In one of the many signs that the Filipino culinary taste becoming global is legit, Serbian cuisine is being served in Metro Manila. Okay, so Serbia isn’t really the unfamiliar territory that it seems to be. Cold War aficionados know that it’s the most prominent member of the former Yugoslavia, and hardcore NBA fans will be able to name some players from the country. But, really, is there anything else significant we know about Serbians? Much less their dishes?
So earlier this month, when I met up with some classmates from high school, we decided to be adventurous on our dinner and tried this restaurant in Makati owned by a Serbian expatriate serving dishes from his motherland. It’s called Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking and it’s actually a spin-off of his popular Balkan Express in San Juan. (By the way, the owner, Marko Batricevic, was a member of the DLSU Green Archers squad that won the 2007 UAAP men’s basketball championship.)
I haven’t been to the latter to make an accurate comparison, but judging by the pictures of Balkan Express in other blogs, the Balkan restaurant in Makati goes for a higher-end route. Not surprising, since it’s in a neighborhood with understated elegance.
On a late Sunday evening, the restaurant is quiet. You wouldn’t know that it’s popular with only a handful of diners speaking in hushed tones. The tables are far enough apart that the place feels larger than it really is.
Service is prompt and courteous, and the waitstaff is knowledgeable enough to assist you on your order. This is especially helpful as many of the names of the dishes are unpronounceable.
Despite the unfamiliar-sounding names, the dishes themselves are anything but. Traditional Serbian food is dominated by meat, and is usually hearty, which should bode well with fans of comfort food (who isn’t?).
It’s hard not to find comfort in a hamburger, especially when it’s served on a bed of fries. It’s why the Cevapcici Burger is a popular order. A common recipe in Southeastern Europe, the cevapcici consists of grilled meat and served in a variety of ways. Depending on the country, it can be beef, lamb, pork, or any combination of the three. In Balkan, it’s grilled minced beef and you can order it either as a burger or as a platter.
The Stuffed Pljeskavica, another traditional Serbian dish, is also ground beef but filled with mozzarella and served either with fries or rice.
Truth be told, Balkan’s price point was a little above our planned budget for that evening, but we didn’t care. Uhm, no, we actually cared a bit. But in the end, we enjoyed our meal and had an overall good experience. I guess that’s what the restaurant is about after all.
Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking
G/F Maripola Bldg.,
109 Perea Street,
Legazpi Village, Makati