“Rocket is place which preserves the traditions from the near past and presents it in a different light.” This quote, in Bulgarian is printed on every menu and it is the perfect summation of Rocket Rakia Bar.
When you walk in… the long and slender elevated tables for five give the feeling of a cafeteria, but not in a negative way, but more like family-style tables arrangements, where people break bread together. The fact that there are five chairs, an odd number suggests that maybe this was their intention all along.
The natural pine wood tables and shelves and dangling ceiling lights are indicative of Funkt, the ubiquitous design group, which have left an indelible mark on this new project by owner Nicolai Grigorov. While I was waiting for my dinning companion to arrive, Grigorov took the time to explain to me his idea and concept of a restaurant/rakia bar that embraces history. He took great pride in guiding me through the eclectic collection objects and original racing posters. One poster in particular, he encouraged me to smell it; the mustiness reminded me of old books, which is fitting since this poster, in pristine condition was over 50 years old. Some of the other highlights of this mini-gallery is the collection of bric-brac from an era gone by; typewriters, roller skates, cameras, radios and even old eyeglasses.
The olive green tables emblazoned with the red star reminds its patrons of Bulgaria’s communist past. The color scheme is rather neutral with natural pine, grey herringbone fabric covering the chairs and blasts of red with tinges of yellow.
I might be alone in this fact, but the location could be the demise of this new edition to Sofia’s restaurant scene. It is located in a traditional styled bloc, which I assume was intentional, behind Zaimov Park, running parallel to Blvd. Yanko Sakozov. If you are on foot then don’t worry, but by car… a pain in the ass, notwithstanding the view of the park is fantastic On the other hand, these factors could contribute to the allure.
A lunch time degustation of rakia is not ideal, especially when I am with a car, but how could I resist trying the Rocket rakia, which was crafted specifically for them. I am not a connoisseur of rakia, but I am beginning to develop my palette; I found the smooth taste and floral notes beckoning me to have another, yet alas I was driving.
One of the first thing that struck me was the fact that a “rakia bar” only have four options, and no description or notation of any kind. I did learn that this is something that will be rectified shortly. They are in the process of developing a full menu of their rakia selection with details about each one. Since the place had only been open 10 days before my visit, I can only hope it is ready by my return visit.
The menu included very standard Bulgarian fare, things that you will see quite often on menus through out the country. What impressed me was that they took the simple and made it fantastic. It has been quite some time since I have left a restaurant with no real criticisms. I had an extremely pleasant experience. The service was on par, even though it was our servers first day, he was nervous yet eager and attentive.
My friend and I shared homemade Turshia Salad, a combination of pickled vegetables, usually carrots, cauliflower, cabbage… but every recipe varies by person or family. I found it to be quite good. The veggies were crisp and preserved in a good brine, not too salty. It was a good size protion to share and enjoy with our rakia.
My friend ordered the Kyfte with garnish. The kyufte were good, quality meat, well cooked, but the salads could have used a bit more seasoning, especially the beans.
Overall, it was a really pleasant experience. I look forward to returning and seeing if the consistency remains the same. The next time I will be sure to leave my car at home and really explore the forthcoming rakia menu!