As we roamed the streets of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, we were eager for a meal that would blow our minds.
Aware that this was most of the time not the case, and that we may be let down, we plodded along hand in hand with empty stomachs.
Our adventures brought us to the doorstep of Pakema; the best restaurant in Sofia, in my opinion.
Bulgaria is a new destination for my husband and I, meaning another country to tick off of our list, and boy oh boy did it fulfill our dreams of happiness.
From the outside Pakema doesn’t look like much. It’s opposite a beautiful park where you can grab a beer and day drink on the grass, just feet away from residential apartments and almost hidden shyly behind the huge trees lining the street.
Upon our entrance we were pleased to see the modern hip vibe the place had. Some parts open roofed, and each nook and cranny filled with quirky vintage decorations. I instantly loved it!
We’d noticed that it was sometimes a challenge in Sofia with the language barrier so far at a few restaurants, but we got lucky. Our server was fantastic, and came with an excellent sense of humor that if not portrayed with words, then most definitely by hand gestures and facial expressions. We bonded right away, and an English menu was placed in front of us – I believe the only one they had.
The choices were endless and the price conversion so amazingly good that we felt like Kings, running wild and ordering anything and everything that tickled our fancy.
We decided on mussels for starters, because I really am a creature of habit, and I just can’t get enough of those deliciously tasty onyx looking shells.
What a feast! For the eyes, and for the stomach alike. I believe I even said ‘oh my god’ as they were set down in front of me so elegantly it was as if they floated majestically into place. My husband looked at me. I looked at my husband. Steadily I unwillingly pushed the mussels into the middle of the table, to assemble their sharing position, without breaking eye contact; watching carefully to make sure he didn’t sneak in a first grab before I could. It was on; from this point onwards we’d destroy mussel after mussel in a frantic whirlwind of shells and forks; terrified one might get more than the other – we’re pretty competitive when it comes to good food, and we’re not ashamed to let it out.
I have a saying that always makes me laugh.
‘What’s on your plate is ours. What’s on my plate is mine.’
Of course we don’t follow that saying clearly, as we’re constantly sharing, but sometimes it’s just funnily true – thank god I have the best husband in the world.
Anyway, back to the mussels. They were so perfect with the chopped tomatoes, and I realized I’d never thought to add tomatoes to the dish before; I was pleasantly surprised at just how good the combination was, along with the garlicky white wine sauce. Every few mussels I’d say ‘wow, they’re just so good’ as though somehow my husband didn’t know, or that it wasn’t an obvious thing; he’d nod in agreement and we’d continue our descent to the bottom of the pan. Waiting patiently at the bottom was a swimming pool of a delicious kind, a nectar of the gods kind, a garlic lovers dream… and I almost wanted to take a leaf out of my ramen eating books and bring the bowl to my head and slurp up the broth – I refrained, somehow.
Accompanied with a little bread I scooped up any leftover tomato pieces, and as much sauce as my bread could handle without falling apart, and stuffed the whole thing into my mouth. Oh, how I wish you could share smells and taste via an article. These mussels meant business, and as the last of the treat vanished into the pits of our stomachs, we waited patiently… eager for our main, which would be a whopping lamb shank.
At first we wondered if one main would be enough to share, but our server – through a series of gestures and laughs – told us the shank was fit for two and one person alone would probably eat themselves into a food coma. We took his warning, and he really wasn’t kidding.
The food gods had delivered yet again. It was big, it was juicy, and it was oh so deliciously medium rare. I clapped, my husband laughed, and we started to dish it out onto plates.
I hate to admit it, but it was SO good that I could have definitely eaten one to myself, maybe that gives you a lot to say about who I am as a person. My husband agreed, so I guess, at least we’re the same – ha.
Every bite was heavenly. The rosemary and thyme was so perfectly added when seasoned that I’d never had lamb like it. I’d go as far as saying one of the best I’ve ever had, and those potatoes!! Oh boy, those potatoes were cooked good and right, with what tasted like animal fat.
Once again the ‘wows’ started and the ‘can you believe how good it is’ comments were made, and the rest of the time our mouths spent chewing happily away and sipping merrily on local red wine. We really were living the dream, or so to say.
We were stuffed. Pakema had left a mark on our waists and on our hearts.
We’d be back another two times before our trip was up.
If you ever visit Romania’s capital of Sofia then head on over this absolute gem of an establishment. Dreams were filled here, and it’s living proof that food magic really does exist.
Happy and in love with heavy bellies, we stepped out into the night, excited for more food adventures to come.
Until next time,