Even though we've been living in Tirana for about 1.5 years already, I have to admit that we haven't done a lot of discovering in the city. But recently, thanks to a great bunch of new friends, we've been introduced to quite a few interesting venues.
Wednesday evening we joined the "Dinner Club" for an enjoyable meal at a local Albanian restaurant called Floga. With about 20 of us, expats and locals, the dinner was a lively and fun event. Floga, by no means a fancy place, none-the-less served up several delicious, not run of the mill, unusual salads. Now in Tirana I usually stick with a Greek Salad, knowing exactly what it will contain, but Floga offers a tasty rucola and parmesan salad, a Salad A La Floga with avocado and bacon, and a tossed salad with tiny mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes. Good grilled meats, and a plate of fresh fruit made a complete meal, along with good Albanian wines. And for a mere 12 usd/person none of us could complain.
Thursday I met with some friends at a club called Enigma in order to plan an upcoming Christmas cocktail we're organizing. We only had coffees and we were just about the only ones there (it was in the afternoon), but the decor had recently been redone and it was really quite attractive with plenty of cosy seating areas and good soft lighting. It seemed like a nice place for our party. I'll let you know how it works out.
On Friday nights, the expats in Tirana gather at the King's House restaurant for an informal dinner. It was out first time joining the group and as we had already eaten, we just had a few drinks while others ate. People start arriving around 8 and just order as they arrive, so some were just beginning to eat while others were finished. It's a really informal night and as on Wed. the group makes a lot of noise, mostly laughter. We noticed a heaping plate of frog legs (yes in Tirana!), a huge grilled trout, a mound of mussles smothered in onions and garlic, and a delicious looking creme caramel. Next time we go we'll be sure to go with hearty appetites! After everyone was finished eating, we picked up our coats and walked around the corner to a very popular bar called Flares, where Karaoke night was in full swing. What fun! It was my first time at a Karaoke night and it is obviously a popular event in Tirana. Everyone was singing along and jumping up out of their seats to dance. Those with courage took the microphone, while others just watched and enjoyed the show. We discovered that one of our friends had been in a Swedish punk band in his younger days, complete with green hair and a safety pin through his cheek. Who would have guessed??
Saturday night we all returned to Flares for a good-bye party and potluck dinner. Even at 6 pm the place was already busy and full of good energy. We ended up with far too much food, and I would give the best dish award to N's amazing Indian curry with all the trimmings. Such a treat here in a city devoid of even one Indian restaurant. Some of us left just before the live band performed, but we heard it was really great. We walked or taxied over to Take 5, a jewel of a jazz club on the Elbasan Road. This club is definitely a place for adults, as compared to Flares which has a younger crowd. Take 5 is beautifully decorated, with wonderful B&W photos of all the jazz greats on the walls. We sat at the bar and let Barney, the bartender, whip up surprise cocktails for us. What a treat! He's worked all over Europe and is truly a professional, knowing fabulous recipes, and having that essential friendly personality. At midnight the house band took the stage and we were WOWED by the music and the vocal power of the female singer. It turns out she is just 18 years old, but her voice and stage presence are so incredibly mature you'd think she was a diva of 40. This is such a popular place that you really need to reserve space in advance. We loved it and will definitely go back.
So there you go- my week in review. So many new places, new activities, new friends. And in case you're wondering- yep, I sang Karaoke for my first time. Can you guess which singer I sang and which song?