A decade ago, Sofia was not a capital that catered to exotic tastebuds. When Indian cuisine first made its appearance, Bulgarian diners approached either tentatively, or with a bottle of mouth rinse close at hand.
Nowadays Sofians have got used to a more diverse assault on their plates. The city's culinary fare is now far more cosmopolitan, well served by Indian, Chinese, Nepalese and – more recently – Japanese restaurants.
Blue Moon, the first Thai restaurant in Sofia and the latest addition to the ever-expanding Asian cuisine, has drawn rave reviews from diners. Since it opened in January, it has proved so popular that it is usually fully booked on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. So reservations are essential for all those evenings.
Blue Moon offers diners a unique blend of flavours catering to different palates. Thai cuisine, in contrast to Indian, tends to mix tastes – an exotic and eclectic blend of hot and spicy on one hand and sweet on the other. Subtle sauces, shades and hues come to you from a chef experienced in Thai cuisine. Whether you favour the tang of citrus, the delicate cream of coconut or the sharper sensation of hot chillies, Blue Moon has everything for you.
The owner Angel Lingorski, who runs one of the Black Sea's most exclusive establishments, El Balcon Del Mundo at Kaliakria, sent his chef for training to the kitchen of the best Thai restaurant on the Costa Del Sol. The result is a challenging but comforting combination of mouthwatering Oriental dishes, a breakthrough for Sofia's diners who crave something a little out of the ordinary.
The range is wide and innovative. For starters you could choose - from among other dishes - crispy spring rolls served with sweet chilli sauce or fish-cakes with chopped green beans, spiced with red curry and served with hot and sour sauce. There are also some fine soups, all of which vary in strength. Novices to Thai cuisine may enjoy chang mai, a clear vegetable Thai soup.
Going up a level (in spiciness) there's po teak, a hot and sour fish soup with shetake mushrooms, basil and lemongrass. For those more daring there's tom yum, a spicy seafood soup with galangal, lime and lemongrass.
We particularly liked the red beef curry with rice. The spiciest of the curries, it has coconut milk, ginger, red curry paste, peppers, green beans, bamboo, coriander and basil. Milder curries – yellow (with coconut milk, ginger, yellow curry paste, peanuts, potatoes, baby corn, pineapple and coriander) and green (with coconut milk, ginger, green curry paste, broccoli, green beans, bamboo, coriander and basil) – are also available.
Each dish has a designation of up to three peppers to indicate the level of spiciness.
Blue Moon recommends its extensive range of white or green wines to complement its dishes. You could choose a Spanish Vino Verde, New Zealand Riesling or a fine Brazilian wine - Rio Sol Chenin Blanc and Viognier. March will see additions to the wine list.
Wok meals – cooked in a deep frying pan – include pad kra-pow chicken noodles and pepper and tomato, and pad king, stir fried beef with noodles, vegetables, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, spring onion and basil.
Among other main dishes are cod in banana leaves served with coconut curry and – another of our favourites – roasted duck magret in Thai chili sauce with red curry paste, Sambal Oelek and ginger.
Too many restaurants in Sofia fall down on desserts, failing to wrap a meal with a memorable finale. Thankfully, Blue Moon rises to the occasion; all are exquisite. There's fried bananas in Togarashi caramel sauce and ice cream, and chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream. Our personal favourite was lemon cheesecake with mint, ginger and mango. A fine wine - sweet and light - to accompany your dessert would be Gewuerztraminer Saint Clair.
The interior is warm and welcoming with dramatic use of colour – the dark, oceanic blue of the walls decorated with delicate golden pastel leaves carved out in the shape of the sun, making for a cosy setting in the winter.
Service is punctual, scrupulously polite but not over-intrusive.
A real find, plum in the middle of Sofia, which ticks all the boxes for a wonderful meal out – novelty, location and quality. Likely to do extremely well.
Address: 27 Rakovski Str (next to Sulza i Smyah Theatre)
Tel: 0897 811 733
Open: 6pm to midnight, closed on Mondays
Credit cards: yes