The last time we spoke with Petar Tasic we’d just eaten a feast of cheese-stuffed sausages, charcoal grilled ćevapi and pork neck skewers. That was at Warwick Farm’s Madera Kafe, a restaurant with a reputation for serving the best Serbian grilled meat in Sydney. This time, Tasic is serving up something different.
His latest restaurant is Fabrika, a fresh take on the new wave of traditional Southeast European restaurants popping up around the continent.
Just like in Europe, Tasic uses a sač, an ancient cooking tool traditionally used by the poor as an oven substitute. It’s been reintroduced because of the unique, smoky flavour profile it brings to dishes. “It's a bell-shaped cast iron pot used for slow cooking,” he explains.
Sač recipes are different all over Europe because each nationality introduces their own flavours. In Serbia, the most classic sač dish is beef ribic – a beef, wine and onion stew cooked for more than six hours, and then served over a bed of mash potatoes and kajmak (a Balkan dairy product similar to clotted cream). “The potatoes are wrapped and cooked over coals. Once they're cooked through the potato is scooped out. It's a really old-school way of making mash,” says Tasic.
Depending on the day, Fabrika may also be serving slow-cooked lamb shoulder, veal or pork. “We'll also be doing game. We're looking to get wild boar, goat and rabbit.”
The best accompaniment to any of these dishes, says Tasic (and pretty much every Balkan diner to visit), is Fabrika’s wood-fired breads. “If you go to someone's home in Serbia, even if they are quite poor, one thing they will always have is handmade bread. They'll serve it with cured meats or cheese. It's an important welcome,” he says.
Lepinja is the most basic option – a fluffy, mild bread traditionally baked with a milk-flour mixture for extra creaminess. It’s perfect for stew dipping, ajvar (a lightly spiced roast capsicum condiment) spreading or ćevapi sandwiches.
For something with a bit more oomph and depth, ask for the gypsy bread. It’s cooked with pork fat and sprinkled with paprika. Along with a few slices of Balkan or Italian cured meats, it’s the perfect drink-friendly balance of salt, fat and carbs.
For drink choices you can go two ways. There’s either the traditional route, which is simply straight rakija (a strong fruit-based brandy), or the modern option centred around a mojito-dominated cocktail list.
What the drinks list, and the leafy warehouse fit-out alludes to, is this is more than a traditional Serbian restaurant. Like many of the new venues popping up in Southeast Europe, Fabrika offers food beyond the traditional, such as grilled seafood, pizza, pasta and even a trio of burgers, Balkan-style of course. For a more uniquely Serbian experience, it’s best to stick to the old-school stuff.
Fabrika by Madera
3/264 Canley Vale Road, Canley Heights
(02) 9726 8848
Mon to Wed 5.30pm–10pm