If you're going to the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo later this month, you'd better pack your appetite. The native cuisine is nothing if not tasty, and there are a goodly number of restaurants in the city that serve it up right.
Where to begin? Try a lunch of ƒáevapƒáiƒái (CHAY-vap-chi-chi). The dish is a Yugoslav staple, the country's equivalent of a hotdog. But this is no wiener served on a two-day-old bun. Great effort goes into preparing ƒáevapƒáiƒái. First, ground beef or lamb is delicately spiced. Then the mixture is rolled into cigar shapes that are charcoal broiled. The meat is served in pita bread, with finely chopped onions and kajmak (an aged cream that melts on the tongue). For about 60¢ you can eat ƒáevapƒáiƒái at any of the many quaint cafés called ƒáevabd≈æiniƒáa in the old town. Remember, though, to bring your own beer—an acceptable practice—if the ubiquitous muddy Turkish coffee isn't your drink. Locally brewed versions of foreign lagers are widely available in Yugoslav grocery stores, in addition to the native brews.
For native fare with a distinctly Western accent, your first choice should be the modern, elegant Ma≈æestik. It has been adopted by ABC-TV crews, who think it's the next best place to home. I he steaks are very good, as is the spicy steak tartare. All Western-style restaurants in Sarajevo stock one brand of Scotch, usually Johnny Walker Red. But the Ma≈æstik is the only one that offers Chivas Regal. If you plan to entertain lavishly during your stay, this is the place to go. Dinner for four, including wine, comes to around $150.
The RS, or Restoran Sarajevo, with its Mediterranean décor, has an impressive menu, including Bosnian specialties such as paƒçe (boiled calf's head and legs in broth seasoned with vinegar and pepper), as well as steaks, veal medallions, and fresh fish that is brought in daily from the Adriatic coast. Those two old standards of schlock French cuisine. Cordon Bleu and pepper steak, are flambéed with cognac at your table, just as they are at your favorite bistro in Peoria.
Randevu, one of Sarajevo's newest seafood restaurants, opened last summer, and it's dazzling. Here patrons sit patiently awaiting the catch that arrives each afternoon from the coast. When the shipment arrives, waiters scurry from table to table carrying platters laden with the selections of the day. These may include sea bass, eel, snapper, squid—whatever's in season.
Lamb is the meat preferred by most Yugoslavs. It's offered everywhere, but a couple of restaurants specialize in spit-roasting whole animals. In this dish the younger the lamb, the better, and I'm delighted to report that the baby lamb season begins later this month, about the same time as the Games. The best spit-roasted lamb in Sarajevo is served downtown at the Palata. But to enjoy lamb the way the natives do. visit the Igman in the suburb of Hrasnica. Don't be put off by diners using their lingers to gouge meat from the cavities of the lamb's head. These morsels are particularly tender and delicious. Often, the Igman's owner will treat you to a shot of his best homemade ≈õlijivovica—the plum brandy very popular with the Yugoslavs.
There are many restaurants that feature Bosnian cuisine, but go to the Brodac. It's a landmark of sorts, located on the edge of the old town on the left bank of the Miljacka River. Before bridges were built, travelers forded the river by wagon here: the restaurant's name is an Old Slavic word for passage. The Brodac is run by the genial Ferid Sultanoviƒá, better known as Sultan. In 1968, he represented Yugoslavia in the Summer Olympics as a Greco-Roman wrestler in the 97-kilo (213.4-pound) class. Sultan has since nearly doubled his weight, thanks partly to his own culinary talents. His menu includes appetizers of thinly sliced air-dried beef and soft Travnik goal cheese and entrées of savory meat or cheese pies; cabbage leaves filled with ground beef; ra≈ænjiƒái, another Yugoslav staple consisting of veal cubes grilled on skewers: the omnipresent ƒáevapƒáiƒá, and the finest mixed-grill platter in town.
Wherever, whatever, you decide to eat. don't miss sampling the Yugoslav wines. Both the reds and the whiles are superb, and though the prices are bound lo be inflated during the Games, they'll still seem reasonable to visitors, as will most restaurant checks. One last tip: You can drink the water.