According to TripAdvisor, there are only 158 restaurants in the Macedonian capital of Skopje. Compare this to the 4,946 restaurants in Sydney or the 19,444 restaurants in London and you begin to get a sense of how small the city is in comparison. Food options are limited for travellers – there’s a number of more touristy restaurants in the centre of town and bakeries selling burek everywhere, but we found it harder to locate a local restaurant serving good healthy food at a good price.
Two out of three ain’t bad though, so we headed down the road from our Airbnb apartment to SushiCo, a ‘Chinese, Thai and Japanese’ restaurant (#14 of 158 restaurants) offering a Sunday lunch buffet for 990 Macedonian Denars, or $25 AUD. Considering that the average Macedonian monthly wage is $550 AUD, this is an extremely pricey dining option for many Macedonians, and certainly not an everyday indulgence. When you can get lunch for two people for 500 denars at other restaurants or a burek from a bakery for 50 denars, 990 denars is quite out of reach!
So with that in mind, please note that this buffet lunch we had at Sushi Co in Skopje is not a standard experience in Macedonia. We were part of the 1% when travelling through countries in the Balkans, and K constantly had to remind me of that when I was trying to decide whether to leave a 100 denar or a 200 denar tip in restaurants. There’s only a few dollars in it. Err on the side of generosity, as it will make a bigger difference.
Travel ethics aside! Sushi Co is beautifully done up inside with a modern Japanese style – it’s very clean and sleek with a lot of natural woods used throughout the restaurant to create warm tones. They also have outdoor seating capacity which wasn’t being utilised at all during the cold rainy winter. All the wait staff are local Macedonians, though I did spy one sushi chef who looked Japanese.
The buffet is set up at one end of the restaurant on a single long table. There’s no bainmaries here, which does unfortunately mean that dishes do get cold relatively quickly. So if you’re after one of the Japanese tempura prawns or Thai fried money-bags, you do have to keep an eye on the staff as they restock the table with fresh food to make sure that you swoop in to get it while it’s still piping hot. There’s nothing worse than cold fried food!
You can start off with a few salads to help yourself feel a little more virtuous before diving into the sushi carbs or salty stir-fries. There’s a red cabbage salad on offer, as well as a green lettuce salad. They are quite plain though, so I wouldn’t concentrate too much of your eating energy on the salads.
This is where it’s at – the maki and the uromaki hand rolls. There’s a bit of a mix of different ingredients used here – some use tuna, there’s also quite a bit of avocado and seafood stick used as well. There was a white fish used as well which I couldn’t identify – it didn’t look like albacore, snapper, or any other white fish I’m familiar with! Perhaps its a local freshwater white fish?
The nigiri was popular as well, though the seafood stick nigiri wasn’t really touched at all. I did eat my fair share of prawn nigiri and tuna nigiri, but found that the tamagoyaki nigiri (egg omelette nigiri) tasted a bit strange, as though they hadn’t put in quite enough mirin for the eggs used. To be fair, it might also be the European eggs which I have found to be much earthier in taste with yellower yolks than we would normally find in Australia.
Fried food galore – sesame chicken, money bags, fried wontons, honey chicken…plus a bit more. In the back you can also see a bamboo container of Peking duck pancakes – don’t go near these unless they’ve just been brought out of the kitchen. As any duck pancake connoisseur will know the pancakes need to be freshly steamed to be edible – if they’ve been out of the steamer for any more than five minutes, they’ll start to harden and ruin the whole pancake experience. The same goes for the fried food – it always tastes better when it’s fresh, so keep an eye on when they bring a fresh lot out!
There’s a few generic Chinese stirfries on offer as well – a beef, a chicken, a vegetarian. The sauces used in each stirfry are indistinguishable from the next – I suspect there’s some soy sauce in there, probably also a plum sauce as well. What is in the stir fry isn’t important, what is important is that they will remind you of Australian food court Chinese food, a.k.a three combinations for $8 or the cheap eating of my student days. There’s nothing like a bit of homesickness to make food court Chinese taste wonderful.
And now, a few shots of our plates!
Sushi Co isn’t the world’s most authentic restaurant – how can it be when they’re trying to offer three different cuisines in one? By local Macedonian standards however, Sushi Co is a fantastic restaurant that offers quite an upscale dining experience, introducing locals to foods and cuisine that you would not be able to find elsewhere in the city.
For an Australian who is used to the best in Asian cuisine, Sushi Co is a great nostalgic reminder of the comforts of home and helps to assuage the feeling of homesickness. Go for their 990 denars Sunday lunch buffet if you’re ever in Skopje – it ends up being better value as a single salmon roll will cost you 530 denars anyway. You might as well spend a little bit more for more variety!
Sushi Co is located at 29 Leninova in Skopje, Macedonia.