Last Thursday around lunchtime, His Food restaurant was busy.
Office workers and young construction workers in high-vis Sisk jackets sat at tables with enormous plates of cevap – 10 sausages stuffed into bread. Some had chips on the side.
“If you eat lunch in here you don’t need to have any dinner,” said owner Hamo Muhadzic.
Muhadzic opened His Food back in 2009. After a couple of tough years trying to make sure people knew he was there, word of mouth spread among Bosnians, Croats, Montenegrins and others that he was cooking up real Balkan dishes.
“After that, everything was perfect,” he says, and these days, he’s flat-out.
A Long Journey
Muhadzic arrived in Ireland with his family in the mid-to-late ’90s. Refugees from the Bosnian war, the family first lived in Cherry Orchard Hospital, which had been converted to house refugees before they were settled elsewhere, he said.
As programme refugees, whose appeals for asylum had already been approved, it took just 40 days for the family to be housed in Tallaght.
Muhadzic did not choose to come to Ireland, he said. It was more that he got sent here. “In my country there was a war. We applied to go somewhere – myself, my wife and our two kids – and we got Ireland,” he said.
But it’s worked out well. In 2001, he started a shop selling Eastern European food. Over time, Muhadzic noticed a growing number of people coming in from the Balkan region.
Back in Bosnia, he had qualified as a chef and owned a restaurant. Perhaps, there was a big enough market to support something here, he thought.
In 2009, he took the plunge. It’s hard to say for certain if it’s true or not, but as Muhadzic tells it, His Food is Ireland’s first and only Balkan restaurant. “I’m sure I’m the only one doing it in Ireland, I would have heard about it if there was another one,” he says.
On Thursday, the menu offered the kind of food that seems made for cold weather: soups and stews, pies, fish with rice or risotto, goulash — Romanian mixed grill and the colossal plates of Bosnian sausages. The air has a smokey-meat smell, and the decor is homely.
Almost every customer seemed to go for the sausages, or cevap. A specialty of the region, the beef sausages come in three different flavours, served in portions of 10 inside a pitta, with a tomato, cucumber, and feta salad on the side.
The bread is fluffy and fresh. The sausages are like rolls of minced-kebab meat, fragrant and filling.
“People, they miss this food, and they can’t make cevap at home. It’s difficult to make and it’s a special recipe. You have to be a chef,” says Muhadzic.
The chorba, a stew that can be found in variations across the Balkans and Romania, is another favourite of customers. The charcoal grill is the domain of the Romanian chef who works there too, he said.
The burek, a kind of pastry pie, comes with a mash of different fillings: mince, potatoes, cheese, or spinach, or a blend of several of them.
“The food here is exactly the same as in my country. The chorba here is the best,” said Marcel Bentea from Romania, who says he eats in His Food every day.
Most mains are priced at €7.90, and come with a free cup of tea. The burek is priced at just €5.50.
At one table, Dajana Radovic from Croatia says the food in the restaurant tastes even better to her than it would at home. “I miss Croatia so much, so this food tastes even better when you’re far from home,” she says.
Alongside her, Darragh Hughes from Waterford was trying out some new tastes. “It was the first time I’ve tried Balkan food and it was lovely, I’d give it 10 out 10,” he says.
His Food is downstairs in the Moore Street Mall. It opens from 10am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday, and 12pm to 7pm on Sundays and bank holidays.