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.
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.
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.
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…
…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