‘Naslada’ is a Bulgarian word connoting a relaxing, enjoyable evening with friends. There could be no better description for the Bowling Green eatery we visited recently. Capturing Mediterranean and Eastern European influences, the restaurant was opened in 2003 by Chef Boby Mitov, who moved to Bowling Green from Bulgaria as a “trailing spouse” when his wife, Mariana, took a job with Bowling Green State University in the Apparel Merchandising and Product Development Program. Unable to find the foods he was used to, Mitov opened the restaurant to serve his new neighbors cultural flavors he was homesick for, prepared as they are in the ‘old country.’
We were greeted warmly with what we understand is the “Bulgarian way” by Ricky, a BGSU student who was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, outspoken and helpful. The music that flooded the room had a Greek influence, an active, upbeat tempo with a 1/2 beat.
Ricky brought house-made breads to the table, including a tangy sourdough, cut curiously into diamond shapes, a sun-dried tomato Focaccia and a French baguette, accompanied by an olive oil and parmesan dipping sauce.
Comfortable, with simple tables and chairs, and adorned with Bulgarian garments and art pieces, the space invites customers to sit and enjoy. We began with the seasoned feta, authentic Bulgarian cheese, drizzled with olive oil, folded in parchment and sprinkled with a variety of seasonings. The creamy, warm result spread easily on the slices of housemade baguette. The Rustic Platter, a second appetizer, with an array of sausages and cheeses ranging from prosciutto to peppered sausage to several goat cheeses, some hard and others softer, was also a welcome starter, easily shared.
The wine list affords a limited but representative number of European wineries. Not so much French and Spanish, seen frequently on area lists, but other regions including the restaurant’s Bulgarian homeland. We enjoyed a bottle of Yanta Cab Franc, a rather unique selection as the Cabernet Franc grape is usually elbowed out by its cousin, the Cab Sauvignon (we have an affinity for Cab Franc, long story). The Yanta is recommended as rare and choice.
Old world flavors
We enjoyed the beef stroganoff, referred to by Ricky as the BGS (apparently an in house reference to beef goulash stroganoff), with its tubes of pasta with tender beef tossed in a creamy yet peppery sauce. The portobello Gyuvech (pron. guy-yoo-vich) was served in a hot pot, a vegetarian menu option with mushrooms, onions, spinach and roasted red peppers over basmati rice and wonderfully seasoned lutensila sauce. The red lentil stew with steamed cauliflower and root vegetables topped with a baked italian cheese blend was hearty and filling.
The Spicy Shrimp Kavarma, also served in a earthenware clay pot, came with a spicy cayenne white wine sauce with plenty of tail on shrimp amid bell peppers, leeks, sweet onion and tomatoes.
The pasta Rasta, a mixture of a variety of vegetables, including pan seared portobello, and multi-colored rotini pasta in a spicy, light cream sauce was accompanied by the Shopska salad, a traditional village salad with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and roasted red peppers all stacked attractively and ringed with red onion slices on a the plate.
The restaurant, relatively quiet on the weeknight summer’s evening that we visited, perhaps allowed Ricky, who admitted he was a transplant from New York, in Bowling Green to attend school, to be more attentive. However, his service lead us to question “who taught this guy how to serve tables?” He made our evening.
After the dessert options were explained to us, we selected the espresso ice, crystallized house-blend espresso, topped with honey-infused whipped sour cream and sprinkled with cocoa, which packed a semi-savory, caffeinated punch. The winner was the hazelnut crepe, a made to order French crepe with a rum flambe, accompanied by organic vanilla ice cream, all eagerly shared by our table mates.
The entire evening was a warm glow, enhanced by the wine, good conversation, excellent food, and attentive service. And though I’m not sure of the Bulgarian term for appreciation (Google Translate only travels so far), any trip to Nasalada will certainly engender those feelings.
182 S Main St Bowling Green
419-373-6050 | nasladabistro.com