In the last decade, with the increased number of tourist in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, the city had developed to satisfy the needs of its guests. It became more lively, more colorful, it opened many new attractions (Museum of Broken Relationships, Museum of Illusions, etc.). Advent in Zagreb won the first place three years in a row for being the best Christmas Market in Europe.
New attractions do entice new visitors, but what do people love the most? Food. There are tens (or maybe hundreds) of new restaurants opening in Zagreb every year. The most interesting for me are the exotic and international ones. I go to my home town 2-3 times a year and every time I'm there, I visit at least two new restaurants. Here is the list of my 9 most interesting international restaurants in Zagreb:
1) Curry Bowl (Tkalčićeva 44)
Two brothers from Sri Lanka were traveling around Europe when they fell in love with the Croatian capital. They decided to come back to Zagreb and to bring their food culture with them. They opened a unique Sri Lankan restaurant on Tkalčićeva street. They combine Sri Lankan ingredients and spices with fresh Croatian meat, fish, and vegetables from the Dolac market.
Here you can try the traditional Sri Lankan street food, kotthu, as well as various curry dishes, fresh coconut salad, fried rice, etc. The most interesting thing on their menu is that you can decide how spicy you want your food to be. You can choose between 4 levels of spiciness – mild, Croatian spicy, Sri Lankan spicy and „are you crazy“ spicy. We adore intense spicy food, so we are usually ordering the two highest levels of spiciness.
Although there are only a few tables inside and outside (on the small terrace) of the restaurant, Curry Bowl is always full. They somehow gained on popularity among Croatians. Affordable prices on their menu certainly helped. The average price of the main dish is 60kn. I was in Curry Bowl various times and I can strongly recommend it.
Btw, they even organize Kotthu fast eating contests with plane tickets to Sri Lanka as the main prize.
2) Namaste (Selska 217)
The only Indian restaurant in Zagreb for a long time was Maharadja near the Dolac Market. The Maharadja somehow wasn't that popular among Croatians, somehow we didn't have an interest in the spicy Indian cuisine. Only in the last few years, Indian restaurants gained on popularity among Croatians.
A new Indian restaurant Namaste opened recently in Selska street. It's the largest Indian restaurant in Croatia with Indian chefs from different parts of India. Its decoration is a mix of modern design and the traditional Indian paintings hanging from the walls. In Namaste restaurant, you can choose between vegetarian (average price 50kn) and non-vegetarian specialties (average price 75kn), delicious soups (30kn) and traditional coconut-buttery desserts (35kn). Make sure you try Indian drink Lassi (20kn) or Indian Masala Chai (15kn).
3) Mama Veek's Kitchen (Ilica 73)
Although there is another African restaurant in Gundulićeva street, Mama Veek's Kitchen is definitely more interesting and deserves a mention. The first restaurant looks pretty fancy which doesn't suit an image of an African restaurant where you'll mostly get bananas, beans, and various typical African vegetables.
Mama Veek's Kitchen is a wooden restaurant hidden in the passage across the street from Britanac square. The owner is a positive and open-minded Nigerian woman, who'll always smile on you. There is no menu in Mama Veek's Kitchen. The Nigerian gets fresh African ingredients every day and she makes a meal from the things she has.
The interesting is also the payment of your meal. You pay the full price for the drinks (beer for 10kn) and the price for food is a donation. You pay as much as you want or consider appropriate for the meal you had. In many articles about newly opened Mama Veek's Kitchen, the journalists asked the Nigerian how is this way of running a restaurant profitable. She simply answered: „I'm happy when I see smiley faces and full stomachs.“ 🙂
The Nigerian is also active in other fields. She promotes African culture through dance classes, workshops (on how to make braids, for example), etc.
4) Omma (Unska street 2B)
Among all of the Asian nations, the Koreans are the most populous in the Croatian capital. You'll also notice many Korean tourists while walking around Radićeva and Tkalčićeva street or the Main Jelačić's Square. This is the reason why there are even two Korean restaurants (that I know of) and a Korean shop in Radićeva street.
The better one is Omma in Unska street outside of the historical center. There you can try typical Korean soup ramen (40kn), delicious appetizers (spring rolls, dumplings, etc.), various noodles (50kn) or main dishes made with beef, pork or fish (60-100kn). They even have a discount on the daily menu (38-55kn), when you can choose the spiciness or sweetness of your dish.
Unfortunately, I haven't been to Omma restaurant but it's definitely on my wish list. My mom and brother went there various times and they strongly recommend the restaurant.
5) Macedonian restaurant Sv. Nikola (Ulica Kralja Zvonimira 78)
If you want to try Macedonian specialties, such as čomlek, mučkalica, pljeskavica, vješalica and a variety of meat prepared in the traditional Balkan way, the Sv. Nikola restaurant is a place for you. The prices are a bit higher (about 80-90kn for one person, 200kn for a platter of meat for two people), but reasonable considering the quality of food and a great homey atmosphere.
During your dinner, the chefs will personally come to greet you and ask you about your meal. You can even enjoy Macedonian live music performances from Wed-Sun. The reservation for this restaurant is obligatory since the restaurant is often booked for weddings, bachelor parties, company parties, and birthdays.
6) El Greco (Tkalčićeva 30)
If you don't have much time and you're up for Greek kebabs, skewered kabobs (pork or chicken) or a fresh Greek salad, come to the Greek street food restaurant El Greco. There is probably 50°C inside during summer months, but there is a nice small terrace outside with the view of people passing by and relaxing in the Zagreb's „bar street“ Tkalčićeva.
The restaurant works as a self-service and the prices are more than affordable (from 29kn for a pitta kebab to 50kn for meat dishes). I was here twice and had their dolma, rice wrapped in vine leaves, accompanied with pitta bread, yogurt, a large portion of feta cheese and a fresh salad. I would definitely recommend this restaurant.
7) Corazón Mio (Radićeva 16)
Corazón Mio is actually a Spanish tapas bar located in Radićeva street. On one side of the street, there is a restaurant decorated in Spanish style (with a guitar, red patterned curtains, flamenco clothes) where you can get something small to eat (tapas, pinchos).
On the other side of the street, there is the craziest and the most kitschy bar that I saw in my life. It seems like the storage of old toys – Barbie dolls, Teletubbies, plush toys, board games, Halloween costumes, etc.
There are a few regular tables outside on a small terrace, but inside, every chair is different and some of them are even made out of toys! Make sure to ask Tinky Winky if the chair is free for you to sit. 😉 If you do find a place to sit, you can enjoy various types of sangría from both red and white wine (30kn; some of them come with a secret ingredient), cocktails (30-40kn) and other drinks. You should definitely check out the toilets, as well.
8) Mex Cantina (Savska 154)
There are a few Mexican restaurants in Zagreb but, in my opinion, the best one is Mex Cantina in Savska street. I went there a million times, it was the traditional restaurant where my parents took me on my birthday for years.
Mex Cantina was one of the first Mexican restaurants which opened in 1998. Since then, it kept a high quality of Mexican food (burritos, fajitas, tacos, etc.), cocktails and drinks. They offer a large choice of main courses (both for carnivores and vegetarians) for an average price of 70-80kn in the traditional Mexican atmosphere. There is even a Mariachi band playing every Monday.
9) Tian Tan (Okićka 10) or Kun Lun (Nova Ves 88)
The Chinese cuisine is the most popular exotic cuisine in Zagreb, thus many Chinese restaurants around the town.
Since I was younger, we always went to family dinners in the Tian Tan restaurant in Trešnjevka neighborhood. Simply because it was close to our home and the food was authentic. You'll notice the Chinese-style pagoda entrance with Chinese characters and red lampions hanging around. The interior is a bit kitschy with burgundy chairs and golden decorations. The average price of a meal is 50-60kn, although the duck specialties cost about 100kn.
Nonetheless, if you don't find yourself in Trešnjevka neighborhood, you can always go to Kun Lun Chinese restaurant in the city center. It's considered the best Chinese restaurant in town according to public opinion. The prices are similar as in the Tian Tan restaurant.
Btw, 1€ = 7,42kn.