What it means to be the only one.

Beans and I made two sojourns out to Restaurant Utre. Utre is the only Korean restaurant in Sofia and I’m 98% certain, in the entire country.  It’s been on my To Eat list for some time. What! Don’t pretend you don’t have a To Eat list too.

Dr. D, the Korean visitor who helped me find the place, told me about his visit to Moscow’s North Korean restaurant, of which there is also only one. Apparently North Korean food is sweeter and more mild than South Korean food. And their dialect is more of a drawl, a theatrical sing-song which he demonstrated to us. It was amazing. Clearly, he’s one of my favorite people ever. Except that he wouldn’t help me pirate Kpop. Not that I would do that. I’m sitting here wondering what nation’s cuisine is there only one of in all of America. North Korean maybe… or what about Wampanoag? Samoan? Guamanian? Definitely something to ponder.

The first  time we went to Utre was on May 1st. Having all the time in the world, or so it seemed, we decided to walk from the Center to the restaurant, which is beyond the TV tower in the neighborhood Izgrev. All told it took a little less than two hours. It was a fabulous walk down Graf Ignatiev, past the Stadium and through the edge of the Borisova Gradina. The floor of this part of the Gardens has a puzzling collection of condom and hard candy wrappers. My brain refuses to hypothesize. Despite the disturbing detritus the forest is a quiet and lovely respite from the hustle of Sofia living. We emerged from the forest into Embassy Row, my favorite being the Vietnamese Embassy because of a large bush of especially fragrant purple lilacs. Oh, lilacs. They are all that is good in the world. We wandered the maze of streets, balking at some of the uglier blocs, and found the restaurant on a quiet corner street at the edge of the park, all buttoned up and put to bed for the holiday. Argh!

Fast forward a day and we’re back, accompanied by Mr. Honduras and Ms. Sea. This time we took the metro. The menu is like, pretty exciting. I had a really hard time deciding between old favorites and something new. But because of my duty to you, SOFIQM readers, I stuck with what I knew so as to be able to compare.

Kimchi Jigae

I got a bubbling kimchi jigae stew that was silken tofu atop a savory broth and stewed kimchi. Lip smackingly spicy. Beans ordered the bibimbap.

Mr. Honduras ordered, and quickly devoured, his beef bulgogi.

Open-mouth is the new planking

And for the table we had those yummy little meze, or I suppose we have to refer to them as banchan (I totally just googled that): kim chi, super delicious peanuts with sesame seeds in a sauce, julienned daikon radish, and another cole slaw-like dish with carrots, radish, seaweed and cabbage.

kiMmmmmm chi

Ok so, how was the food, you ask. I totally dug my kimchi stew. I ate all of it. It was milder than Korean I’ve had in the States, but that didn’t stop me from having a very enthusiastic eating session. Mr. Honduras was down with his bulgogi. Beans said he wasn’t impressed with the bibimbap, and I guess we all had hoped for something with a little more kapow, bang, krakow, zoink! in it. In the end we decided this is perhaps a more home-style version of Korean than we are used to, or that the flavors were tamed for the Bulgarian palate.

In closing, I’d like to add that it was a bit pricey for the PCV budget, the average dish running around 16 lv. My one regret is that I did not order the ramen, which was 8 lv and smelled heavenly. Here’s our bill, for posterity:

Restaurant Utre
34 Elemag Str.
Neighborhood Izgrev
You can take the metro out to Frederico Curie and it is a short 5 min walk from the station.

Ok. That’s all folks!

Shug u later.

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