Review: Vini da Gigio

10 December 2017

After a nice quick stop in Trieste, I reverse my journey from 2001 by going in reverse. Last time I arrived in Trieste from Venice by train; this time I head into Venice from Trieste by bus… A simple and relatively comfortable ride into town, then 2 vaporetti (having paid the ridiculously-priced day transport ticket) rides to get near my hotel. With a touch of freezing rain, I get to my hotel and drop my bag.

Last time I was here in 2001 it was in midst of unseasonably cold weather, an icy, frozen mess that kept many tourists (and pigeons) away. That was a great time to explore Venice, the age before Instagram and ShitAdvisor. This time was more targetted, as there were specific things in my mind and most of them were away from the larger tourist hoardes…

But this *is* Venice, and it is inundated with tourists — including Italian, as this was the tail end of a long weekend. So I dodged as many people as possible and wandered around the north end of Cannaregio before I headed to lunch. In fact, most of the next 2 days I spent exclusively in Cannaregio.

I had found this place called Vini da Gigio online after some exhaustive research, and the menu sounded fantastic, so I booked ahead. I got there just as it was opening, catching them on the tail end of their family meal. Nevertheless a rather jovial server led me to my table. I looked over the menu and ordered my lunch and a nice bottle of local red, all to my server’s approval.

The wine soon made its appearance and once again, so nicely chilled…a tasty local red that always works well with food, that’s part of the joy of dining out in Italy… I enjoyed it a bit as more diners began showing up. Then they all stared at my server bringing my antipasto over, and…yeah…

01-crudo

Wow, this was a heck of a crudo spread here… The joys of being off the Adriatic… You have several wonderful local crustaceans, the cannocchia on the left being the most special for me…just lovely. The oyster is also surprisingly good. The fish weren’t bad either, including that bit of tuna in the centre. Wow…what an amazing start. And for Venice (or anywhere for that matter) it’s shockingly cheap…

I finished this wonderful spread and relaxed, and enjoyed a bit of wine…oh I am so glad I booked this place ahead of time as it’s is now full…and that was an amazing crudo set. Sipped on more wine as I see my jovial server arrived with my first…

02-tagliolini neri

A perfectly-cooked tagliolini neri with anchovy and broccoli, just lovely. Oh, it’s times like this I’m so happy to be back in Italy…a mouth-watering pasta dish that shames ramen noodles each and every time. The flavours are working in concert, the strong anchovy being balanced by the flat ink pasta. Excellent! I finished this happily and enjoyed more wine as I see my server approach with a plate and a smile…

03-anguilla

Oh my is this good. This eel is so rich, but works perfectly grilled in this fashion. Just lovely flavours oozing out of every bite. I love eel to death, and this is such a wonderful way to prepare it… I love eating eel clean, as its natural fatty flavours are so delicious, and the polenta soaked up that oil so nicely… This is a perfect weapon against the proliferation of eel sauce over poor-quality eel!

I was more than happy — and full — after this. The small eatery was rammed by this point with Sunday diners, so I settled up, thanked them, and let them have the table back for the next lucky set of diners.

Pleasantly surprised by this excellent lunch. I’ve never had much luck dining in Venice, and most of my food-oriented friends have neither, so I’m pretty happy finding this little gem along this tiny walkway. Hope this is a trend and not an anomaly for my 2 days here in Venice…

Highly recommended! And do book ahead!

Vini da Gigio
Calle Stua 3628A, Cannaregio
Venezia, Italia

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A Delicious Return to Trieste…

9 December 2017

My alarm came on at an unfriendly time and with my windows open I knew the weather had turned. I looked out and it was covered in snow…the first snow I’ve seen this year since Santiago in July! But this will make my trek much harder as I can see it was a very wet snow…

Thank goodness I had that excellent dinner at JB last night, or else I’d be pissed. Ljubljana was basically flooded, as it’s just water under the snow and ice. And yes, I did rip my shoe hiking the first day here, so my socks were getting soaked — and frozen. Damn it. The bus was late, and it was a flooded mess at the stop… And it was rammed for the ride across the border to Italy…

I arrived in Trieste nearly 16 years to the day of my first visit (that was on 20 December 2001) for yet another quick, one-day stop. I really enjoyed that short visit last time, and I’m hoping for a good but short stay in this unique, historical town.

I dropped my bag and my hotel (NH Trieste) so nicely let me check in early despite this being Saturday for a holiday weekend. I relaxed and — most importantly — changed socks, which were soaked…at least they weren’t frozen solid like while waiting for the bus earlier… I then headed out to see what I had missed for 16 years…

Trieste is looking beautiful despite the foul-ish weather. Some of the holiday decor are up, so that was a nice addition. I walked south through the old town and headed towards my lunch destination, Nerodiseppia.

I got there just as it opened and was seated a nice wee seat that I would have picked if I had my choice. I relaxed and ordered, also doing my Italian usual by getting a bottle of local red. That arrived quickly, and loving the fact that they keep the reds somewhat chilled here. Makes it so much better…

The place livened up very quickly despite the early lunch hour, and I was so glad I made a booking! Enjoying my wine as the antipasto arrived soon, grilled scallops.

A-1-cappesante

Mmm, lovely stuff. I love it when the whole scallop, lip and all, is included. Nicely served with some radicchio from Treviso. A good start. Then my first appeared…

A-2-canederli

Oh my, these candederli were good. It’s been awhile since I’ve had these, a slightly localised version of the Austrian Knödel. Remember, Trieste was the key port city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire… The smoked swordfish and local sepia really added a wonderful overall taste to this hearty dish. Excellent!

I kept enjoying more wine as the place was now totally rammed. Mostly locals, many seemingly regulars that the staff know very well. A wonderful holiday weekend lunch for sure! Then finally, the second, fritto misto

A-3-fritto misto

A common sight, but this regional variation featured some lovely stuff ranging from several different types of shrimp and fish, as well as a good helping of vegetables — which for me is one of the secrets that distinguish an ordinary fritto misto to an excellent one. The small shrimp from the Gulf of Trieste were the best part here…

Wow, I was full! I finished the bottle of nice local red and closed up with an espresso and a grappa as I always do, to the approval of my server. I also wanted to free up this table for more customers, as folks are still streaming in at this early lunch hour. Love seeing small family restaurants do so well!

A good start to my short Trieste trip, and that hearty lunch fuelled me to climp up to the Castello di San Giusto, taking a different path from my climb 16 years ago. I explored the castle well that trip, enjoying the view of the town, so this time I focused more on the Cattedrale di San Giusto…which OF COURSE was closed for a long lunch… I forgot I was in Italy again… But I got to explore the church nicely afterwards and took yet another side path down just as the weather started to deteriorate…

I explored a little more of the town then went back to my hotel for a much-needed kip. Jetlag is hitting hard, and these early morning bus rides are not helping since sleeping on the bus is not a given thing — such as this morning. But after a bit of rest I went to re-explore Trieste by night, and it was indeed beautiful…

I chilled and just strolled around until time of my dinner reservation. Not much is written about this place, Le Barettine, but I see they are good with crudo — which is something I truly love, especially with the wide variety of seafoods I can get here in Italy and not elsewhere. I walked in and it was empty…hmmm, on a Saturday night…

Sure it was early, but it seems pretty dead. And when the menu appeared there wasn’t the creativity I thought there was from what I read, nor the crudo… Oh well, let’s have a good traditional dinner then. I ordered my usual bottle of local red and my food and then chilled out. Wine soon appeared, nicely cool — the best way to drink a red. I so prefer drinking a cool bottle of red in Italy than almost everywhere in the world that sticks to the warmer feel…

B-0-baccalà e saor

The amuse soon arrived and it was a take on traditional local antipasti — baccalà and sardine. A nice start, going well with the excellent house red, which was cheap as anything but tasty and great with food. Then the proper antipasto arrived, the octopus.

B-1-octopus

Not bad, over a bed of polenta. Nothing special, but a good solid start. Then the first was orecchiette…

B-2-orecchiette

Again not bad, in a tomato and tuna sauce — the latter in some nice solid chunks. It tasted better as it went on, so perhaps it was rushed out a little… But filling enough. This is not as good as my excellent lunch at Nerodiseppia, but it’s good for what it was. I finished it, had more wine, then we have our second.

B-3-calamaretti

Local calamaretti over more polenta. A bit more flavourful than the antipasto, but a bit sandy to be honest. I finished it and drained the wine. I headed to the loo and goodness, a squat? It’s been too long since I’ve been back in Italy…

Not great but filling dinner. No dessert, just espresso and grappa, and they brought out a wee bit for the end.

B-end

I so much prefer this to petit four, the wee citrus was the best part. Chatted a little with a table of foreigners nearby before I headed out. Was still empty, but it’s still on the early side. I had to eat early as I had yet another early bus ride tomorrow, so…

Anyway, dinner was a little disappointing but filling, so it did its job. Lunch at Nerodiseppia was far better, and that is highly recommended — though best to book in advance!

Wandered around a bit and enjoyed the sites more, especially with everything draped in beautiful holiday lights. Walked back to my hotel, set the alarm, and collapsed…a short but nice return to this beautiful city on the Adriatic…

Nerodiseppia
Via Luigi Cadorna 23

Le Barettine
Via del Bastione 3/A
Trieste, Italia

Review: JB

8 December 2017

Ljubljana has proven to be pretty good food-wise, despite a few hiccups. I’ve generally enjoyed my short trip here, and I had planned for my last night to be the good one. Much like how I planned Dubravkin Put in Zagreb to end my short stay there, I’m hoping tonight’s dinner destination, JB, would prove to be as much of a stand-out for Ljubljana’s dining scene.

The restaurant is the work of Chef Janez Bratovž, who perhaps is less known than Ana Roš amongst the mutual-stroke-fest-chefs’-circle that dominates the San Pellegrino world now, but is impressive in itself. The restaurant was rated #89 on that list back in 2010, and was rumoured to be in line for Michelin honours if the guide ever makes an appearance here.

Unfortunately, as I arrived after a long walk in pouring rain and through flooded streets, I was soaked. Rarely was I so happy someone took my coat… I was guided to a nice table (with a cute holiday-ish decor) and I relaxed. Very quickly a wonderful yet rough rakija that was recommended was brought, and that warmed me up even quicker.

I happily went with the tasting menu and pairing, and left my fate to the staff. I relaxed as I was finishing my drink as I contemplated how hard it is to run a top-class restaurant with innovative cooking in places like Ljubljana, where the clientele tends to be more of what I call “Ryanair-flying, ShitAdvisor-reading” types; for instance, on a busy Friday night, a group of 8 Brits somehow thought they can walk into the top restaurant in town and get a table. Would they dare do this in London? Or even Leeds? They were lucky they got one, but this attitude that anything geographically east of a certain point deserves less respect than things towards the west is utterly infuriating. I saw this in Tallinn over the years, and I still see it all over the eastern side of the continent. Infuriating.

Sorry, I’ll stop pontificating. I relaxed and the first wine was poured, a nice Šipon (a local Furmint) as the amuse began…

01b-snack

Not sure how well this was thought out between kitchen and service, but the server seems to be having trouble keeping this thing from bouncing too much as it was served. Two wee cones, one with parsnip cream and the other with beet. Sorry for the bad focus, but my phone refused to take a clean pix of this one… Not bad, then the next set, fritters.

02-fritters

Pretty good, one with cod, and the other with fava graced by chilli. Nice start so far. Then we have the first proper item, the baked pepper.

zzz

Mmm, this was good, stuffed with eggplant. Nice, with just a touch of a bite. The Šipon has worked well with all these items, and I finished it with the nice pepper. Another nice local white is brought and we move to smoked trout.

04-trout_edited

An interesting combination with the tasty smoked fish, such as orange and roe. Throw in some mustard seeds, and you have an interesting set of flavours to add to the trout. Nice stuff. Then another generous pour of a local sauvignon blanc we stay with seafood…

05a-shrimp

An excellent, juicy shrimp from the Adriatic, accentuated by almond and lemongrass flavours. I’m enjoying the use of flavours today, even though I’m generally not a fan of foams and the such, but today’s stuff is working well. I think part of that is that they accentuate the main ingredients, which have been excellent. It’s when the whole dish is an experiment that drives me a bit nuts. Nice stuff.

I chilled out and the place was now very busy, but the excellent service staff kept everything running very well. I smiled when the next dish arrived…

06-goose liver

A nice goose liver for sure… If there’s one thing this region does well it is goose, and its liver is always extremely tasty. In fact in my notes I wrote “crazy good” to describe this dish…I think that says it all… So far a really excellent dinner! Then next up were some huge ravioli…

07-ravioli

Oh my these were fantastic, filled with various goodies including meat, pistachio and cottage cheese, but more importantly more goose liver! Oh my! Fantastic stuff! I can eat these things all day! Lovely stuff… At this point we have a little surprise that wasn’t on the menu…

08-yolk & mangalica

Mmm…yolk with Mangalica bacon… Oh my! It’s like my dream breakfast! Lovely stuff, rich just to be rich…mmm! Then naturally perfectly a palate cleanser…

09-sorbet

Some basil ice to clean all that rich yolk and Mangalica away… Feeling pretty good as I sense the meal is moving to another stage. But also things slowed down dramatically…not sure why, but helped with digestion a little… Eventually a pinot grigio is poured and we start with a fish dish.

10-whitefish

I didn’t quite get the name of this fish they called “whitefish” but it was pretty tasty. The side items were also quite nice, all tinged with the flavours of oyster. Nice stuff. I got a nice top-up here as the food service continued to slow down, but that’s fine if they keep the wine flowing! So many places that do tasting menus don’t co-ordinate well when the pace changes, but they are doing a good job here. We switched to a red with a deep pinot noir and I suspect meat…

11-venison

Yep, venison. Very tasty, lovely quality meat cooked perfectly. The chive štruklji was a nice side for sure, bringing a bit of national flavour to this dinner. That was a nice one-two for mains! Then things moved back to a normal pace as we shift into the dessert section of the meal…

The restaurant now was hopping, and things are still moving relatively well. Then with a nice chardonnay poured we have the closer…

12-dessert

A nice vanilla ice cream with local cheese…a nice combination. A good close to a very good dinner! I asked for some coffee and the same rough rakija that I got when I came in, just to warm me up for the walk back. The rain was far lighter now, but the roads would be as flooded, so wanted to fortify myself a bit.

But before I headed out Chef Bratovž came out to thank me and mentioned my online postings…oh my! But we had a nice wee chat and I thanked him for the excellent dinner. I really did enjoy it, and I headed out pretty happy — also happy that my coat has dried since I arrived a few hours earlier…

As I walked through the rain back to my hotel, I’m happy with how my Ljubljana stay closed. An excellent night of fine food and drink, and that goose liver was just wow… Excellent, highly recommended. Where else will you get such a tasting menu for under a hundred euros? This was way cheaper than Zagreb, and the quality higher.

If Michelin does come to the region, you can expect a star to land at JB for sure.

JB
Miklošičeva 19
Ljubljana, Slovenija

Eatin’ in Melaniastan…I mean Slovenia…

7 December 2017

After a hectic 2 days in Zagreb I headed to the ramshackle bus station to hop on the coach to nearby Ljubljana. It’s by far the easiest ways to get between the 2 capitals, separated by a mere 140km. I was knackered from yesterday, but that excellent dinner at Dubravkin Put was a highlight of the trip. A late tram almost got me into a bind, but thank goodness the bus was not far from the tram stop. Aside from an annoying customs check at the border (Croatia’s not in Schengen yet), it was an easy and fast ride to Slovenia.

Rolled into Ljubljana on-time. Not too enthusiastic to be in Melaniastan…I mean Slovenia. I’ve not had great luck with this place or with Slovenes in general; I had a Slovene former business partner who ripped me off badly… You know who you are, Tin, no hiding behind the mustard…

I quickly headed to my hotel by bus (after an annoyingly long search for a functional ticket machine…) and dropped my stuff off. I headed first to lunch at an old-school place called Šestica, which claimed to have been in business since 1776…

I was surprised that the place filled up quickly for a Thursday, more so that it seems to be locals — which is always a good sign. The place was bright an airy, and it was easy to relax. I placed my order and my old-school nodded with approval. He soon brought out my beer and an amuse…

a-amuse

Some liver mousse on bread, which was nice. But I probably shouldn’t have filled up as when I saw the size of my starter I thought, oh here we go…

1

This is a huge seafood pasta dish, nice and hearty with very nice flavour. Cooked very well, may I add. I was already half-full when this was done and when my main arrived, it was a quick reminder I’m in Slovenia…

a-2a-ribs

Wow, a huge order or baked ribs. Too big for lunch! Very rich and tasty, the meat actually very tender despite the appearance. I laboured at it until I was finished, way too stuffed at this point! I asked my server for a coffee and he brought it quickly with the bill, knowing (from experience) there’s no way for me to fit anything else! A solid if not overly-voluminous lunch!

With such a heavy lunch perhaps it was not the smartest thing to hike up to Ljuljana Castle from the north end, but that’s just what I did. Plus it was warm (for me), so I was a bit sweaty at the top so I just chilled out with a bottle of water, enjoying the view. Others walking by stared why I was sitting there with no coat yet covered in sweat… In any case, that was well worth it. Hiked back down and took a lap around the Old Town before heading back to my hotel to unpack and chill out.

A bit later I headed out to dinner not too far from my hotel, but a nice walk south along the Ljubljanica River. Dinner was another old-school yet classy place called Manna. I was seated upstairs and my server was another old-school guy, witty and good. Goodness, I’m having a flashback to how bad that first place in Zagreb was and how everything has been tops service-wise since. I ordered and enjoyed my wine when a wee amuse arrived.

b-amuse

Tastings of beet and smoked ricotta, quite a nice start, with a touch of cranberry and nuts. Surprised by this. Then my starter arrived, the crab ravioli.

b-1-ravioli

Lovely stuff in ink, the ravioli stuffed nicely. The shellfish was tasty, and it was a good dish overall. Enjoyed more wine and then my main course arrived, and it was again rather big…

b-2-lamb

Roast lamb, nice but big! Enjoyed it, though it was laborious at the end. I finished my wine and enjoyed some rakija, as dessert was a no-go today. I was tired and full. But it was fun to banter with the waiter, who proceeded to give me his 2-cents about how so many people (esp locals) eat too fast and don’t enjoy their food (as much as I did). I always enjoy talking to my servers, and this one was excellent. I left happily to head back to my hotel for some much-needed kip…

The next morning, after a relatively good sleep, I headed for Ljubljana’s historic Žale Cemetery. Not as extensive as Mirogoj in Zagreb, but plenty of intrigue, beauty and history too. However, it was pissing down quite hard all morning, and I was a soaked mess after a few hours out there. I caught the tram back towards the centre and headed to lunch.

I had planned to visit Špajza, a well-regarded place that specialised in horse meat, but I had arrived at 11.58am trying to get out of the pouring rain, and the lazy server playing with his phone at the bar said to come back in 10 minutes. So I went back out into the downpour and never came back. This attitude…another ShitAdvisor-pushed self-important place. Screw them.

So I found a place down the street called Gostilnica 5-6kg, a place that specialised in pork. Perfect! I chilled as my friendly server took good care of me. I ordered and chilled out. Not long after my starter arrived — rabbit liver.

c-1-rabbit liver

Really nice, though I won’t post this on my Instagram since most of what I follow are cute bunnies! Compartmentalise, folks, compartmentalise. It’s not a compromise, it’s a distinct way of processing thoughts and emotions… But the dish was excellent, helped on by the sprouts and shallots. Really a good start!

I chilled out and thank goodness was no longer soaked. I also noticed that the damage on my right shoe from yesterday’s hike to Ljubljana Castle has grown worse, and water was now leaking straight into my right sock. Great, this is the start of the trip and I didn’t pack a spare pair of shoes as I was travelling light… In any case my main arrived, and I smiled.

c-2-Notranjska sausage

Sausage from the Notranjska region, a nice coarse meaty sausage, perfect for a day like this. Really delicious, and filled me up just right. Perfect. I had a coffee and thanked my excellent server before I headed out. The rain was dissipating, so that was good news.

Anyway, three relatively good meals in a row here in Ljubljana, where old school done classic or modern both worked well. Pleasantly surprised, though the portions are a great reminder where you are. And again, when you find good servers you find good food, and I lucked out all 3 times here in Ljubljana.

Šestica
Slovenska Cesta 40

Manna
Eipprova 1a

Gostilnica 5-6kg
Gornji Trg 33
Ljubljana, Slovenija

Review: Dubravkin Put

6 December 2017

I got the wee rest I needed after that long trek and hearty lunch stew. It was a bit of a hike to my dinner destination, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. Took the tram about half way and then hiked north and arrived at Dubravkin Put at about the right time for my booking. I was given a nice table at the back and I chilled out with a cocktail…so needed…

Dubravkin Put is one of the few restaurants in Zagreb that does a tasting menu, alongside its ala carte items. I decided why not, so went with the long tasting for tonight, and pairing too.

Then Chef Priska Thuring, who is actually Canadian-Swiss, came out to introduce herself and talk about the tasting menu. All sounded good and I was pretty excited. This should be good, after hearing her ideas for this evening.

I chilled and finished the cocktail. Then the wine service started, and oh dear the pours are BEYOND generous. This is gonna be a fun night! With the manzanilla we start with sepia…

01-sepia_edited

One of my favourite things, this was really nice with some grains and chickpeas (under the creature). Great start, worked well with the manzanilla. Then we get another fortified tipple, this time local, as the second dish arrives.

02-liver panna_edited

A “panna cotta” of liver, which was really delicious, accentuated by those crispy chicken skin and pea shoots especially. So far things are going good! Another solid pour of a local white and we get a tasting of beet.

03-beets_edited

I love beets, I won’t deny that. The beets here are excellent, and the horseradish gelato a nice addition. Still going well! With a beautiful Istrian white now being poured, we move into the seafoods with this nice prawn…

04-prawn_edited

Oooh, this beauty was poached in the fat of the fajferica, or the black Slavonian pig. Just gorgeous, as the fat meshed into the prawn in a decadent combination. Awesome dish! And that Malvazija from Istria is just the perfect combination here. Fabulous!

I was pretty happy with this dinner, as the pace moved perfectly as well even as the restaurant got busier. With a wonderful French accompanying the next dish we shift to meats — with sweetbreads.

05-sweetbread

Excellent again, the veal sweetbreads working great with some fabulous lardo. I apologise for the poor photo, but the lighting made focusing really hard all night. The spongy bits didn’t quite work tho, but the sweetbreads and lardo were awesome. Then we get a little break with a nice palate cleanser…

06-palate

A good combination of bread gelato and sour cherry sorbet. This was a nice double before we go into the next segment, as a beautiful white from the island of Brač is poured…

07-dory

One of my favourites, John Dory, done extremely well. The razor clams were also tasty. Another great one-two here, and that Brač white was so good for this… Another excellent dish! Then another white from the Zagreb region is poured and we get a second fish — bonito.

08-bonito_edited

Bonito is a finicky fish to cook but it worked out really well here, with a spinach gnocco and puree. Surprisingly good, as I usually do not like bonito beyond seared or smoked (like those amazing ones in Japan). Shows a really high class of cooking here. I’m impressed. Then with a dark, slightly effervecent white poured we get rabbit loin.

09-rabbit

Now this was the first dish to disappoint, as it seemed overcooked. And yeah, it looked a mess too. Pairing didn’t work. It’s like all of the night’s disappontment collectively joined one dish…sigh, but it can’t be all excellent… Next up, with a good pinot pour, is veal heart.

10-veah heart_edited

Not bad, solid meat. Worked well with the pairing. Thank goodness the last dish was a total anomaly. But I noticed the service is slowing down, noticeably. The restaurant is now on a second seating with the ala carte folks, and I suspect I’m the only person doing a tasting tonight, so some credit to the kitchen for managing it so well so far.

A non-sweet Zagreb regional tipple is poured and we start into the desserts…

11-raspberry ricotta

The first dessert is a tasting of ricotta and raspberry. Really nice, lovely combination, and the non-sweet white worked really well. Good start! Then with a not-too-sweet local fortified wine we get dessert number two…

12-pear chocolate

This pear and chocolate tasting was less good, but not bad. You know I’m not a dessert person, so… But now the service has crawled to a total crawl, which is too bad as it’s been rather smooth so far. Perhaps it’s the transition into desserts. In any case, it put a little of a damper on things.

Perhaps they had to time it so Chef Thuring can come out to thank me. We had a chat about the dinner and I’m pretty impressed with all this. I can see this place going far. It’s by far the best food I’ve had in Croatia, and one of the best tasting menu I’ve had in south-east Europe. I thanked her and let her get back to work as we had to finish this dinner…

The server returned, pouring a madeira and presented the last item — cheese.

13-cheese_edited

A nice end, and honestly I’m full and a bit more than tipsy. The pours have been beyond generous… This dinner cost an arm and a leg and would be considered expensive not just in Croatia, but it was good. The quality is fantastic. Then with my coffee they brought out a last snack…

end

I finished and headed out pretty happy, for my very long walk back to the hotel. I needed it after all this rich food and booze. I like how Chef Thuring improvised a solid menu with what she had from her sources, and it would have been a good dinner anywhere in the world. Very impressed.

I’m less impressed with the short sleep I’ll have before tomorrow’s bus journey to Slovenia…

Dubravkin Put
Dubravkin put 2
Zagreb, Hrvatska

Lunching in Zagreb: Old and Steady vs New and Shaky…

5-6 December 2017

In looking at the 2 lunches I had in Zagreb, it reminded me of how some things should be done, and how some things should not be done. Experienced all of it. When I first got to Zagreb I immediately headed out to get some food, arriving at the much-heralded Pod Zidom for a late lunch.

Sadly what happened reminded me of places like Tallinn or Warsaw in the 1990s — workers who didn’t want to work. Could not get the one server to do anything as he just seemed to want to play with his phone the whole time. Took ages to get my order through…

Nevertheless, I sat with some lovely local white and my first item arrived…

A-01-ham hock ravioli

The horror…this ham hock ravioli is still borderline frozen. And it’s a SALT ball. Ugh… Not a great start to my short Croatia stop. Then I had to literally walk up to my server, who was still playing with his phone at the bar, to get me another wine. Ridiculous lack of work ethic…

A-02-octopus

My main course was octopus. Really meh… Even the black pudding and polenta did nothing to cheer this sad dish up. I settled up (after hunting the server down again) and headed out. A piss-poor start to Zagreb, sadly…

That evening I had the wonderful dinner at Trilogija, where I saw the 100% opposite in quality of service.

The next morning I was up early, but rather rested. I headed out and spent the morning exploring the historic Mirogoj Cemetery, which is one of the more beautiful cemeteries in this part of Europe. Lovely historic stuff, you see Croatian history in front of your eyes from the Austro-Hungarian period to the 1990s war, all vividly.

I was knackered after 3 hours of hard trekking, so needed a hearty late lunch. So I found a place called Stari Fijaker at the edge of the Old Town. It’s a historic place having been serving food in some form for over a century, and it was already busy — always a good sign.

My server, despite being an older gentleman, had impeccable English. My year of learning Croatian was a disaster and I still keep throwing in Polish and Bulgarian words and use the wrong endings, so I didn’t push my luck too far. He recommended the Slavonian peasant stew, so surely I went with it.

After awhile, as my legs finally relaxed from this morning’s tiring trek, my big pot arrived…

C-peasant stew - 02

The server served the first bowl and it was exactly what I needed…

C-peasant stew - 01

Hearty, nothing fancy, good stuff. I finished all 3 helpings of this and settled up and headed out, happy. I explored the town a bit more, but the jetlag is rearing its ugly head, so decided to have a quick shut-eye back at the hotel. And there’s also dinner coming up…

But overall the 2 lunches were really nothing to write home about. The first one was a cluster that frankly brings down a town’s reputation, a ShitAdvisor-pushed trendy joke. The second was old-school good, hearty, and sufficient to keep me going. I guess I chose the dinner locations far better…

Pod Zidom
Pod Zidom 5

Stari Fijaker
Mesnička 6
Zagreb, Hrvatska

Review: Trilogija

5 December 2017

After an unpleasant connection in Zürich, where I was pulled for “extra screening” because I looked “impatient” when someone chose to repack their entire gigantic carry-on suitcase on the security conveyer belt…and got lectured by a self-important know-it-all security idiot about “patience”… I love it, being lectured by the Swiss for not liking inefficiency

Whatever, I made my way painfully to Zagreb and had a nice afternoon strolling. I had booked ahead for dinner at one of the highly-regarded places in the Upper Town, Trilogija.

I hiked up to the Upper Town, forgetting how high up it was (it’s been many years…). By the time I got to the restaurant, despite it being winter, I was sweaty…and when I got to Trilogija I chose a table on the exterior part of the restaurant as it was much cooler. My server happily seated me there and asked about water, seeing my sweat, before I sat down.

Immediately I noticed that my server here was one of the most professional and knowledgeable servers I’ve seen not just in the region, but all over Europe. Many 2-star Michelin places don’t have servers as good and well-versed as this young man, who was in the process of moving to South Korea. He recommended a wonderful red from Istria and I went with it. I placed my food order and relaxed with wine in hand

Not long after, just as I got into my second glass, the food started to arrive…

B-01-Škripavac

Škripavac cheese was first up, grilled to perfection. They are similar to halloumi, to which I am addicted. Lovely stuff, great recommendation by my server. Then the main, another one he recommended…oh my…

B-02-duck_edited

What a beautiful duck. Juicy, succulent, and nice and crispy outside. I’ve had such good luck with duck all year, and it’s so fitting to end it with another brilliant one. Mmm, fabulous!

Chatted with the server for quite awhile as his food and beverage knowledge was quite something, and he saw this profession as a calling…you gotta love that. Then he smiled when I told him what I wanted for dessert…

B-03-Pršut

Yep, pršut. Had to do it. Just like what I do in Spain, this is par for the course. Lovely stuff, and as I finished that bottle of excellent red he recommended a nice melon rakija… Wow, this was good. Talking about that ol’ prosciutto and melon partnership…

I chilled out for another hour chatting with him when he wasn’t busy, and he brought me a few other odd rakija to try, including one of star anise, and another very seasonal one with mistletoe!

But it being my first night my energy level was dropping, so had to close up. I thanked him, wished him luck in his upcoming move across the world, and stumbled down the hill towards my hotel for a much needed sleep…

What a wonderful way to end my first night on this long trip!

Trilogija
Kamenita 5
Zagreb, Hrvatska