Posted in A Girl at Lunch, Restaurant Hopping

In Which There are Eastern European Lunches in Makati…

The decor is a trifle TOO austere...
The decor is a trifle TOO austere…

This is an undisputed truth among most foodies in this part of the world: Eastern European cuisine is hard to find in our neck of the woods.  It’s true: kielbasa sausages are only found in upmarket deli sections; pierogi dumplings are only sold at weekend specialty markets or gourmet fairs.  Honestly, I can’t see the reason why because the key elements of Eastern European food – meat, carbs, and beer – all resonate so well with Filipinos who are keen on all three.

Fortunately, there is a new micro-chain that is changing that mindset one plate at a time and it’s called Balkan Kitchen.

Stuffed Pljeskavica with rice
Stuffed Pljeskavica with rice

Balkan Kitchen refers to its food as Yugoslavian home cooking – which is to say it has elements of Serbian, Slavic, and Croatian culture in each dish.  It mostly specializes in grilled meats and classic East European fare such as goulash, stuffed cabbage rolls, and offal (liver cooked with bacon, specifically.)

The grilled specialties include a massive semi-circle of beef mince enfolding a generous wad of mozzarella cheese.  This appears on the menu as the stuffed pljeskavica.

Yes, there is cheese in there.
Yes, there is cheese in there.

Formally known in Slavic cookbooks as sarska pljeskavica, it is usually made with beef and a hard sheep’s milk cheese.  Here, though, the more tender and familiar mozzarella doubles as a sauce that keeps the grilled beef patty moist and flavorful within.  Perfect with the tart, vinaigrette-dressed mound of cabbage salad that goes with it.

Cevapcici with fries
Cevapcici with fries

Another time, I had the cevapcici.  This is a plate with eight small skinless sausages served with fries and a lettuce and grilled onion salad.

These little snags were very savory; I supposed they were made with a mix of pork and beef, though the rather gamy savor speaks that it was bulked out with the latter.  Tender and meaty, these needed no embellishment and the sauce that came with it – actually a simple swirl of tomato ketchup and mayo – worked better with the fries.

And if you love cheese, by the way…

Fried feta; you can't say no to it
Fried feta; you can’t say no to it

…you would do well to order some fried feta on the side.  Here, the sharp and salty white cheese is wrapped in thin pastry and fried till the surface is all crispy and the insides are soft, wobbly, creamy, and unctuously yum.

That said, if you want a taste of something different yet familiar, head to the Balkan for a taste of Eastern Europe.

Balkan Kitchen: 3rd Floor – RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue cor. Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Salcedo Village, Makati



Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended in June 2016 These days, she works full time at Philippine Tatler as a features writer under the nom de guerre Marga Manlapig. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel. Follow her on Instagram at @midgekmanlapig.

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