Morningside welcomes Kasina, a restaurant celebrating modern Balkan cuisine
The Balkan Peninsula – the mountainous Southeastern European landmass bordered on three sides by the Adriatic Sea, the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and the Black Sea – is home to a myriad of languages, cultures and cuisines. Kasina – a brand-new restaurant located on Morningside’s Wynnum Road stretch – is celebrating the region’s vibrant cuisine, specifically the fare from former-Yugoslavian countries including Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, guests can devour Kasina’s take on traditional delights like peksimeti, mućkalica and sarma while sipping from an extensive range of Balkan beers, wines and rakija.
Although Brisbane’s food scene is a melting pot of worldly cuisines, Balkan fare has been largely underrepresented across the city’s culinary spectrum. Dragan and Marija Sestic (of Dramanti Artisan Roaster fame) would know. Boasting Bosnian and Serbian heritage, respectively, the duo are acutely aware that options from their homeland are hard to come by – especially compared to celebrated European cuisines from Italy, France and even the Balkans’ geographical neighbours Greece and Turkey. When international travel was suspended in the wake of COVID-19, the Sestic family (which includes Dragan and Marija’s children Tamara and Nikola) decided to take it upon themselves to enact change, electing to make a foray into the realm of nighttime dining with Kasina – an eatery dedicated to dishing up fare from Balkan countries. A city-wide hunt for a suitable site for Kasina yielded dividends in the form of a 65-seat space on Wynnum Road, which was previously home to Nobunaga Japanese Restaurant. Existing elements such as the open-plan kitchen, spacious layout and existing timber furnishings were perfect for the family’s purposes. Soon the team embarked on a whirlwind renovation process that has resulted in a warm and inviting aesthetic comprised of timber, yellow and teal (a colour scheme that pays homage to the area’s mountainous landscape) applied across a newly constructed bar and revitalised dining spaces at front and rear of the venue. Though the space is pared back so as to spotlight the food, decorative touches further enforce the Sestic family’s heart-on-sleeve affection for Balkan countries – photographs from noteworthy geographical and architectural landmarks adorn the walls, helping give diners a glimpse at the diverse beauty of the region.
Balkan cuisine’s roots extend back centuries – its shared history predating the emergence of countries and the establishment of borders. Food has long been the connective tissue tethering Balkan countries together, with interpretations of popular dishes common across multiple countries. Perceptible shades of Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine make Balkan fare a conflation of influences and flavours – slow cooking and grilling are building blocks of the fare, while stuffed vegetables and spicy peppers are common on many menus. Kasina’s offering traverses the width, breadth and depth of Balkan-inspired victuals – its radius of inspiration encompassing traditional recipes from Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. The offering starts with small plates like peksimeti (fried dough-balls served with ajvar, kackavalj cheese, and kajmak cheese), pržene paprike (roasted peppers with fetta, burnt onion and fried bread), ćevapi (beef and lamb sausages served with lepinja bread, kajmak and onion) and ražnjići (chicken skewers served with cheese, garlic and roasted-pepper spread). Larger plates feature more traditional Balkan fare, including sarma (cabbage leaves stuffed with beef and rice served on creamed polenta and sour cream), mućkalica (beef or pork roasted-pepper goulash), and karadjordjeva šnizla – a breaded and fried rolled pork steak, stuffed with kajmak and served with garlic potato and tzatziki. Traditional Balkan platters give groups a chance to sample grilled morsels and cured meats and cheeses, while tufahija – a dessert comprised of poached apple, walnut and rakija cream – stands out as a must-try sweet finish. Kasina’s menu will evolve and shift several times a year, with plans to cycle through more beloved dishes and even a Balkan-inspired take on breakfast.
The Sestic’s exploration of Balkan delights continues into Kasina’s corker of a beverage list, which sources numerous sips that are largely uncommon outside of the bar carts and cellars of in-the-know sippers. Kasina hangs its hat on its array of rakija – a popular and widespread fruit brandy typically produced using apricots, plums, pears, quince or peaches – with more than ten kinds available including Stara Sokolova plum brandy from Serbia, pear brandy from Bosnia and Herzegovina producer Gazdina, and pelinkovac liqueur from Croatia. Although typically drunk by itself from small glasses, Kasina has also worked rakija into a couple of its signature cocktails, including the Balkan Lullaby (plum rakija, cranberry juice, apple, simply syrup and soda) and the Morava Trickle (quince rakija, elderflower liqueur, orange juice and prosecco). Kasina’s wine list features a mix of Balkan and Australian drops – curious oenophiles can sample Croatian pošip, Serbian rieslings and vranac from Bosnia and Herzegovina, among others. On the beer front, guests can blow the froth off Kasina’s house lager, Serbian pilsners, a pale lager from Slovenia and a clutch of Australian craft brews.
Kasina is now open to the public! Head to the Stumble Guide for operating hours, contact details and booking information.
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