Bulgaria is the place for generous servings or several courses at modest prices. Homely restaurants known as "kruchmas" gather friends to spend time and eat and drink in an atmosphere reminiscent of English pubs. Fish house Pri Yafata is not one of them.
Instead it’s an ideal venue for intimate groups who want to enjoy an exclusive fish menu and are willing to spend more than in kruchmas or pizzerias. Still, Pri Yafata’s prices are very reasonable and rewarding: Apart from well-prepared fish, service is conscientious and attentive.
Fish House Pri Yafata has fine cuisine and a cosy atmosphere. The two-storey house with large terrace is decorated in turquoise blue, light yellow and other maritime elements. Fishing nets, hemp ropes and paintings of boats take you far from busy urban life. Wooden wine shelves painted in white serve as a wall covering in some rooms.
Despite the variety of details, the interior is calm, with small rooms almost like cabinets. This is a place to enjoy a quiet meal with friends without echoing noise or loud background music, which makes conversation impossible in some restaurants.
Cosiness is created with casual tablecloths and curtains and blue and white paper napkins. The portions, however, are far from casual. Fish is served on dishes as if taken from a Swedish table in a high-class mansion. The white porcelain plates are unusually large for one serving. Moreover, the plates are decorated with a colourful accent of diced fresh vegetables. The tiny saucers placed on each plate are also fascinating.
Being so far from the water, you will feel a hint of the exotic when reading the menu built around seafood. Trout and "white fish", of course, are common options in many restaurants in Sofia, but rarely will you find exotic choices like shark or lobster.
A small starter plate and basket of toasted bread, both included in the price, make you feel pampered from the outset. Three balls of spreads for the bread – tomatoes, aubergines and caviar – were both pretty and tasty. Not much for four persons but enough to engender a relaxed mood.
The service deserved a nod. Waiters expertly answered our questions about the freshness and quality of the fish, telling how the carp was newly delivered but sometimes has a slight muddy taste due to storage conditions. The waiter betrayed no puzzlement or condescension when we ordered a headless trout because one of our company preferred not to stare into the fish’s eyes while eating – a sure sign of professionalism. Especially enchanting was the timing of the delivery. In Sofia it’s the norm to bring plates and bowls as soon as they are ready, irrespective of whether some people have to wait longer than others. Here we all got our salads together, as well as the main courses.
At Pri Yafata all the salads were combinations of excellent ingredients. Greek salad (5.40 leva), captain’s salad with crab (6.90 leva), Caprese salad with tomatoes and mozzarella (6.90 leva), and Green salad Calabria salad with avocado, parmeggiano and dried tomatoes (7.90 leva) were not abundant but ideal as starters. Yellow goat’s cheese with walnuts and honey made a nice addition (4.90 leva), although the nuts and honey played mostly aesthetic roles.
Typical fish dishes at Pri Yafata are thick cutlets or whole fish. Most prices are given a 100g, usually approximately 300g of fish per serving. The most expensive choice would have been a whole lobster, weighing one kilogram and costing 12.90 leva for 100g. We were content with more decent options: the grilled trout was delicious and juicy (3.60 leva/100g), as well as shark cutlets (4.10 leva/100g). Carp (3.90 leva/100g) was also nice, although could not compete with fish cutlets (4.10 leva/100g). Close to delicacy was the garnish with rosemary potatoes, not over-baked or greasy and marvellously tasty with a hint of garlic.
For dessert we ate classic crème brûlée (4.90 leva) with a crispy sugar covering. The coffee (1.90 leva) was one one of the best I have had in Sofia over the past year. A great ending to a fine dinner.
The only irritating detail was the untidiness of the upstairs cloakroom. The second visit proved, however, that dirty surfaces resulted from some customers, not the restaurant’s poor maintenance. That time we didn’t find anything to complain about.
If you search for information on Pri Yafata, you will find out that there is also Kratchma Pri Yafata and Mehana Pri Yafata, which are restaurants with traditional Bulgarian cuisine and part of the same restaurant chain. Fish house Pri Yafata is maybe the least known member of the family but well worth a visit.
Price: $$$ ($ up to 12 leva a person for three courses; $$ 12 to 20 leva pp; $$$ 20 to 35 pp; $$$$ 35 and over pp)
91 Tsar Ivan Asen II, Sofia
Tel: 02/943 40 40
Open: 10am - midnight
Credit cards: yes