Balkan, is the Makati branch of Balkan Express in San Juan, the only Serbian restaurant in the country. The restaurant serving Yugoslavian home cooking was started by former La Salle player Marko Batricevic, whose playing career was cut short because of injuries. He decided to stay in the Philippines and share his country’s cuisine together with his brother.
Balkan is located across Ba Noi’s along Perea street in Makati. The bright yellow and green color scheme in the original Balkan Express has been replaced by a predominantly red motif in Balkan. The spicy interiors are accompanied by wooden furniture as well as framed historic pictures of Serbian history.
Got there a bit late so missed the Cevapcici platter they served so the first thing I got to taste was this Roasted Pepper appetizer thats not yet on the permanent menu. The pepper is roasted then olive oil and garlic is added. You might notice that the pepper is exhibiting charring only slightly, its because they had scraped off the most of the burnt portion, good on the one hand but it removes some of the smoky flavor as well as visual character. The appetizer is still a good mix of flavors and serves to whet your appetite for more dishes to come.
Next up, the Pljeskavica (P200), the traditional Serbian burger. The first thing I noticed is the unusual looking bread, quite different from the normal burger bun they had before. Marko then told us that they now bake their own breads in the spacious Makati branch, which contain no sugar so it won’t muddle the taste of the meat. This burger is really packed with filling from the cheese to the vegetables and most of all to the thick patties of meat.
This is my second taste of the Batak (P290), chicken thigh topped with melted mozzarella and my opinion that it is too safe and boring still holds. It fails to hold a candle to the other meat dishes that Balkan dishes out but for those a bit apprehensive about trying Serbian cooking, this would be a nice choice.
The dish that was devoured the fastest was the Jagnjetina (P700), a plate of super tender lamb. Dubbed their house specialty, not only is it fall off the bone tender, the spices uses are unusual and give it a unique taste that you will crave.
Stuffed Pljeskavica (P320) is for those people that want more meat and no bread. Cutting the meat open, releases generous amount of gooey cheese.
My surprise favorite of the night was the Sarma (P260), pickled cabbage stuffed with beef, rice and spices. This reminded me of the stuffed cabbage dimsum dish sharing a lot of similarities with this one. The pickles are a mix of sour and sweet that I somehow found comforting as the minced meat and rice burst out.
Butkice (P650) is a dish I’ve seen on the menu board in Balkan Express but never got to order since it required advanced notice. Am I kicking myself now for never trying this baked pork knuckle. From the caramelized skin to the flavorful meat, bones will be the only thing left and even that would be a good treat for your dogs at home.
Lost amid the meaty landscape was this salad called Sopska (P200). Feta cheese on top of cucumber, tomatoes, onions and olives.
For dessert, Palacinke (P120), thick and chewy traditional Serbian crepes filled with either Nutella or jam.
Balkan takes everything Balkan Express did well and pushes it further with the introduction of new dishes as well as the ability to bake their own bread. There might be some vegetable dishes in the menu but the real stars are for the carnivorous in us. Not all dishes are available in Balkan Express but the bread are, I can’t wait to eat Cevapcici with their new home made breads…
Balkan, Yugoslavian Home Cooking
G/F Maripola Building,
109 Perea Street, Legaspi Village
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Dinner at Six Thirty says
Interesting! I’ve never tried Yugoslavian / Serbian cuisine.