your stay right here .For your convenience, I added a booking.com box, which refers directly to their site. I guarantee you’re going to use all your genius discounts and privileges they would offer to you. Just enter the dates of your trip, then hit the Search button and voila. In addition, booking.com are doing their best to make sure that your expectations as a customer are fulfilled. I’ve described an example about the latter in my story about our stay in Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.
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Do you ever wonder how some places are so very different from others in service, environment, as a general experience? This means you are also interested like me in the topic of The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore. I constantly add to my collection reviews about those of them, which practice its principles, no matter deliberately or accidentally. If you are curious to understand which are they, explore category The Experience Economy.