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Philippine Primer

By: Philippine Primer - August 10, 2016

Did you miss Balkan in Perea? Fret no more as they have just revamped the branch into something more exciting, where you can go slav!

On August 8, 2016, the Balkan branch on Perea Street in Legazpi Village, Makati was formally re-opened after it was closed down for some months of renovation. The new look, which is inspired by the rich historic culture of Yugoslavia, definitely made the dining experience a lot better, especially that they also added more items on their menu.

Known for Yugoslavian home cooking, Balkan was established by Marko Batricevic together with his brother Martin Batricevic who helped him in his restaurant business. Both were present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Perea branch with invited guests to celebrate the event with them. According to Marko, he sees Balkan as “a boiling pot of different cultures and ethnicity all sharing the love for good platter of meat barbecue and round of beers.” With Balkan’s newest food offerings such as their house specialty Roasted Lamb, Boiled Lamb, Stuffed Pljeskavica, and Cevapcici, customers would surely want to try out what Balkan is all about.

BALKAN PEREA MAKATI CITY (NOW OPEN!)

By: Marko Batricevic - August 8, 2016

NOW OPEN!! LEGASPI VILLAGE, MAKATI CITY 109 Perea Street, Legaspi Village Makati City Živeli!!

Serbian knuckles, ‘bulgogi-sukiyaki,’ ‘sapin-sapin’ and other pleasures

By: Reggie Aspiras - June 2, 2016

SAKSI Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking (Mala street food na national dish ng Serbia)

By: Mikael Daez - March 29, 2016

DINE & WIN RAFFLE - GIFT VOUCHER WINNERS

By: Marko Batricevic - December 23, 2015

Full Name Prize
Laurence IsaganPhp 1000
Jon Wilbur O. TanPhp 1000
Martin MartinezPhp 500
Jazper ThongsonPhp 500
Marian RoxasPhp 500
Sherwin ImperialPhp 500
Kelvin GarciaPhp 500
Kris TampincoPhp 500
Gazelle C. PascualPhp 500
Diane PerfectoPhp 500
Ronn Marlowe RanolaPhp 500
Maria Eileen FabianPhp 500

Dine & Win - iPhone 6S Winner

By: Marko Batricevic - December 23, 2015

Our lucky winner of iPhone 6S of Dine & Win Promo!

"Thank you very much! You made my christmas 6s happier and 6s greater. More power to Balkan and prosperous 2016" - Emmanuel Villaluz.

HAMON NA GAWA SA TUPA

By: Grace Lee - November 27, 2015

Yugoslavian Home Cooking in the City

By: Cher Cabula - April 6, 2012

What I love most about Makati is that it’s a great haven to discover hidden gems of restaurants. Each street offers its own resource of food shops and all sorts of what-nots. When in Manila and if you’re in the mood or daring to try out something new, there’s a restaurant at Perea St. where you can eat some Yugoslavian Home Cooking.

Balkan is a small restaurant in Legaspi Village offering authentic Yugoslavian dishes that were kinda hard to pronounce but were oh so good to eat. The sign outside the restaurant may be a little too hard to read due to the fact that it’s written in their native language. Once you see the sign that reads similarly though then you’re at the right place.

The interiors do try to incorporate an authentic feel. Nice choice in the use of the color red on the walls to simulate one’s appetite and the touches of black and white photographs which show famous landmarks and people from the Balkan states. The owner himself (Mr. Marko Batricevic) came from one of those countries. The ceiling is also adorned with patterns that are native to the country.

First up is a traditional Goulash (Php 250). While some of the bloggers who were at the tasting event liked it, I found it a little too oily for my taste.

If you like feta cheese then you can do no wrong with starting off your meal with a Sopska Salata (Php 200). It is a salad made from cucumber, tomatoes, onions, olives and lettuce.

Our taste buds were further teased by a serving of Cevapcici (Php 280) which are traditional Serbian sausages made from spiced ground beef. I’m not a big fan of ground sausages but I liked this one very much. The spice wasn’t too overwhelming and the meat’s consistency was just right.

Next on my tasting plate were two ways that the Pljeskavica was served. One in the traditional burger way and the other was stuffed. The traditional burger, Pljeskavica (Php 200) had a big serving and with a generous side dish of fries. The patty tastes almost like Cevapcici but flattened to fit a bun. Quite delicious.

The Stuffed Pljeskavica (Php 320) blew my mind though. It’s the same meat used in Cevapcici and on the patty of the traditional burger but this time stuffed with mozzarella. I gotta say, the rice that came with it was by far the most delicious rice I’ve ever tasted. I’m saying this because I’m not a big fan of it but this type of rice might actually make me love it from now on.

The Sarma (Php 260) is a dish of pickled cabbage rolls stuffed with beef, rice and spices. It’s more because of my preference though but I wasn’t a fan of the cabbage rolls. The others seemed to like it though.

Of course, the tasting wouldn’t be complete without us getting a serving of Balkan’s famous Batak (Php 290). Batak is made from chicken meat, boneless chicken thigh to be precise which was grilled and then topped with melted mozzarella. Now I get why it became their trademark dish.

I love bell peppers and one dish that we were served wasn’t on the menu but I’m hoping that it will become a regular someday. This red bell pepper dish doesn’t look as spicy as it might look and smell, I loved it so much! It just offers a refreshing break in between meat dishes.

The two main highlights of the evening were lavishly prepared but ultimately very tasty dishes. The Butkice (Php 650) is a must-try if you’re eating at Balkan. The pork knuckles in the dish has been cooked for several hours for the meat to be as tender and soft that it’s almost like butter in your mouth. I kid you not. This is easily the best dish of the whole bunch. It’s a bit pricey but well worth it.

For fans of lamb meat, the Jagnjetina (Php 700) will be the best choice. This one has also been cooked until the meat is tender. You don’t get to slather it with mint sauce though, trust me when I say that it’s good on its own.

To finish off the feast, there’s the Palacinke (Php 120) for dessert. It’s a simple crepe dessert filled with Nutella. Nothing special here but it’s a nice way to cap off a full meal.

For meat lovers, Balkan will be a sure hit. Although it might not be as popular as Chinese or Japanese cuisine, Yugoslavian home cooking can easily become Filipino favorites. The taste palette is not as foreign as you might deem it to be, in fact I’m pretty sure most people will like it. Sometimes it’s really best to try something new just to shake things around. When in Manila, dare yourself to have a happy tummy at Balkan, the home of Yugoslavian cooking in Manila.

Balkan cuisine is simple but tasty

By: Reggie Aspiras - November 12, 2015

The Batricevic brothers are no strangers to the food business. Their father, Momcilo, owns a restaurant, Gradska Kafana, that serves traditional Serbian food in their hometown in Vrbas, Northern Serbia, close to the border of Hungary.

Upon the invitation of friends, the brothers were asked to set up a Balkan cuisine restaurant in the Philippines and manage it.

In 2010 their first restaurant, Balkan Express, opened in San Juan.

Two more branches have since opened.

"I grew up here (in Manila)," says Marko Batricevic. "This is where I have made long-lasting ties and spent the best years of my life. This is why I encouraged my brother Martin to come over and join me. I was certain that he would love it here, too."

The brothers highlight their father's specialties in the Balkan restaurants. They have been upgrading the menu with the help of visiting chef Dragana Gudovic, who for 13 years had worked at their father's restaurant.

Dragana, who's in Manila for a month, will offer the best dishes of Serbia as well as the specialties of other Balkan states.

Marko says that Serbian eating habits are traditional: "We have three meals a day, lunch being the main, and it's usually with the family."

Their main dishes are mostly prepared by stewing, grilling and baking. They're eaten with bread and potatoes.

Their cuisine is influenced by Eastern European and Mediterranean flavors.

Favorites

From the dishes served at Balkan, I fell in love with the boiled lamb. To be honest, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the dish; it was very much like our nilaga, except that the meat used was lamb.

And I like boiled lamb for the same reasons that Filipinos take comfort in a bowl of well-done nilaga. The tender fall-of-the-bone meat (especially by the ribs rippled with just the right amount of fat)-slow-cooked for hours-was very flavorful.

Enjoyed with boiled potatoes and carrots, this was heavenly despite its simplicity. There was nothing added to mask the distinct flavor of the lamb.

Another personal favorite was the sarma-pickled cabbage rolls stuffed with cured meats and ground beef. At first bite it was a bit sour, spicy, salty, meaty and tasty. The cabbage, though soft and tender, still gave a nice, firm bite.

Balkan cuisine, I learned, is very simple. Spices and herbs are not often added to the dishes. Its delicious taste could be largely attributed to the process of cooking everything slow, with just salt and pepper thrown in, allowing the natural flavors of each ingredient to lend its flavor to the dish.

The grilled items are no different, seasoned more often with just salt and pepper before grilling.

Balkan Christmas

During Christmas, the brothers say they eat a lot of roasts, especially roasted pig, roast lamb and sarma.

To bring the holiday flavors of their homeland to the Philippines, the brothers' Balkan restaurants are now accepting orders for their traditional Christmas Roasts for takeout:

Jagnjece Pecenje-delectable, fall-off-the-bone roasted lamb (1/2 lamb, approximately 9 kilos, with roasted potatoes, marinated stuffed bell peppers or garlic rice tossed in lamb drippings (gravy and mint jelly). I had the privilege of tasting this when Dragana and the Batricevic brothers cooked it. Very delicious, crisp salted on the outside, soft and tender on the inside.

Prasece Pecenje-roasted pig with Russian salad or roasted vegetables and drippings. The pig is slow-roasted for four hours while being basted time and again with its drippings. The result: pig with crisp salted skin and meat that is soft and succulent.

Boiled lamb, though not a holiday dish, will also be offered for takeout. It is something to consider when you crave for comfort food with a twist. This hits the spot!

Having a ball with Balkan cuisine

By: Igan D'bayan - July 30, 2015

Serbian basketball player turned restaurateur Marko Batricevic remembers playing hoops when he was a teenager in his home country and the sirens would go off.

"Every day, there would be different sirens," he says. "During the NATO bombings in '99, I was 13 years old, and all we kids were doing was playing in the fields."

Batricevic came to Manila in May 2003. He played power forward for De La Salle Greenhills High School and De La Salle University, and was part of the Green Archers team which won the UAAP tile in 2007. His teammates were JVee Casio, Rico Maierhofer and PY Tang, among others. But injuries put an abrupt end to Marko's basketball career. He says, "I had four surgeries in two years ? for ACL twice, meniscal tear once. I also had notchplasty, a procedure where doctors help you extend your knee by scraping off the bone." 

While basketball brought Marko to Manila ? his heroes being NBA legends such as Peja Stojakovi? and Vlade Divac, two members of the Yugoslavian team that won gold in Indianapolis, USA in 2002 ? love for Serbian food would take over Batricevic's life and make him stay in our fair city.

Marko was born in northern Serbia, toward the Hungarian border. His father bought a World War 2 German-style house, converting it to a restaurant filled with antiques. Marko's parents operate a restaurant in Serbia called Gradska Kafana (which means "the pub in town"). His grandma and his mom loved to cook. Food, he says, is very important in Serbian culture. Each family has a patron saint (for the Batricevic Family it is St. Djurdjic), and on every feast day, the patriarch of the house would invite guests to partake of all kinds of food on the table. The celebrations lasted up to two to three days.

When Batricevic gave up basketball altogether after his stint in La Salle, he decided to put his marketing degree and hearty appetite to good use by going into the restaurant business. In 2010, he opened Balkan Express along Jose Abad Santos Street in Little Baguio. It was a hit, frequented by diners who love all things Balkan. The 6-5 ex-baller was able to put up three more branches in Makati (Perea in Legaspi Village), RCBC Plaza, and Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

Serbian fare is a delightful medley of influences, explains Marko at the Balkan Kitchen & Bar in BGC where the man has invited us over for lunch.

"It's a mix of Austro-Hungarian, Mediterranean, Turkish influences. We try to keep things simple and straightforward at the restaurant ? big servings, value for money. We serve dishes similar to local dishes, but which are also unique in their own sense. Filipino diners are more open to trying new things."

Similar to kaldereta is the Serbian goulash: beef stew served at Balkan Restaurant & Bar with just the right amount of thickness, spiciness and counterpointing onions and paprika. The goulash has hundreds of variations depending on town or country of origin, he points out ? well, just like adobo. This particular incarnation comes with pasta. One of the restaurant's bestsellers.

"Pinoys are known for barbecue, so we do a lot of minced meat also. We Serbians are not heavy on sauces or extreme seasoning. What we do in Serbia is to cook meat in way for its meat flavor to come out."

The national food of Serbia, informs Marko, is a roasted pig dish similar to lechon called Pe?enje.

"What we do instead is to cut open the pig like a butterfly and oven-roast it ? and we want to offer it here at the restaurant someday," says the Serbian who counts sinigang and sisig as among his favorite Filipino dishes. "I love kinilaw!"

"It's rare for Eastern  European cuisine to have similarities with our own local dishes," explains TV5 weathercaster Ice Martinez, who is Marko's girlfriend and a regular at Balkan Kitchen. "Serbian cuisine may be packaged differently but the taste is so familiar."

Ice's favorite ? aside from the restaurant's gourmet burger (patty stuffed with mozzarella, chili flakes and bacon) ? is the Kobasica pork sausage, which she compares with Vigan longganisa. "They serve it here with mashed potatoes and mustard, but what I do is request for vinegar and garlic ? and it's so tasty with rice. Filipino-style talaga."  

Marko Batricevic concludes, "Serbians and Filipinos ? we both grew up not being the conquerors in history. So, we have this survivalist mode. Creativity is a big part of that. Basically, just being able to take what life throws at you."

That last line could sum up Batricevic transition from power forward to restaurant owner. Doing a cool crossover from court to kitchen.

* * *

Balkan Kitchen & Bar is at the Crossroads Bldg., 32nd St. cor. 9th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. For information, call 403-8364 and 846-0744, or SMS 0917-8898821.

Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking: Now Open To Serve All Meat Lovers in Makati CBD

By: Julie Ann Alonzo - December 24, 2014

Yugoslavian Home Cooking in the City) and noticed a big difference ambiance. While Perea branch have more of a cozy and homey feel, Balkan’s RCBC branch fits the busy corporate life. It has a casual setting which targets young professionals who don’t have a lot of time to “cozy” into it.. but want great food which they can get fast and out.

Arugula Salad with Feta. A mix of arugula, lettuce, cherry tomato, apple and cucumber in a lemon, honey and olive oil dressing. I personally love the fried wrapped feta cheese. My salad-eating friend here loved the combination of greens.

She said that the bitterness of the arugula and sweetness of the apple complimenting each other. Hihi. Couldn’t agree more. This is delicious.

Goulash. The classic beef stew with bread. While its hard to pronounce and all that, it kinds of resembles one of our local dishes. It tastes like kaldereta. A very soupy kaldereta.. with fusilli and tender meat. That’s the best way I could describe it. Everyone on the table sang praises on this and said that this is their favorite. It is mine too.

If there is one thing I’ve noticed about Yugoslavian food is that they loved their cheese. Cheese on meat, particularly. And I’m not complaining.

One example is this Stuffed Pljeskavica, ground beef steak stuffed with mozzarella is heaven. The meat tastes like sausage and was stuffed with freaking mozarella. Goodness. It’s best to cut through the meat as soon as its served so you can see the cheese oozing out of it.

And if you want more, imagine adding bacon to the mix. I introduce you to Stuffed Pork Loin, lean pork loin roll stuffed with cheese and salami, wrapped with smoked bacon. Mozarella, again!!

On to chicken, we have Stuffed Chicken with Tomato Sauce. If you don’t want beef nor pork, this one’s for you. Chicken breast stuffed with cheese inside and wrapped in bacon and topped with *surprise surprise* cheese.

We ate their Mad Burger too which is basically a stuffed pljeskavica in between lettuce, tomato and bread patties. It’s yummy too and I prefer this more than the plain pljeskavica on a plate.

Balkan is one of those places you should definitely visit soon. Food is very close to Filipino taste and it’s very good. For cheese lovers, meat lovers and the likes and for young professionals like me, you don’t have to be seek food far away from the anymore. There’s Balkan Yugoslavian Home Cooking for you.

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