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Restaurant Uno Enoteca

The wines of Bulgaria have mostly been impressing me with their value but not their complexity, to say the least. This has become so universally true that I have coined the phrase "Bulgarian Soft" to refer to them in my notes. It was time to venture forth to one of the better restaurants in the country to see what throwing money at it would bring.

What follows is a detailed review of the restaurant, but only a generic review of of the wines. The restaurant that received our patronage this evening was the Uno Enoteca in Sofia, Bulgaria.

 

This was the first white linen restaurant we have had a chance to visit in Bulgaria, and we had a great time. The staff was attentive and friendly, and everyone did their best to ensure that we enjoyed ourselves.

The food was simple. A little too simple for my taste. We tried ordering more Continental style fare, but even early on a Friday night, the kitchen had run out of our favorites. We opted then to try the more traditional Bulgarian style of dining, which they refer to as BBQ and I put under the heading of: kill it and grill it.

The Muscat from the Thracian region we opened the dinner with was delightful. Aromatic but crisp and dry. I have really been enjoying the many Muscats I have tried in Bulgaria. They all tend towards the drier side, and have been more successful than the other aromatic style whites I have tried.

I started with rabbit stuffed in a nest of potatoes, which I had high hopes for. It was alas, rather bland. There was no sauce at all, just a tiny piece of rabbit in the center of half dollar sized fried shredded potatoes. This was served with warm slices of cucumbers and carrots. There was no hint of herb, spice or apparently even salt in the dish.

My wife settled for a carpaccio of beef when we learned the carpaccio of duck was sold out. It was served in the traditional manner, with shavings of parmesan cheese and arugula, with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil. This is mostly notable because olive oil is not common in Bulgaria, and it was good to see. The carpaccio was fresh, thin, and pretty much like every other time we have had it. Nothing to rave about, but perfectly nice.

Next up in the wine department we had a relatively pricey Merlot / Cab blend. At 140 Bulgarian Leva (around $115) it was the most expensive wine we have tried, even given the usual restaurant markup. It lived up the the "Bulgarian Soft" moniker, but with delightful fruit and more complexity we had seen in other Bulgarian wines.

I am a fan of the soft style in wines, Zinfandels and Pinot Noir usually being more to my taste than tannic Cabs. If your tastes are similar than you will enjoy a foray into Bulgarian wines. If you expect well defined tannins in your Cabs and Merlots, you are likely to be disappointed. I have only tried a dozen or so examples to date, but this seems to be the pattern I am noticing.

For our main course we had grilled meats. Lamb and a veal steak, ordered by weight. They came unadorned with limp grilled vegetables their only accompaniment. They were cooked perfectly, but they were, to us, rather boring. No complaints, it is just a matter of taste, and the Bulgarian love of grilled meats is not one that we really share.

The house kindly surprised us with a taste of an Austrian dessert wine, but I never got a good look at the bottle, and it happened too quickly to get details. Suffice it to say it was rich and flavorful and one of the highlights of the evening.

We finished with a small chocolate soufflé that was perfectly nice. I prefer to see them served with a bit of creme anglais, but once a saucier.... Not everyone share my penchant for sauce on everything.

The ambiance of Uno Enoteca was delightful. With outdoor seating under an awning making the most of the warm summer night. The fresh air also helped disperse the ever present cigar and cigarette smoke that is a fact of life pretty much everywhere outside of the US.

The service was very good, in fact the only Western European service we have experienced in Eastern Europe to date. Usually the wait staff do their best not to be at all obtrusive, which looks a lot like being ignored to our standards. At Uno they were attentive, knew how to pour wine without over pouring, and did a fine job of making sure that everything was as perfect as it could be.

I definitely recommend Uno Enoteca to anyone dining in Sofia, and if your tastes run close to mine I can only hope that their full menu is available when you visit.

Stephen Reiss
Dr. Reiss is the author of the award winning site WineEducation.com. He taught the Aspen Wine Program for over 10 years, training hundreds of professionals and wine lovers alike. He is currently winging his way around the world on the trip of a lifetime.

Uno Enoteca Restaurant