Hamachi

I was looking for a place to have lunch in Sofia and I recieved some recommendations for Hamachi. It is owned by a group that runs quite a few notable restaurant that such as Cine Cita, Piccolo Casa and Sushi Bar. I had dinned their quite a few years ago and after reviewing my blog post, my experience was somewhat the same.

I drove past the place a few times as the enterance is back a bit off the street and sidewalk. The interior is bright and zen… very Asian. I got better photos this time around since I was there for lunch.

Once again I sat in the room with the tree, which was looking much healthier since my last visit. I no longer felt the need to give it a sip.

I again ordered the miso soup which, was quite good. The only flaw was that the tofu was a bit cold on the inside. I assume that the broth is made and the toss ins are added to order.

The presentation of the sushi has improved and I enjoyed my selections. I steered clear of the pre-made sushi served by the slice and ordered full rolls. The shrimp tempura was really nice, crispy and tender. Since I was the only customer, I had a chance to pick my server’s brain. I asked him about the sauce on the shrimp tempura rolls, I detected a hint of star anise, which he couldn’t confirm since it was not made in house, but in a bottle that you could purchase at the ubiquitous Alex shop. The issue about the chunks of veggies still remain. I believe that vegetables should be thinly sliced (avocado) and the carrots and cucumbers julienned… it is obviously more work, but the prices are high enough for the effort. 
The ingredients were fresh and authentic, but the menu lacked creativity. It was a bit boring, but on the bright side no cream cheese, at least I didn’t see any on the menu. The service was attentive and they seemed quite knowledgeable about offerings. I am not in a hurry to return, but my server recommended I visit the other Japanese restaurant in their portfolio Sushi Bar. Judge for yourself.

Hamachi
3 Orfey St. (Lozenetz) 
Sofia, Bulgaria
Hours Mon – Sun: 11:30 am – 12:00 am 
 Phone +359 (0) 88 4262244, +359 (0)89 4262244
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Happy Sushi

I have resisted the lure that others have found in Happy Sushi. I find the Happy chain in general a horrible ripoff of those theme restaurants in the United States, like TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays or Red Robin, Outback Steakhouse, you get the gist, but I have always been smitten by the idea of sushi on a conveyer belt ever since I saw one in Heathrow Airport; yet dashing through terminal 5 to get a connection flight left no time for novelty sushi. When “The” Mall opened on Tzarigradsko Shosse, I was excited at finally getting the chance to indulge via Happy Sushi.

I am not sure if my expectations were set too high on revolving sushi or my taste for cream cheese is waining, but it was not good. Almost every roll had cream cheese, I mean, I get the Philadelphia roll, but seriously gobs and gobs everywhere. They also were quite heavy with the mayonnaise on all the rolls with out cream cheese…  not to mention parsley… Mind boggling. I did find one or two decent rolls, but it was quite a few revolutions before anything remotely decent crossed my path. I decided after that “meal” no more Happy Sushi!
Well, after some thought and suggestions from people on my Facebook page that the one on Rakovski St. in Sofia was much better, I decided to give it another go, even though I swore I wouldn’t unless someone else was footing the bill. While attending Taste 2012, my daughter and I were starving and needed grub. Happy Sushi was right on the corner, so it was just plain old convenient to hop in for a few rolls.
Whatever I ordered this time was still not good. This time my expectations were low. I just wanted to get something decent to satisfy my hunger. Maya and I trudged through, she went all veggie with cucumber, avocado and carrot, although she did try some of the salmon hoso-maki, when the meal ends and the pickled ginger was the best part of the meal… something is awry. While there are people that are satisfied with Happy Sushi, I am certainly not one of them. I will try my damnedest to avoid having to eat there, but who knows what the future will hold, hopefully not having to endure another evening with the fishy smell lingering in my mouth…
115 Tsarigradsko Shosse Blvd, Sofia
phone 0882 999 013 
100 James Bourchier Blvd, Sofia 
phone 0884 804 040 

96 G.S. Rakovski Str, Sofia
phone 0882 999 012 

Sushi Express

After a long day of strolling and exploring the streets of Sofia… the idea of what to have for dinner was upon us… walking home through from Петте Кьошета (Five Corners) toward our apartment, we passed a new addition, well, new for me.  My husband and I usually avoid sushi in Sofia and Bulgaria in general because the quality, price and availability of fresh fish is limited and sketchy to say the least.  Since I am pregnant, I am limited to cooked fish and vegetarian options, so I figured why not give them a try?

The menu is limited with no exotic sushi ingredients; carrots, cucumbers, sprouts, avocado, salmon, tuna, shrimp, artificial crab sticks, cream cheese… they did how ever offer a fusion ingredient of mozzarella, which sounded completely unappealing. To be fair, they are called Sushi Express, not “Gourmet Sushi Express”.  They offer hoso maki (small or thin roll), futo maki (fat roll), ura maki (inside out roll) sashimi and nigiri (hand formed); a basic sushi menu at a reasonable price, considering other “high-end” or “up-scale” sushi restaurants in Sofia. 
The menu board.
These offerings are basic and for the most part served promptly in-house or for deliver, but they seemed geared more towards delivery and take-out.  Angel and I opted for take-out.  We waited about 10 minutes for them to prepare our rolls; we were the only ones in the joint and it was early for dinner, so they didn’t seem to have a back log of orders.  What I observed, which was really disconcerting was that on the back counter, a bunch or pre-made rolls were just sitting there with no refrigeration or regard for the safety for the raw fish that they contained.  This right there was a major red flag.
As for the the food itself, I was happy that they provided ample gari or pickled ginger.  The soy sauce the served seemed to be Kikkoman (judging from the bottle) and they had the low-sodium option, which Angel and I are fond of and purchased a 1.5L bottle of at Alex, earlier in the day for our homemade sushi nights! The rolls were basic, the shari-su, which is the seasoning added to the rice because su-shi means “vinegar rice; was barely present and not a contributing factor in the taste.  My vegetarian rolls were a disappointment because the attention to detail was completely lacking, not to mention unhygienic.  The rolls smelled distinctly of fish, which means our sushi “masters” didn’t bother to clean the knife between cutting the different rolls and not familiar with proper rolling technique that I was taught at The Culinary Institute of America, which is no “pinwheels”.  I am not surprised by these occurrences, but the smell was a put off considering it was a cucumber-avocado roll.
The “pinwheel” direct from their website.
Bottom line: would I order from them again?  Probably not, but however even when I am not pregnant, I am subject to food cravings and desires and if I need a sushi fix in a pinch, while at my apartment in Sofia, I MIGHT, order from them and try my luck, hoping for a cucumber-avocado roll minus the fishy aroma. Knowing their food safety habits, I will stick with veggie hoso-maki because their veggie futo-maki included cream cheese, which I don’t believe is a good ingredient choice even with salmon in the “Philadelphia” roll (the cream cheese was not Philadelphia… it was a cheaper imitation.) If you are feeling brave, take a chance… you might have a more positive experience than we did!
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IWC Charity Bazaar… Madness

Every year the International Women’s Club of Sofia has a holiday charity bazaar. Individual countries set up stalls and sell various items that are unique to that country i.e food, crafts, grocery products, which are difficult to locate in Sofia etc… Last year, I tried helping out with the American stall, but my job didn’t give me much time. This year, my contribution was limited to using my husband as a mule to smuggle ranch dressing, taco seasoning and good seasons salad dressing in his suitcase, which will be sold at inflated prices to help the needy.

Yesterday was the first time I actually attended the bazaar and it was madness. I had envisioned strolling from stall to stall checking out all of the international goodies, but not the case. People were insane. My daughters were being pushed around and knocked into, I even took a few hits. I hope hundreds of thousands of euros were raised because something you see very often in Bulgaria, especially in the big shopping malls such as CCS & Mall of Sofia are overfilled parking lots, but empty shops; people just walking the mall as if it were some giant indoor fitness track.
My favorite part was the food. We were starving when we arrived and the first stall came to was Russia they were selling some meat filled bread rolls. They were good, but the girls were only satisfied with a few bites.

Yummy meaty goodness!

Boryana had lead us to some new Austrian culinary treats, by sticking her fingers in everything, which we had to buy. The girls didn’t really like anything, so Angel and I had to finish it off.
The poppy seed cake was quite different, yet tasty.

At the Pakistani stall, I tried a Samosa, which was quite good. I would love to find a recipe and give them a try.
Because of all the people, it was really hard to even get near some of the tables. We didn’t stay too long, but here are a random sampling of some stalls.

At the Japanese stall, they would write your name in Japanese

My peeps… actually I don’t know any of them, but still, my peeps!

I loved that the Cuban stall served Mojito’s at 10 am on a Sunday!

Georgia, complete with Vodka!

Brasil, if you couldn’t tell!

The lovely ladies of Ireland serving up Irish coffee.
Koos snacking on some Dutch mini pancakes.


Armenian BBQ pork “Khorvats”

Sweden: I am kicking myself that I didn’t get some lingonberry sauce!

I can’t imagine what it is like putting together an event like this. The woman that organized it need a tremendous amount of congratulations for such a successful event. But next year, it might need to be 2 days, just to ease the amount of people traffic. I didn’t get a chance to buy as much as I would have liked to because I couldn’t get near the tables.