Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dining Out

When we asked some of the previous Fulbrighters about food in Sarajevo, they couldn’t seem to think of anything to say. This worried me. What would we find? Would we be bored silly by a bland and barely palatable diet? We shouldn’t have worried.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the restaurants here. There are no chain restaurants, and you will never be served something that has been pre-packaged, frozen or dehydrated. All the food is prepared in their own kitchen so that is a plus right from the start.

The smaller, neighborhood restaurants rely on staples that would be familiar in any American restaurant – pizza, pasta, and chicken. The servings are generally ample and while simply prepared, the food is appealing in a basic way.

The better restaurants will offer fish and calamari in addition to chicken and veal. The fish is always very fresh and served grilled. In one restaurant, there was a tank of live fish and you could pick one from the tank. In another, the waiter brought a large platter with a selection of fish that were fresh that day for our inspection. This same restaurant is on a steep hill and the tables at the windows offer a wonderful of the lights of Sarajevo. The chicken and veal is most often pounded very thin and sautéed quickly. Meals are usually accompanied by sautéed vegetables. They do a wonderful job with spinach and it is used often in the better restaurants. This is not adventurous food; you can recognize everything on your plate. But in the hands of a good cook, it can be very good and quite satisfying. You will rarely see a vegetarian dish, but there is usually a pasta dish that is meatless.

The other day we met another couple for dinner at the Sarajevo Brewery. We chose it because of its history and beautiful interior. The menu turned out – not too surprisingly in retrospect – to be what might be called a higher level of ‘bar food’. It wasn’t burgers and pizza, but every entrée was accompanied by French fries (in Sarajevo, they use the French term, pomme frites). I decided to try the veal shank. Four jaws dropped when our plates arrived. I was served the entire thigh bone – a good ten inches long, the 2” diameter bone was scraped bare at the lower six inches or so and covered with  meat at the other. It was enormous; it looked like a meal for Fred Flintstone! And accompanied by pomme frites. It turned out to be delicious. The meat was very tender and tasty. I just wish I had brought my camera – I’ve never seen a plate of food like this.

I wonder that the previous Fulbrighters had nothing to offer on the topic of food or restaurants.  Could it be that some people just don’t notice what they put in their mouth?