Elijah Ferrian learns some Serbian and is introduced to a cornucopia of grilled meats at this newcomer to backpacker street, 3 Buffalos Restaurant. Photos by Jonny Edbrooke.
Rakija, Cevapcici, Pljeskavice, what the hell does any of this mean? Serbia. Eastern european cuisine that is primed to plug right into the expat and local populations in Saigon. It’s about grilled meat, and lots of it. Welcome to the party, 3 Buffalos Restaurant.
The team at this Pham Ngu Lao spot opened on 16 December, 2016. Dragan Kostov, chef, greeted us as we walked up the staircase and into this under-the-radar location.
“I’ve lived here for five years,” Kostov tells me. “We want to introduce our Eastern way of barbeque. Plus, you must have Serbian schnapps: Rakija.”
Yes. Yes, I do need to have Rakija.
A fantastic spirit in the same vein as French eau de vie, a colourless neutral brandy that is traditionally infused with fruit or other botanicals. It is the perfect way to prepare your stomach for a heaping meal, great for drinking with each bite, and even better when the kitchen closes at 10pm, and there’s nothing else to consume but more Rakija.
This place is like an over the top Eastern European 80s movie. They play hits from said era over the soundsystem, have live music over the weekend, healthy amounts of drinking are encouraged, and they serve the perfect fare to soak all of it up.
First comes Cevapcici. Ground beef and pork, mixed in Traditional Lescovac Style, grilled on a slow open fire. (5pc VND80,000, 10pc VND160,000) Great tasting whipped potatoes, and a well-seasoned salad flanked with thinly sliced tomato and chopped onion make a solid entree that is fit for any meal of the day. Throw an egg on this and it’s breakfast. Some bread and it’s lunch. Some more Rakija and it’s dinner.
Next comes Pljeskavice. More ground beef and pork, with onion mixed in and grilled slow on an open fire (5 chevapa VND100,000, 10 Chevapa VND200,000, 15 Chevapa VND300,000). Think of these as Serbian hamburgers. Delicious.
Chicken liver and bacon (5pc VND75k, 10pc 150k, 12pc 175k). Hungarian-style chicken livers wrapped in bacon. Rich, irony flavours blended with the salty smoke of slow-cooked bacon.
The mixed grill platter is what they truly love to showcase. It’s the most Serbian way to eat. Talk to Dragan about recommendations when you head in. It’s a smattering of every meat under the sun. Bring your gang of traveling, muscle-shirted broskis, and chow down. There’s enough protein at 3 Buffalos to satiate all the gyms in Saigon.
VND650,000 per person for free-flow meat. I wasn’t kidding above. Plus, included in this price is all you can drink Tiger draft, house wine, or soft drinks. It’s only VND250,000 for children. Just, you know, no beer.