Restaurant Žara iz duvara (Nettle from the Wall)
Traditionally made meals are served with love you can only get to feel at your mother’s dining table
Written by: Elma Zećo
Behind the Sarajevo’s Markale market, a restaurant was opened three years ago. Even at the beginning, its culinary offer stood out from the dominant menus in other restaurants in Sarajevo. Its very name – Žara iz duvara (Nettle from the Wall) – suggests that, even though this is atypical, nettle plays an important role in determining the restaurant’s identity and it is an ingredient of a whole range of tasty dishes.
Follow your Dreams
All credit goes to Sabina Osmanović (35), a Sarajevan whose creative energy and great desire to have a new beginning put in motion a volcano of daydreams about a potential private business. She was in no need of a job. Considering her age, she was a successful and dedicated brand and marketing manager in large corporations and in the hotel business. But, there was a moment when she realized that that was not what her heart was set on.
“Apart from BiH, I worked in Libya and Dubai, but the corporate work method was not fulfilling because it is what it is. I felt it was time to take another road,” Sabina starts telling her story and goes on to say: “I always loved the culinary arts and I was enchanted by the 24 Kitchen channel. At the time, I started to hike and discover the diversity of medicinal plants, and I started to become more and more intrigued by it. I was driven by a desire to change, although I was somehow under the impression that it was difficult to make a turn in your thirties. I believe my perception began to shift when I heard a fascinating story with a positive message from one of my colleagues of a successful broker who decided to change his profession after a severe traffic accident and become one of the most renowned chefs in the world.”
So, Sabina decided to take a step forward.
“My intentions were modest – I wanted to make klepe and knedle (traditional Bosnian dumplings filled with minced meet or cheese and potato-dough dumplings) to go. On the way of making this happen, my ideas grew, and I gained new knowledge. When I was a child, I was inspired by my mom’s cuisine. She would cook everything for us lovingly. We felt love everywhere, including the food she cooked and served us. We would joke around saying that we should open our own family restaurant. I did not have any cooking experience, but love motivated me to start something new. I believe one can succeed if one genuinely wants something. It all happened intuitively, but my dream came true by reminding me of The Alchemist and the story of a personal legend.”
Nettle – A Miraculous Plant
While she was still hiking, Sabina started to explore nettle, and she decided to include it in her ingredients because of its health benefits. A French documentary called the Miraculous Nettle also made a huge impression on her at the time; it featured the struggle of the French farmers to have the right to use nettle.
“Even though it is widely used, nettle is undervalued and people think of it as weed, which is not fair. In essence, it is one of nature’s best gifts, and I wanted to point this out in my work. One cannot make a revolution in other people’s minds, but one can make a symbolic contribution.”
In the Žara iz duvara restaurant, where the last name in the title means a wall encompassing a property, and žara (nettle) often grows and symbolizes the indestructible power of nature, traditional cuisine is dominant, even if it is increasingly being neglected due to the fast life style. However, along with the traditionally made meals, you are also served love and attention that you can only find at your mother’s dining table. The menu consists of different combinations of dishes made with or of nettle, such as: millet and nettle broth, nettle pesto with rice ravioli and cottage cheese, nettle fritters, bread made of integral flour and nettle, traditional Bosnian nettle pie (uljevak), and nettle jam, and crepes you can fill with nettle jam. In Žara iz duvara there are other culinary surprises and tasty homemade drinks made of various fruits and medicinal herbs such as milfoil, thyme and marjoram.
Žara iz duvara has an excellent reputation of serving good quality food, mainly among foreigners, but the fame of this restaurant has spread on the local market too attracting, among others, families to get together over lunch.
As there was live music at Žara three times a week, a New York Times journalist happened to be there one evening, and later on he ended up mentioning the restaurant in one of his stories.
“I never thought that anything like this could happen. You start with klepe and knedle to go, and the next thing you know, a highly acclaimed magazine mentions you,” Sabina says jokingly, convincing evidence which shows that where there is a strong will there is a way.