Where is Bulgaria you are thinking? It borders a number of countries: inclusive of Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia. Plus, it shares a coastline with the Black Sea. Its geographical and historical location has determined its cuisine. In downtown Vancouver, near English Bay, we have our own taste of Bulgaria at Acacia Fillo Bar. The owner/chef Vera Eftouska was born in Bulgaria and has carried on the family tradition of being involved in the restaurant business. Curious about what exactly is Bulgarian food? Read on and you will discover “fillo heaven.”
Vera was formally trained as a chef. This, combined with her love of cooking and pride in her Bulgarian heritage, led her to open a restaurant on Denman about eight years ago. From the outside, this small and casual eatery belies what is going on in the kitchen. Vera explains that Bulgarian food is like Greek and Macedonian food, but with influences from Eastern Europe. Different spices are used than her geographical neighbours.
Bulgarian cuisine utilizes more paprika and focuses garlic, oregano, rosemary and other seasoning in many of the dishes. Fillo pastry is used in many authentic homemade Bulgarian dishes. This unique food is not spicy, yet it hits the tastebuds like the best possible comfort food. All their food is baked and not deep-fried. You will find the food very healthy and served in large portions. It is not rich nor is it light food.
The appetizers were up first and the original Sofia was a huge hit. This fillo pastry is filled with Bulgarian feta cheese. The dish arrived warm and was empty in a couple of minutes. This appetizer is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The feta taste is obvious on the palate and works perfect with the fillo pastry. There is a small dish of sour cream for those that appreciate that taste offset.
Next up was the very popular Salmon Croquettes appetizer. When croquettes are made correctly they can fill your mouth with flavour. These croquettes were ideal with moistness, not greasy and with a good dill flavour profile. Lots of salmon, potatoes and dill inside each croquette. The side salad was fresh and the dressing worked well with the croquettes.
A very authentic Bulgarian entrée is the Burek. This specific Burek comes with ground beef, kashkaval (yellow cheese made of sheep’s milk), cheese and spinach. You can see from the picture below it comes in a bundle that is flaky, tasty and perfectly blended. The spices and seasoning are subtle. The meat nicely roasted. The yams, potatoes and roasted peppers complement the main dish very well.
Two Bulgarian fillo dishes follow with a number of choices for filling. The first Fillo dish was crispy duck and orange. The duck was very tender and overall a great balance of sweet and savoury tastes. Not sure about the duck being crispy, but it was nicely cooked which isn’t easy.
The next fillo dish was filled with ham, kashkaval cheese and bacon. How can you go wrong serving bacon to Canadians? Plus, matched with the ham and Bulgarian cheese, this entrée was devoured pretty quickly. For certain, the ham and bacon dominated the tastes. The fillo pastry worked very well with the meat and cheese. Easy to see why the Bulgarians use fillo in many of their dishes.
There are a number of desserts to choose from. Keeping with the Bulgarian theme we ordered the Mix Berry of Chocolate Stick. This sweet fillo is filled with raspberries, blueberries and large pieces of chocolate. Plus, whipping cream and chocolate on the dish which aesthetically pleases and tasty at the same time. The dish was divided into four plates and, despite the fact we were all full from the appetizers and entrées, finished very quickly. Fruit and chocolate is always a great combination.
Acacia Fillo Bar has a great reputation with the breakfast and brunch diners in the West End. They are open for lunch and dinner as well. Very inexpensive dining with appetizers around $9 and entrées ranging from $8 to $17. A litre of house wine was only $27 and it was perfect with the dinner. Plus, if you like, you can order a bottle of Bulgarian wine. The service was timely, friendly and informative.
Acacia Fill Bar
1103 Denman Street
Open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.