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Dora Restaurant: Cool Balkan food for a hot summer

Restaurant Dora
Address: Plátenícka 22 (near the corner of Prievozská ulica and Košická ulica)
Tel.: 534 18 946 or 0903-349-342

photo: Sharon Otterman

Restaurant Dora

Address: Plátenícka 22 (near the corner of Prievozská ulica and Košická ulica)
Tel.: 534 18 946 or 0903-349-342
Hours: Every day 10-22, on weekends 10-24.

On hot summer days, there's nothing like a little authentic Balkan food to cool you down. A touch of creamy yogurt dip on homemade bread. A fresh green salad tangy with vinegar. A warm bowl of fazuli soup.

Such delights are not always so easy to come by in Bratislava. But if you are willing to look a bit past the center, down a shaded street between the main bus station and the Bratislava Business Center, all this and more awaits at the tiny Restaurant Dora, a Kosovar Albanian place so authentic that I always walk away feeling like I just had a cultural experience.

The restaurant, which has been open for about a year and a half, keeps a low profile on Pálenícka ulica, just off Prievozská ulica behind the large Gumon tire factory. Most of its clients are street-wise Albanian men, and you may at first feel like you just walked into a private club without knowing it. But the wait staff is always welcoming, and the other guests seldom stare. The owner welcomes non-Albanians: we asked.

In good weather, it is pleasant to lunch in the restaurant garden, where about 12 tables sit under leafy trees and red umbrellas. Otherwise, there are six tables inside the living room area of the converted family house in which the restaurant is located. The menu, which is written in Slovak and Albanian, is quickly presented by one of two Dora waitresses (the blond one speaks English.)

My favorite lunch at Dora starts with a little of their homemade "tarator" dip (35 crowns). A bit lighter than tzatziki, its Greek cousin, this treat consists of yogurt whipped with cucumber and a touch of garlic. On lucky days, the owner has prepared homemade rolls (15 crowns) which are perfect for dipping.

Though four "hotove jedla" are listed on the menu , there is usually only one hot, pre-cooked main dish of the day, often some sort of stew. The fazuli soup with potatoes and a bit of beef is excellent when it's available, as is the chicken stew. In fact, this dish, always 120 crowns, is tasty in all of its variations. I have yet to be around, however, for the musaka or stuffed peppers the menu promises.

If you feel like having more protein, try the wide variety of grilled meats on offer. Though I have never tasted it, the owner says the grilled lamb (750 crowns per kilo) is the house specialty. Many of the grilled meats, such as the steak (180 crowns) and veal (160 crowns), are juicy if a bit plain; to remedy this, sauces come on some of the dishes. Fresh grilled trout (600 crowns per kilo) is also an interesting option. As this is a Muslim restaurant, don't expect to find any pork.

If you are still hungry, the small salads are fresh and tasty. The green salad (25 crowns) is much more than just a heap of lettuce; tangy scallions and good oil and vinegar are mixed in. The Albansky salad, with hunks of cucumber, pepper, and tomato (30 crowns) is another winner.

For desert, Dora features my personal favorite; baklava (30 crowns), a hunk of pastry sheets layered with nuts and honey. There is no doubt that this is homemade.

Dora is the current lunch favorite for The Slovak Spectator editorial staff (it is quick and nearby). It took us a while to get used to the private atmosphere of the place, but once we realized we were welcome, we were hooked. Nowadays, we just feel lucky we are in on the secret.

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