As I previously mentioned it seemed the mainstay of Croatian food was pizza. There's nothing wrong with that, but you know it's not exactly original. To be honest, during our trip we haven't really been able to pin down just what is a specialty here. But we definitely gave it a try and hit up spots along main streets and a few off the beaten track that were recommended. The dishes pretty much ran the gamut from meat to fish to pasta and some other things. And while we did do the pizza thing I'm not gonna cover that now, in fact I'm pretty pizza'd out at this point and will be taking break it....for now. Still we had some interesting stuff so here's just a taste of out Croatian food adventure.
This is what most of the towns along the coast look like--red tiled roofs and blue green waters.
Orebic is a tiny town on an island that serves as a gateway to other islands that dot the coastline. We spent a night here and wandered down it's promenade looking for a place to eat. We chose our place because it was the last one and we didn't really feel like walking all the way back, it was called Bistro Jadran--I think. (We've chosen places for worse reasons) We figured we'd go a little native here and started with fried cackerel.
We honestly had no idea what we'd be getting and when it arrived it looked like tiny fried bait. Turns out cackerels are tiny Mediterranean fish that ancient peoples in the area thought were poison--how nice. They are kind of like minnows and evidently they come in two sizes as you see. Lightly salted and then flash fried whole. It's one of those things you just have to pop in your mouth and eat without thinking about it, much like anything salt and peppered you'd get in Chinatown. Basically it tasted liked fried fish, but even for two folks it was a lot to get through, could have used tartar sauce but that's not a condiment here, go figure. We sprinkled it with more salt and some olive oil which helped. But it was what you see. For entrees we went full meat.
The first was called "hashed meat dumplings" and the second was "ribsteak Dalmation style". The dumplings tasted exactly like a hamburger in sausage form--grease and all--I actually liked them more so than the SO. They came with this ground up red pepper sauce which was odd but tasty. The ribsteak was basically a cube steak pounded out which I guess is the Dalmation part of it. Tender yes, but it desperately needed seasoning--and ketchup. Standard meat and potatoes dishes. Side note, I actually saw these in their uncooked form in a couple different grocery stores so I guess these were "traditional" dishes, who knew.
In Trogir we stopped in at another place (don't remember the name) on the water (everything seems to be on the water) that had a good view of the large boats docked there. There were many pages to the menu but we settled on grilled sea bass and "Imperial chicken.
It was a pretty large portion of sea bass, not the wimpy size you get in the states. Perfectly filleted and grilled, all bones gone. Wasn't sure about the smear of squashy stuff, kind of plain but fish was good. The Imperial turned out to be chicken wrapped around shrimp and cheese then coated with parmesan cheese and deep fried. Served hot and crispy I couldn't tell what kind of cheese was on the inside but I liked it. They served it with something that seemed like tartar sauce (weird it came with mine and not the fish) but not quite tartar sauce. It was mayo, I think, with what tasted like Italian spices mixed in, but no pickle relish. It was good for dipping the fries and on the fish but not so much the chicken.
In Dubrovnik we took the Cable Car to the top of the mountain overlooking the city to watch the sunset and dined at their restaurant called appropriately enough, Panorama. It offered exactly that view of the pretty much the entire city like this:
One of the dishes we had was a sauced beef with noodle, which sounds Italian but not really.
While it doesn't look like it, this tasted exactly like beef stroganoff but without the cream. It was really good and both me and the SO liked this dish. We even used the bread to sop up the gravy. Good food and a great night time view of the city.
Also in Dubrovnik we were recommended a place on the outskirts of the city called Restaurant Komin and one of their specialties is "cooking under the bell". Which, finally, is something that is traditional Croatian cooking. It's kind of like crockpot or tandoori or Dutch oven cooking. We had to order 3 hours ahead to get this and went with the lamb.
Roast lamb seasoned with rosemary, (mostly) potatoes and other vegetables. It was really good. The skin was crispy and the meat was juicy, we couldn't get enough. The potatoes were also very tasty. And none of it was over or undercooked. This was a large portion that served even our hearty appetites a plenty. For our last night in Croatia it was a great traditional dish send off that only seemed to have taken us 8 days to find. Better late than never right?
As a culinary destination I'm not sure Croatia is at the top of folks lists, however, while not every dish we encountered was a winner, there were some stand outs and we would most definitely eat something cooked under a bell again. But if all else fails and you can't find something you like, remember, there's always pizza.
Till then it's so long Croatia and hello 13 hour flight back home to begin eating San Francisco style again--whatever that is.