Street Food Invasion

We've already established the fact that Zagreb cuisine is not really about street food, but more about sitting down and having a long, proper meal in good company.

That's why street food in Zagreb is mostly associated with international classics like pizza cuts, burgers, burek pastry, sandwiches and similar bites. A few years ago, the trend of artisan burgers swept the city, but it seems that it's slowly declining. The next big thing that will hit is Asian street food. Asian restaurants are no novelty here, but the audience is more experienced and more demanding, so the time has come for the new generation of eateries.

“This Pad Thai tastes as good as it looks like.” Image credit: Khaos Thai FB)

The first Asian establishment in Zagreb were the Chinese restaurants in the early 1990s. There are less of them now, and in general they are mediocre and old-fashioned. The Chinese were like a gateway to the world of Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern, even Korean food. There were and still are some fusion attempts, food-court quality wok joints and take-away kiosks, but also some nice upscale places like Takenoko, Tekka or Time. Then came the wave of specialized sushi restaurants, and most of them are still here. The culture of eating out has evolved immensely in the last twenty, people want quality, authenticity, decent ingredients and value for money. Asian street food to the rescue!

“Gyoza, perfect little Japanese snack.” Image credit: Soi fusion bar FB

Forget the previous attempts at Thai cooking, and check out why there's always a queue in front of Khaos Thai and why they are usually sold out before the official closing time. Saralee is a Thai chef who found her new home in Croatia and decided to continue doing what she loves and knows best – cook Thai food. This little kiosk by Importanne Galleria in downtown Zagreb offers a limited menu of Thai classics like Pad Thai or Thom Yum, all prepared on the spot, in front of you, simple, fresh and delicious, and served with a smile. Soi fusion bar is the latest newcomer on the scene, somehow different. Opened inside the hip and popular Swanky Mint hostel, this cool little joint features a small selection of well-known dishes like gyoza, tuna poke or katsu chicken, with an interesting little cocktail list. So far this is just a test period, in autumn they should introduce a more elaborate menu, including ramen and noodles.

“Many will claim these guys make the best ramen soup in Zagreb.” Image credit: Gyoza Sake Bar FB

Speaking of ramen, which has found its way to the hearts of not so wide but certainly appreciative audience, many credits go to the great little place called Gyoza Sake Bar in Boškovićeva Street. As the name suggests, it's dedicated to Japan, and apart from a couple of set menu items, every week they do different lunch specials, based on the season, all authentic little Japanese dishes. Cosy atmosphere and helpful staff are just a bonus. Saturdays are reserved for ramen soup and it would be smart to book ahead. Believe it or not, they don’t do sushi or sashimi there, because Japanese cuisine is actually so much more, but one of the most consistent and popular sushi places is definitely Ginger Sushi. What started as a small restaurant in downtown Masarykova Street has now expanded to two more locations in Novi Zagreb. They have a large selection of reasonably priced and freshly prepared sushi rolls in various sizes and styles, available to take away, but you can also stick around and eat in.

“For many locals, sushi is the first encounter with Asian street food.” Image credit: Ginger Sushi FB

Fair enough, the diversity of Asian street food is not something you can't find in any other big city, yet this scene is at its peak in Zagreb at the moment and it's exciting as well as refreshing to have a bite of it.

Header image credit: Taste of Croatia

Author: Taste of Croatia, Morana Zibar