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Before 10 Atypical Bulgarian restaurant that will surprise you every time

Before 10

1 Milko Bichev Str., Sofia
+359 88 493 5857
12:00 - 22:00
(Mon - Sun)
  • Kind: Restaurant
  • Multi Kulti Recommended
  • Cards Accepted

Tags: before 10, bulgarian restaurant

“Before 10” is a different kind of Bulgarian restaurant where you won’t find the customary rugs and garments on the walls and you won’t be served shopska salad and three kebapcheta in Troyan ceramic plates. The restaurant’s owner Desislav Zvancharov and chef Alexander Kanev have a different view of what is a good authentic Bulgarian restaurant.

“Bulgarian cuisine is an unexplored territory which people can dig in and it’s important to be saved as much as possible,” Desislav says. “Years ago, a lady called Penka Mihova, opened a restaurant in Varna, called “Paraklisat” (The Chapel). Like a real culinary archeologist she had been all over the country to find the optimal number of different versions of a single recipe and their respective regional specifics and she opened this restaurant. It was a great experience to visit it. Unfortunately, it closed recently, but Mrs. Mihova was like this crazy pioneer, who inspired me a lot. And when I was thinking about where I would take guests from abroad to show them the real flavour of the Balkans, and I don’t mean the kitsch or “Balkantourist” type, we came to the idea of creating a restaurant the way we see it. I managed to get my hands on precious cook books in Bulgarian, which were printed in Constantinople in the end of XIX century for Bulgarian territories in the Ottoman empire and it turned out that the culture of the hosts and the people who were involved in the culinary arts at the time, was very high, so from today’s perspective we can learn a lot.”

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Dessislav shares his favorite Bulgarian dishes. “A really well-prepared chumlek is a dish that I like a lot. It is specific to Southwest Bulgaria, where my ancestors come from. Chumlek is a summer celebratory dish that is prepared in a similar way to kapama in the winter – when the family gathers for an important occasion. It consists of stewed veal with very specific 7 or 12 spices that are found in those lands, and is usually stewed in a pot to keep all the flavors of the spices. I also like the by-products prepared in every way. Also salad with boiled beans, red peppers and red onions.”

My favorite childhood dish was prepared by my grandmother – meatless stuffed peppers with rice. “I guess she added a little sugar, because the rice and vegetables were a little sweet. Add the sweetness of the red peppers to this and you get something incredibly tasty,” Desislav recalls with nostalgia.

The restaurant was opened in 2011. The story of the name “Before 10” is very interesting, directly reflecting the history of the place. The building was built in the early 90s and over the years, the place which houses this restaurant, was tuned into a piano bar, chalga music club, transvestite club, and all residents in the building demanded that the place be closed and never opened again. When Desislav Zvancharov purchased the property, his fellow tenants were aggressive and threatened to never allow him to open a restaurant here. “There had been concerts, live music, the building was built poorly and everything was ringing and vibrating. People were right to be scared,” Desislav says. After thousands of meetings where he tried to persuade the neighbors to agree, on one of the meetings he exploded and said, “Look, I’ll even name it “Before 10” to make sure that there will be nothing to disturb you, there will be no music!” He kept his promise.

The reasons why it’s worth visiting this restaurant are complex. “I believe that the act of going to a restaurant is often associated with food but not only. Here, it’s a complex experience and opportunity to feel like you’re in a parallel world for 2-3 hours, and this is related to the atmosphere, people’s attitude and what’s served on the plate. We have no waiters but hosts who are always willing to talk to you, understand what you need and direct you.” Of course, the main value of the place are its dishes. In “Before 10″ they try to gather authentic cheeses from all regions of Bulgaria. “You can try smilyanski cheeses, served as warm appetizers, or well-aged sheep’s milk cheese from Trigrad, which has an intriguing taste, similar to Parmesan.”

Also here you can find very delicate veal tongue, veal sweetbreads – a very rare and hard-to-find product, as well as kidneys, spleens, udders. ”These are products that Bulgarians have eaten and cooked in a variety of ways in the past centuries,” Dessislav says. “Here’s something interesting that you can try right now, because now is the season – veal shoulder, baked in walnut leaves, which gives it a non-typical, slightly smoky taste, the leaves themselves get very soft and can also be eaten. This is an extremely rare and intriguing recipe of the Lovech and Veliko Tarnovo region, given to me by people whose grandmothers used to prepare it. Our menu is constantly changing, almost every month, according to the season and the best products that are available on the market. It offers 4 salads, 4 appetizers, 4 main courses and a wide variety of desserts.

Their most frequent customers are Bulgarians but also foreigners who are brought to the restaurant by Bulgarians. “For almost 3 years of existence we have not advertised anywhere, and we rely on the good old traditional way of recommendations by word of mouth.”

Interview and photos: An Fam
Translation from Bulgarian: Boyan Boychev
Illustration: Ivan Bogdanov for Compote Collective
November 30, 2013