Looking for Asian food in Zagreb? A decade ago, there wasn't a stir-fry in sight, but that's all changed in recent years. The 'Asian food' umbrella is, of course, a wide one, especially when you consider the delicious tapestry of ethnic cuisines that make up the eats of the East. Truth is, Zagreb has been slow on the uptake - but what the city lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. These days, Cro-Asian gastronomy packs real culinary clout. Swanky fusion joints like Tekka specialise in destination dining, while more specialized restaurants serve up Japanese dumplings and Korean kimchi. Chopsticks at the ready - here's our list of the best Asian restaurants in town.
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Located in the Radnička cesta business district, Tekka attracts a sharp-suited clientele, and has cultivated the elegant decor and uber-attentive staff to go with it. The recently revamped menu is near impeccable: sushi here is a masterful blend of flavour and finesse. For something with a bit more novelty, order from the Adriatic-Asian fusion section. The wine-list, featuring several Croatian award-winners, is well-tailored to the menu. It’s neither central or cheap, but as one of Croatia’s best sushi restaurants, it’s worth the pilgrimage.
The owner of this little bar-cum-restaurant spent years living in Japan, before moving to world-food mecca New York, and finally, returning with his Japanese partner to Zagreb, equipped with culinary expertise; but he’ll be more than happy to tell you that himself, in elaborate, gesticulated detail. Eat at Gyoza once and you’re a welcome guest, eat there twice and you’re a friend. The menu is small and specialised, and each meal – whether it be glass-noodles with prawns, or the Saturday special ramen – is prepared exactly as it would be in an izakaya bar in Tokyo. As its name suggests, the star of the show is the gyoza, traditional little parcels packed with grated meats or vegetables, which, when dipped in soy sauce, taste salty, fragrant, and fresh. It’s not fine dining – don’t expect elaborate sushi platters. Instead, you’ll get simple, authentic dishes served up by the friendliest staff in the city.
The first sushi restaurant in Croatia, Takenoko is still one of the very few Asian restaurants in town worth experimenting with – and although it will set you back a wad of kunas it is usually well worth it. It’s a swirl of mellow mood music mixed with the soft sound of chefs chopping behind a central cooking station. Leafy plants sit in tall vases around heavy wooden tables below track lighting. Try the Tokyo platter: 11 nori makis (tuna and salmon) and seven nigiris. There’s a handsome choice of wok-fried dishes and some truly inventive exercises in east-west fusion, with fish, chicken and veal dressed in exotic spice combinations.
Manzoku Sushi, which opened in 2008, gets the honourable title of Zagreb's first sushi bar. Eight years later, they still seem to have the edge; especially for those yet to experience Japanese culinary culture, there's sometihng of a novelty to watching the chefs roll your sushi right in front of you. Dishes are served in artful arrangements with decorative relishes. You can also get a bowl of ramen from 43 kn, and, with sushi boards at the 60 kn mark, that makes Manzoku excellent value for money.
Occupying an oft-overlooked street corner just off the main square, Time is one of those bars that really looks like a bar the moment you step inside – a subtly under-lit space with a long wooden bar, shelves stacked with all manner of bottles, and a mixture of tables, bar-stools, and standing-room-only corners. Popular with the working and after-work crowd during daylight hours, Time turns up the music a notch in the evenings and fills up with a predominantly young, style-conscious crew. It’s a very good place to work your way through a representative sample of the better Croatian wines; fans of international spirits and bubbly are also well catered for.
Evergreen is a stylish little restuarant, with a bright, garden-themed interior, and an extensive Japanese menu. Majestic arrangements of sushi come on light woodern boards, and there' a range of fresh hot fish dishes too. Two-person platters are around the 200 kn mark, meaning you can taste all the best things on the menu at a steal.
The Zagreb sushi scene has experienced a flurry of openings and closures in recent years leaving Ginger Sushi as one of the most reliable central bets for good-quality Japanese fare. There are stools inside if you want to eat in but this is primarily a take-away place. The long menu covers most levels of the sushi stratosphere although with bento sets starting at 30kn you might just want to take a look at what’s already boxed up and ready to go. Asahi and Kirin beer in the fridge.
Consisting of a single large table indoors and a couple of benches outdoors, Umami is a quality Asian-themed fast food outlet where you can just about eat sitting down if you ask your neighbour to budge up a bit. The regular menu usually features a curry dish, a wok dish, a Japanese dish, a Thai dish, a salad dish and a soup dish – and with hardly anything breaking the 40Kn barrier, it’s an inexpensive and satisfying way of acquiring your daily fix of spicy global food. It’s certainly a godsend in the busy Tkalčićeva area, where a speedy post-sightseeing, pre-drinking feed is very often just what the visitor needs.
Further proof of Zagreb’s ongoing outbreak of bistro fever is provided by Mundoaka, a cramped but highly enjoyable spot just round the corner from the main square. It advertises itself as a ‘street food’ establishment but offers sit-down fare of the highest order, with an imaginative and globe-spanning menu that takes in ribs, deluxe pulled-pork sandwiches, raw tuna with ginger and a host of other lip-smacking ideas. Soups, bruschettas and cheese platters will more than satisfy the snackers; the prospect of freshly made cakes and muffins may well keep you rooted to your table for one more course. The choice of wines and craft beers admirably complements the food. It’s a busy place and you may end up perching on a stool or sharing a table; there is outdoor seating at the pedestrianised end of Petrinjska in spring and summer.
Pretty much everything you would expect from an Indian restaurant, with a dining room decorated in rich warm colours, a scattering of subcontinental objets d’art, and a menu that contains pretty much everything that will be familiar to a curry-house regular. Tandoor-cooked dishes are a speciality, the side-order options of rice dishes and naans are exemplary. There’s also a lot here for vegetarians to choose from – something that is always worth underlining in a meat-obsessed city like Zagreb.
The only Korean restaurant in Zagreb, Cro. K is a solid, if unexciting, choice. In a grubby corner behind the main square, facing the entrance to the lower part of the market, its location leaves a bit to be desired, and its canteen-style interior lacks atmosphere. That said, if you're after an authentic Korean meal, you'll find it here - the kimchi has been approved by many a Korean tourist, and the broad menu has plenty to suit both meat-eaters and veggies.
This family-run Chinese restaurant opened back in 1990, two decades before 'world food' had made any kind of impact in Zagreb. So, they must be doing something right. You won't have the most elaborate meal of your life here, but you'll find plenty of simple, tasty Chinese classics like sweet and sour chicken and spring rolls. The restaurant itself is large and quite opulent, making it a good choice for sprawling family get-togethers.