13 December 2010

a dinner at Kafana

We rolled out of a cab and into the cutting chill in the East Village for dinner. Kafana, "neighborhood restaraunt," is Manhattan's only Serbian restaurant. With our shared Balkan roots, we couldn't resist a slow dinner in the tiny, warm venue. Distressed brick, tightly packed tables and cyrillic posters define the candlelit room. My partner ordered two double slivovitz while we perused the menu.

Our server pushed a couple in close to us and announced, "I will tell you all-- the specials today-- together," in her deliciously throaty accent. All were heavily influenced by pork and other meat of unspecified origin. "You clearly have Balkan blood," she coaxed for the specifics of our heritage.

We selected a bottle of Plantaze cabernet (Montengro, 2007) and nibbled complimentary house bread with ajvar (a paste of eggplant and peppers). A gorgeous marriage of familiarity and comfort- the paste is among the best I've sampled. To boot, the wine exhibited a surprising fruit of berries well suited for the cold.

He insisted that we share an order of the lepinja sa kajmakom- a traditional bread sandwiched around creamy spread with the added smoked meat (two dollar suppliment). Served warm, the dish is quite wonderful with what I determined to be the proscuitto family and the sauce just a tad lighter than cream cheese.

After conversing with the folks to our left (former colleague of mine) and the sweet couple to our right that showered us in our wine (kindly picking up our slivovitz tab in apology), we settled into our mains. He had the cevapi- traditional grilled minced meat with a small bowl of chopped white onion on side. For myself, the rolovane suve sljive: prunes stuffed with walnuts and cheese, rolled in bacon with chicken liver rolled in the bacon. Arranged with a heap of red cabbage salad, the rich dish is generous and deeply satisfying.

As we sunk into our seats tipsy on the wine, the food, the slivovitz and conversation- three musicians sauntered out to play Serbian music.

images: from my iPhone

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