Dennis and Dionne Newton

Dennis and Dionne Newton
Dennis & Dionne Newton

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Eating in Sarajevo

Our Favorite Restaurants in Sarajevo (So Far)

Dionne and I have been in Sarajevo for 6 months now. Due to our crazy schedule and the ridiculously low prices here, we estimate that we have eaten out at least 200 times. Not all in Sarajevo mind you. But we figure that we have eaten considerably more meals here in Sarajevo than Rick Steves. So here is a countdown of our 10 favorite restaurants in Sarajevo so far.

10. Pizza Company

Full disclosure. Of the 10 restaurants on this list, Dionne and I only discovered 2 of them ourselves. We have been assisted by so many friends here in Sarajevo. The most helpful have been Muslim Aid who wrote down a list of 10 restaurants that we had to try. Also helpful have been Emin and Senada, Emir, the missionaries, and many others. Very proud to say that we have not discovered any of these restaurants via Trip Advisor!

We have found this more in Tuzla than Sarajevo...but people here like to put ketchup on their pizza. For the missionaries...well, when in Rome... 
There is a belief that Bosnia comfort food is čevapi, burek, sarma, or Bosnian pot. Watching the way Bosnians eat, however, I beg to differ. Bosnia comfort food is pizza! There are so many pizza places here in Sarajevo. And every restaurant serves pizza.

One of the first pizzas I had here in Sarajevo. This was before I figured out what the word Jaje means. This was definitely NOT from Pizza Company!!!

The second time we met them, Emin and Senada told us that the best pizza in Sarajevo is found at Pizza Company. We have tried at least pizza at 15 places so far and we have to agree with them. Although the "orient" pizza at Manglo is a close second.

Elder Garza enjoying the chicken pizza at Pizza Company. 
Senada was also quick to mention that there is no pizza in Bosnia that is a good as U.S. pizza. We have to agree with that assessment as well. For Senada, the trade-off is that European chocolate puts U.S. chocolate to shame. We agree as well. So the question is whether or not you want great pizza or great chocolate. Since my favorite food is pizza and may favorite candy is licorice (which we cannot find here), I will take the U.S. on this one.

Emin and Senada posing with a famous FEI competitor.


WOKI is a favorite little spot of the missionaries. It is walking distance from the church. It is cheap. And the food is quite good. So what is not to love?

Even the WOKI logo is happy!
WOKI was Elder Rasmussen and Parkinson's redemption. When we first got here we offered to take the Elders and the Sisters, separately, out to lunch. The Elder's wanted to go to a place called "Čipo's" which is pronounced "Cheapos." It lived up to it's name. It was very, very cheap. And it was cheap Elder missionary quality. Let's just say, Dionne and I have not been back. So the next time we took them out, the two brought us to WOKI.

Elder Parkinson has fallen in love with chicken curry on the mission. So he always gets the chicken curry sandwich.
What Dionne and I like about WOKI is their planks. These are cutting boards with a variety of grilled meats, vegetables, potatoes, and sauces. There is better and more daring food here in Sarajevo, we are certain. But WOKI has a special place in the hearts of those who serve missions in Sarajevo. As well as ours.

This is a chicken kebab plank from WOKI. The white sauce is likely a kaymak...a local spread.
Not that all things come back to Senada...but I just noticed that she recently "liked" WOKI on Facebook. She is batting 2 for 2 on this list so far.


Let me take a second and step away from the list. One joy of the Balkans are Pekaras. These are little bakeries that seem to sit on every corner. In the U.S. their goods would be centrally manufactured so that every bakery would sell the same stuff (e.g., Krispy Kreme). In the Balkans, each Pekara bakes there own goodies. This means that every pekara you walk into is different than the next one.

So, of course, we are trying to find the best of the best. And we believe we have been successful thanks to an assist from the Sisters. There is a little French Pekara downtown that is just a step above the rest.

They have a chocolate almond croissant that Dionne could eat every morning.

8. Plava Prizma (Radon Hotel)

When Sister Locey left us after 6 months in Sarajevo, she wanted to have her last meal at the top of AVAZ tower. She, and we, were under the impression that there was a restaurant on the top of AVAZ. Alas, it was only cafe. But in researching AVAZ we learned that Sarajevo does have a rotating restaurant on top of the Radon Hotel. So we decided to go there instead.

This is our January group of missionaries. Never seen a missionary so excited as Sister Locey when she learned she was going to the Croatian coast. We are excited for her.
 It is helpful for restaurants to have a "wow" factor. And the rotating floor is certainly enjoyable. It just added a special element to the evening. And the food was very good as well. Nothing I ate had the same "wow" factor as the rotating restaurant. But everything was extremely good. So this is a "must" visit if you are going to be in Sarajevo for more than a week or so. If you only have 4-5 meals here, however, I would hit the other places.

It took a while to get used to the movement. But after 15 mintues it was hardly noticeable. The food was so good that I looked at everyone's plates and saw that the missionaries were literally licking their plates clean. So I asked if everyone had finished every bite of food. Locey piped up and said that she had not...she had not finished a few of her vegetables. When she came to us she had told us she did not like veggies...6 months and she has not changed!


We have seen so many menus (jelovnik) here in Bosnia that they are beginning to run together. Much like U.S. restaurants all seem to have the same things (caesar salad, chicken tenders, burgers, wings, grilled steak, sea bass, etc), Bosnian restaurants are very redundant. They almost always have similar offerings (chicken soup called Begova čorba, Bosnian pot, pizza, pasta, chicken filets with french fries, steak, river fish, salads that feature cucumbers, tomatoes, and/or cabbage, and a few "wok" dishes). In fact, it is quite possible to order without ever seeing  menu. So we really enjoy the places which have different fare. Or, in the case of LAVA, does the traditional fare in unique ways.

LAVA is in the top of a lesser known shopping center. 
The difficulty with LAVA is that we are not ever sure what we are going to get. The first time we went, Dionne ordered a simple chicken sandwich. What she got was one of the best flavored chicken sandwiches either of us have ever tried. The next time we ordered a chicken sandwich, however, it was completely different and no where near as spectacular (we think it must of been a different cook that day). But my veal gnocchi was outstanding. And their LAVA cake is quite good as well.

This is my veal gnocchi. Bosnians love cream sauces...mostly sour cream, kaymak, garganzola, or yogurt-based.
Since we are talking about LAVA...I might as well talk about one of my quests here in Sarajevo. A few years back our family (minus Bryan/Jami) took a cooking class from a chef in Rome. He taught us how to make lava cake. I have been on a search for a lava cake as good as the one that we had that day. Most U.S. lava cakes do not meet the standard set by our Roman chef. But, to my delight, I have found that LAVA cakes are a staple here in Bosnia.

I have tried over 20 different lava cakes so far. This includes last week when I had three different lava cakes in 2 days.
Dionne and I (and whoever happens to be at dinner with us that evening) have been having an on-going discussion about whether or not lava cakes are "chocolate souffles." In Bosnia the language is interchangeable. Sometimes it will be listed as a lava cake and sometimes as a chocolate souffle. I am of the opinion that the entire country is WRONG. Dionne just likes to argue with me. Just to be clear...the dessert below is a chocolate souffle!!! And it is not to be found here in Bosnia.

This is a CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE. Lava cakes are technically a variation on souffles but they are not classic souffles. As much as I would love to find one of these here in Bosnia, I suspect I am going to have to travel nearer to France to enjoy a true souffle.
So where has this search led me? The best LAVA cake that both Dionne and I have tasted so far is at a promising restaurant called Cetiri Sobe Gospodin Sofi (Four Room for Miss Sophie). We have not formally eaten there yet (so it is not on this list). But we did have their LAVA cake and it was spectacular. Almost as good as the one in Rome.

We were meeting with these doctors at Miss Sophie's. They are translating this manual into Bosonski for LDS Charities. They convinced us that the lava cake here was good enough to special order. Glad we took their advice. But the doctor on the right said it is not the best lava cake in Sarajevo. Rather, she makes the best in Sarajevo. Since she laid down the challenge, she is going to make lava cake for us one of these days. This project that we are doing with them runs all year so we will have plenty of opportunities to do a taste test.

6. Noovi

Speaking of lava cake, Noovi's is a close second to Miss Sophies. This is a small restaurant with a relatively limited menu. But what they do, they do really, really well.

Noovi's lava cake. The cake is solid and yet explodes with oozing chocolate once you cut into it. 
I think Dionne and I would appreciate this restaurant even more if we were wine drinkers. It has a very extensive wine collection and many Europeans seem to enjoy this spot. The last time we were there I ordered carrot soup and a salad. While the soup was unique and tasty, it was the salad that really won me over. It was one of the best that I have ever eaten in my life. And I do not give accolades like this easily! It was loosely called a "Greek salad" and one of the taste contrasts that really worked for me was the feta juxtaposed with fresh figs.

It just dawned on me that I really enjoy losing 20 lbs by going to Noovi every day for a month and eating this salad. It was that good.

The Restaurant We Have Visited the Most Times

I want to take a quick break from the list and talk about the restaurant we have visited to most since we arrived in country. It is an American restaurant. We are ashamed to admit that we have eaten at McDonald's more frequently than any other restaurant.

Hanging out at a McDonald's in Serbia with the Elders.
There are only two McDonald's here in Sarajevo. But one is just down the street from us. And it is just so darn convenient. There are not many other options for a quick 20-minute meal when you are on the go.

It only took us three-days in country before we found McDonald's. Funny Bosnian standards it is not that cheap. You have to pay for ketchup. And the hamburger does not taste as good as in the states. And to Dionne's eternal lament, they do not have Diet Coke on tap. But we keep returning. You will be pleased to know that McDonald's is the only U.S. fast food restaurant that we have found here in Bosnia. We have seen KFC's and Burger Kings in other parts of the Balkans. 

5. Klopa

Emin and Senada rejoins the list at this point. They invited us to dinner downtown. This is where they took us. Klopa is a little pizza joint where none of us order pizza. It is because all of the other things on the menu as so good.

This is Emin and Senada's son, Isa. He is not a big fan of chicken...but for some reason he really enjoyed eating pieces of my thai chicken dish. 
Dionne is enamored with a chicken pot pie dish which almost tastes like a chicken lasagna but made with breading rather than noodles. She likes it so much that I am not sure she is ever going to try anything else a Klopa.

Klopa is located downtown near the Pope John Paul II Church.
The dish that makes Klopa so special for me is, of all things, a deconstructed chicken hamburger. Those who know me well, know that I despise all things made of ground turkey and chicken. It just feels like they are diet substitutes for real meat. I do not like food that pretending to be other foods. It is also why this tofu lover despises turkey-flavored tofu. Emin ordered this strange concoction...he called it a dairy burger. I was fascinated by his meal. So much so that the next time we went I tried the thing. I cannot describe how well executed this dish is. I love when chefs innovate. And I realize that they things can go quite wrong. But when something goes right. And goes right in a way that I have never quite tasted before...well that is why I love food. For that moment. And this deconstructed dairy chicken burger wowed me.

Emin with his diary chicken burger.

4. Kimono

Dionne has eaten a lot of chicken filets here in Bosnia. And I have never heard her once say that she is searching for the "best chicken filet" in Sarajevo. There is only so much you can do with a chicken filet. On the other hand, she has been very interested in finding the best steak here in Bosnia. An early contender was the T-Bone at Piano...but it was just the sheer size of the steak that intrigued us...rather than the flavor. Another contender was the filet mignon at the Four Seasons. But still there was something missing. We knew that we had not found the best steak yet.

The Piano T-Bone is nearly 2 lbs and includes all sorts of veggies. It is a challenge for the hungriest of missionaries to finish.
At the same time, I was searching for decent sushi in Sarajevo. One of my flawed early attempts was trying the sushi cup at Cordova (a favorite restaurant despite this disaster). This is easily one of the worst dishes I have had since coming on my mission. It said that is was a sushi cup with avocado, salmon, and tuna in between layers of rice. It sounded intriguing. This is what I got. The salmon sushi was good. The vegetables were fine. The tuna, on the other hand, was straight out of a can!

I have circled the tuna layer...a sushi dish laced with canned tuna simply does not work. Trust me. It was nasty.
Who knew that both of our searches would converge at Kimono; a little Japanese themed restaurant on top of the City Center. While not the best that I have ever had, the sushi at Kimono is fresh, good, and at least up to U.S. standards. So it was nice to realize that sushi was not one of the foods that I would have to forgo for 18 months (unlike Mexican, KC BBQ, Thai, Indian, and Vietnamese).

My birthday dinner. That is a smile of relief.
We noticed that many people were ordering the stone-grilled steak at Kimono. So we decided to give it a try. As soon as we tried it, we knew our search for great steak was over. It was a well cooked, well flavored, filet mignon cut served on the hot stone. Everything that we had been hoping for. We have taken several missionaries to Kimono. Elder Palmer is from Western Canada with lofty beef claims...he said it was the best steak he had ever eaten. It is that good. Not the best for me...but it is wonderful.

Elder's Isom's farewell dinner.

3. Mala Kuhinja ("Little Kitchen")

Remember when I said we took the Elders and the Sisters out separately when we first arrived here? The Elders took us to Čipas. The Sisters, however, took us to Mala Kuhinja; number 3 on this list. We don't have that many pictures of Mala Kuhinja. Just this video. But let me describe the premise. They do not have a menu. The waiter asks about your group's food preferences. What you like and what you do not. And then they make seasonal dishes that fit your profile and bring them to the table. The food is Asian fusion Bosnian style.

Several of the dishes they have made for us have been excellent. Dionne especially likes a beef dish in a creme pumpkin oil sauce. They made some of the best salmon I have ever eaten (salmon is one of my least favorite fish dishes). And the only reason they do not top this list is because the promise of on-going innovation has really not materialized. As we have returned, the dishes that they bring us seem to be variations on the same theme over and over again. Dionne and I are having an on-going conversation about which restaurants we will take our kids to here in Sarajevo. A few months ago Mala Kuhinja was on the top of the list. It has dropped. If we have a couple of nights in Sarajevo, then we will make time for the Little Kitchen.

2. Pino

Our first night in Sarajevo our predecessors, the Schlehubers, took us to their favorite restaurant in Sarajevo, Pino. We were absolutely enthralled. Pino is up in the mountains overlooking Sarajevo near the bobsled run. It is as close to our house as Baščaršija (old town). And we discovered stray puppies just off the side of the road. So we must of returned to Pino and that area 5 times in the first few weeks.

This is the Pino resort.
On one of those trips, a waiter at Pino noticed our name tags. He said that he was also a Mormon. This is how we met Almedin. And soon he became our reason to return regularly to Pino.

Almedin explaining the specials.
But the food was just okay. I liked a few things on the menu. The desserts were good. They had a decent gnocchi. But nothing all that wonderful. And on weekends they would have a reduced menu. We took a number of guests to Pino. They all loved the location but none raved about the food.

This was my favorite dish on the old menu. And the buckwheat donuts.
A couple of months ago they completely revamped the menu. I assume there was also a change in the kitchen. Because this new menu is wonderful. There are two dishes that I cannot stop thinking about. One is a red snapper. And the other is a chicken cooked "rabbit" style. No idea what "rabbit" style is...but the skin on this chicken is wonderfully crisp. With this new menu, Dionne and I have more than the "home teaching" excuse to return to Pino. We will be up there at least twice a month throughout our entire mission!

The Worst Meal and the Worst Restaurant So Far

Before I get to the best, I want to share the worst. Most of the restaurants and dishes we have eaten in Bosnia have been very good. We are often pleasantly surprised at how good the food is. Even when we are just eating at small rural restaurants. There have not been many things that we struggled to get down.

But other than the aforementioned sushi bowl, there is one other dish that I really struggled to eat. Dionne, who rarely orders "crazy" generally does not have to worry about hating her dish. But sometimes I take a wrong turn or two when I order. And this dish was a wrong turn. I have seen dishes like this on menus here. It is called "Old School" or something like that. Hopefully "Old School" does not mean that it is filled with the canned meat served during the siege. Because that is what it tasted like.

A dish I ordered at a little cafe. It was supposed to have hot peppers on top instead of onions. Trust me, the meat inside of the thing was simply awful. I am shuddering with the memory of the taste by just looking at it right now.
A few months ago we went bowling with the missionaries and Mohan, a member of Indian descent. The alley is in the Hollywood hotel. We enjoyed the bowling and the camaraderie. We finished about 6:30 so Dionne and I decided to eat at the restaurant in the hotel. The only thing available was a buffet. That should of been warning enough. But how bad could it be? Bad enough that the restaurant at the Hollywood Hotel is the worst that we have experienced on the mission. By far. It was so, so bad.

Missionaries Isom, Rasmussen, Higlee, and Locey enjoying a P-day. Mohan is to the right. He was quite pleased when he beat everyone during the first game. And it was only his 4th time bowling.

1. Dveri

We credit both Muslim Aid and Emin for helping us find Dveri. But there is no way we would not have found this restaurant. Recently, two technical specialists, the Bennetts, came to visit from Salt Lake. We had dinner with them in Old Town. They mentioned that there a little place there that they love. They did not know the name but figured they could walk there. I just laughed, said nothing else, and took them to Dveri. They were so happy when they realized that this was the place. If you want great Bosnian food and are going to be here just one night, Dveri is the place. We will take our kids to Dveri.

Dionne at Dveri.
When we first tried Dveri, a few things stood out. The bread was absolutely phenomenal. It is baked like a cinnamon roll but is not sweet. And it is very, very good. And order Ajvar to good alongside it. This is a Balkan specialty made from red peppers. Dveri's is a good as any we have tried here. Dionne had a Gulaš (meat stew) and fell in love with it. So the next time back she recommended it to everyone at the table. They all got gulaš. But this time there was too much nobody liked it that much. In this situation, Dionne's practice of ordering one thing and sticking with it might of doomed us to missing Dveri's true virtues.

The bread and gulaš at Dveri. 
With Emin and Senada we were having the great "steak" discussion. Emin said that hands down the best steak is at Dveri. Period. He was so insistent that we decided we had to return to Dveri soon and see if their steak could compete with Kimono's. 

With the Bennetts at Dveri.
After two bites of the gargonzola steak, Dionne declared Dveri the winner. Best steak. Best bread. Best Ajvar. A great herbal tea. Located in Baščaršija. In a quaint little restaurant that oozes charm. Now I look forward to going through so much more of their menu. Kids...this is it. If we only one night in Sarajevo, we will go to Dveri's. And you will not be disappointed. 

Except Bryan. We will take him to Piano's because he has always been our quantity over quality child.

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