Lisa Fain (link) was one of the writers that I was most excited to meet on the project. I wanted to pick her brain on traffic and stats and such. I was a bit disappointed, though; I was hoping she’d have more of an accent. She’s from TX (obv) more specifically, Houston. Houston happens to be one of the two place that I have visited in Texas, so we had something to talk about; the flatness, the strip malls, the Astrodome … In all fairness, I was poor, in college, and was only there for a weekend to see a girl, so I didn’t get out much if you can imagine that. She pointed me to one of her most contentious posts recently on the things she loves about Houston (link) and I had to admit that I didn’t get the full flavor of the town.
Djerdan 3 was a vastly different flavor than Lisa was used to. Following some advice from Adam Kuban, she doesn’t stray too far from recipes in the Southwestern niche. She had indicated she was up for anything, so we did Balkan. Since Djerdan 3 is the only Bosnian restaurant in NYC, this was a unique experience for us both. I’d visited the Ukranian National Home with my dad in 1999 or so and the food here was quite different.
We started with the Burek Rolls (top – cheese burek pictured). This is a big seller. It’s a flaky fillo calzone/empanada-like thing if either of those were rolled into a cinnamon bun shape and baked by angels. The angel in question is Selma, the owner, who came in especially to oversee our meal and was a delight in guiding us through the meal and supplying the back story on all the dishes we’d be having. We had a spinach, a cheese, and a meat burek served with a Tzatziki that we put on everything but the dessert. The cheese burek had something like a ricotta inside it and was almost sweet like a danish. The spinach burek rivaled my mother’s spinach pie, and the tzatziki really set off the spices in the meat burek. A great combination.
I was basically full from 3/4 of a Sal, Kris, and Charlie’s sandwich (link) when I came in, and didn’t know how much more food Selma was going to throw at us, but surely two bureks would have been a full meal for anyone. I finished one and a half. For me, they were the highlight of the meal.
We had two more entrÃ©es and I forgot the name of the first one Cevapi (pic). It was a spicy sausage that was served with a hot sauce and fresh onion with a thick, toasted, white bread. This isn’t one you want to share. If it was just me, I would have put it all together in a sandwich instead of cutting it into slices like I did. The combination (with the tzatziki obviously) was exceptional. The other entree was the Stuffed Cabbage (above). This was Lisa’s first time with the dish (omg – she hasn’t had stuffed cabbage?) and she loved it. We cut the last one in half and devoured the whole plate. I usually like to see them with a few more vegetables inside, but you know I’ve got that veggie jones and I’ve never had Bosnian stuffed cabbage before.
The dessert was a poached apple stuffed with chocolate and nuts called a Tupahija and the Tulumba (both above), a honey saturated churro. The saturation in the Tulumba was completely unexpected and quite interesting. The apple was so sweet, it tasted like a pear – a very summery dessert.
There’s a family secret in this dish that Selma asked us to keep quiet – but let me tell you, you can taste it. I don’t even want to hint at what it is, because I could give it away, but it’s fresh like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. I said too much.
Secret or no secret, just come in for a burek; any kind of burek. I prefer the cheese. If you have one you will wonder why calzones and empanadas are so popular and the burek is stuck in the land of misfit comfort foods. Give Djerdan a try and you’ll be glad you did. Make sure you ask for extra tzatziki.
Here are a few snippets of our experience at Djerdan:
Guest Writer: Lisa Fain
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank Djerdan 3 for providing this meal.
221 W 38th St
New York, NY 10018