Exciting Balkan food in a chic Belgrade restaurant
Tisa New Balkan Cuisine, pronounced “Tee-sa” and not “Tis-a”, is a fairly recent opening on the Belgrade restaurant scene. Tisa is the deliberate bigger sister to the bijou Iva New Balkan Cuisine located in Belgrade’s Dorcol district. The restaurant has been designed specifically to enable more diners to enjoy the food. Lucky for us, we were two of them.
We thought we had explored pretty much every neighbourhood in Belgrade during our stay there. But Tisa was in a new area for us. Located in a district outside of Vracar adjoining a busy boulevard, more residential than it is touristic, we found Tisa. A restaurant set over three floors, Tisa means business. There are smoking and non-smoking areas, private dining rooms and numerous cosy nooks around the building. There’s even an outdoor terrace for summer dining in Belgrade.
Inside Tisa, we found an invitingly chic offering. Each table is lit with an individual lamp, creating an intimate dining experience for you and your companions. Downstairs there are design notes of grey marble contrasted with soft and sumptuous upholstery. Upstairs is a little more sultry. On the night that we visited, an unassuming Tuesday, diners filled the top floor. A good level of cheerful chatter filled the air. A few people languidly smoked cigarettes. Well dressed diners, a classy but not showy crowd. We melted into the ambience like slipping into silk sheets.
Local ingredients handled well
The concept of the New Balkan Cuisine restaurant chain, is that all ingredients are as locally sourced as possible. If a product or ingredient is available in Serbia, the kitchen at Tisa New Balkan Cuisine will cook it. This ethos is carried on throughout the menu and even includes the drinks. The ice tea is from Serbia, as is the lemonade. Coca-Cola and other imports are strictly banished.
If Serbian products don’t exist, then the restaurant will source from neighbouring countries like Croatia. We loved this idea. We loved the divine Croatian olive oil served with our bread course even more. This was delivered alongside a traditional Serbian red pepper spread, but puréed to perfection.
We asked our host to choose her favourite dishes from the menu for us to try. Her enthusiasm for the food was clear. Our evening was made even more special by the relaxed but attentive service, and our host’s exuberance. She shared in our delight every time we enthused about the dishes that she had chosen.
First up were two starters to share. A sinful pulled pork sandwich on brioche bread. Wholesome and hearty, yet somehow still refined. Second was a dish that we had never heard of before, let alone tried. There is a Serbian word for this dish, but it’s rather difficult to explain it. Made with cornflour, it is a little like a pizza base, but a pizza base that is majority mozzarella and a little dough. The cheese is Djubek, not mozzarella, but it’s creamy and gooey and not unlike the Italian stalwart. Atop this delicious base were roasted sweet and smokey red pepper and crunchy garlic chips.
Gastronomy to rival Italy
The Italian comparison didn’t stop there. For the main course, we tried Pljukanci. This is a handmade and hand rolled pasta native to Croatia. Served with Mangelica pork lardons and truffle. It was similar to a Carbonara, but much more elevated.
Look out Italians, there are pasta rivals coming for you and they can be found in the kitchen of New Balkan Cuisine.
We also indulged in some veal ribs. These were exquisitely cooked and delicate. Served alongside potatoes cooked in lamb fat, a healthy portion of vegetables and a crispy cheese ball. This is not fine dining, but hearty and delicious cookery. The chef contrasts texture and flavour wonderfully and didn’t skimp on portions. We were gleeful.
Still on a pasta high, two sumptuous puddings arrived. The first, and our favourite, was a New York style cheesecake adorned with nuts, honey and tea. Not too sweet, but totally decadent. Next was a chocolate cake with caramel sauce. Truffle made an appearance again, providing a fabulous earthy taste to the moist cake.
Serbian wine to enjoy
Our host paired each dish perfectly with wine. We started with a glass of Serbian fizz, a Decanter award winner no less. This buttery glass of sparkling goodness, was from the Aleksic winery and made from Smederevka. A grape indigenous to Serbia and North Macedonia.
With our main, we sampled a red wine. A deep ruby colour, with complex fruit notes of cherry and plum. Rich flavour like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but with a little more depth. The wine had the same melt in the mouth quality as the veal that accompanied it. This red was from Milanović, a winery in Surduk which is North of Belgrade.
Finally, we enjoyed a pleasantly sweet Serbian late harvest dessert wine to accompany pudding. We may not have been able to finish all the sweet stuff on our plates but we certainly polished off the nectar of God’s in our glasses.
The wine list at Tisa is a wonderfully crafted celebration of Balkan wine to accompany the splendid food. As with the dishes on the menu, the wine has been drawn from all around Serbia and the surrounding areas. Although we stuck to Serbian wine, we could have tried Slovenian or Croatian wine. But we’ve grown quite fond of the Serbian stuff!
A good value menu
For the quality of food at Tisa, we expected an eye watering price tag. But in fact, the restaurant is very reasonably priced. Whether for wine or food, Tisa is very good value for money. It left us wishing that every city we travelled to had such a great, reliable but inexpensive food offering. If only New Balkan Cuisine could be found across Europe.
Tisa is the type of restaurant that you can visit without an excuse. It’s a “just because we fancy it” type of place. The fortunate people of Belgrade could visit once a week and still be enchanted by the food and atmosphere. For anyone travelling to Belgrade, we encourage you to give Tisa a try. For incredible ingredients, Serbian food with a bit of flair and a romantic evening, Tisa or Iva New Balkan Cusine are great options. Without the scary prices!
How to get to Tisa New Balkan Cuisine
You can find out more about Tisa New Balkan Cuisine on their website here. They also have an Instagram account to follow for all the latest news and events.
Main courses cost between 1250 and 3000 RSD (approximately $11 to $26) at Tisa. A bottle of wine will cost around 4000 RSD ($35).
Our experience at Tisa New Balkan Cuisine was gifted. All opinions are our own.
Would you like to read more about visiting and dining in Belgrade?
– Mudra Art Cuisine, Belgrade ‘Dining with the orchestra’ – restaurant review
– GIG Restaurant – The Best New Tasting Menu in Belgrade
– Ambar Restaurant – Fun Belgrade waterfront restaurant