Bosnian food, anyone?
The Balkan is Richmond’s little own chunk of Bosnia.
I was lucky enough to have a fabulous Bosnian friend back in Texas. She had taken me and my (Americanized-palate-eating) friends to a little Bosnian eatery in Houston called the Pita http://grublikeagirl.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/as-seen-on-t-v/. This place was different and also outstanding. So of course I was enthused to hear about a Bosnian restaurant here in Richmond. And also conveniently close to my casa.
Balkan is located off Patterson Rd, close to the intersection of Parham. It’s in a little random shopping center that’s easy to miss (I had to turn around once). The Balkan’s interior is casual and clean. Nothing too over the top or underwhelming. The wait staff is friendly, cute, and patient… even if I botched some pronunciations when ordering off the menu. Why don’t you easily pronounce Cevap, Akkawi, and Lepinja?
We started with the Burek ($6), which is hand stretched puff pastry filled with cheese. How can you go wrong with this? It’s simple, flaky, and hits the spot. Burek’s flaky layers enables you to fulfill those inner childhood habits by peeling back each layer and sinking your teeth into the warmth. This is the same thing I do with crescent rolls and flaky biscuits. I know you know what I’m talkin’ about.
The Balkan offers a sampler called the Mixed Grill Platter ($22). It serves two and is boasting with variety meat, Lepinja bread, and veggie of choice. I rarely grub down on red meat but with this plate in front of me, I went to town. The protein ranges from your standard beef and chicken kabob and then gets all Bosnian with Cevap and Pljeskavica. What’s that you ask? Here’s the scoop…Cevap (my favorite) is a Bosnian sausage with ground beef mixed with spices. It’s best wrapped in warm Lepinja bread and dunked in Kajmak- a creamy dairy dip, similar to clotted cream. Pljeskavica is a hamburger pattie-like mixture of two types of ground meat ranging from veal to lamb. I’m not sure what they use here.
The meal was satisfying and hearty. There were no funky tastes of unnecessary flavors, additives, or preservatives. Balkan is a meat and potatoes place, nothing is fluffy. It’s to the point and wonderful.
We chose to opt out on dessert. Too. Full.
Balkan is a exciting sidestep from the redundant American, Southern-fusion, hipster-filled restaurants that are popping up everywhere. The Balkan brings Bosnian fare to RVA in an unpretentious, real way. Experience this place for yourself, you’ll see what I mean.