Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Family Žganjer is indeed a symbol of gastronomy in the Green Heart of Croatia. Since 1974 the family had their restaurant in place Jaškovo, between Karlovac and Ozalj. Almost an institution, the restaurant features homemade and traditional food of this region, and is especially known for its lamb. The reviews are not only excellent, but made by famous people such as Croatian presidents, reporters, and celebrities.
In the 1940s, the family Žganjer started engaging in crafts and trade – production and sale of wine, providing services of land farming and grass cutting in meadows, butchery services, coach transport services for newlyweds, services of roasting, cutting and sale of roast lamb and suckling pigs in the surrounding area, which, at that time, included the country border area with Slovenia (Metlika, Novo Mesto). The first restaurant buffet Lovcu (eng. to the Hunter’s) was opened in 1974 by Ivan Žganjer, who, in 1990, together with his wife Marina redecorated it, changed its name and it officially became the Restaurant Žganjer, to the delight of many visitors.
Generations have passed through the restaurant and Žganjers are proud to say that core restaurant has been employing same staff for up to twenty years. Harmony and positive relationships make also guests long-term friends, and many have been coming here for decades. This proves that Žganjer gastronomy is not some fancy traditional-modern enthusiast, but a serious dedication to food, with a stress on local products from family homesteads in vicinity.
The reason veal and meat in general have a special taste at Žganjer’s, besides being purchased from local producers, the meat is also processed at our own slaughterhouse rated category 1 as per EU Commission and this is the way we prepare for you meat of special freshness and quality. This strong principle includes also seasonal food calendar, preparing the best the nature offers in a particular part of a year.
The family says: „old winters are easier with homemade čvarci and pogachice made from čvarci, mutton with cabbage, sarma, roast homemade blood sausages and raw pork sausages with sauerkraut, roast leg of pork (buncek), ducks and turkeys with mlinci, sarma, Ozalj noodles with porcini mushrooms, doughnuts. The richness of autumn fruits can be tasted in pumpkin and porcini mushroom soup, Ozalj noodles with porcini mushrooms, barley porridge with corn, beefsteak with porcini mushrooms, grape strudel, chestnut cake… We salute the Sun with our crispy strawberry strudel, cottage cheese and strawberry cake…“ This principle is further accentuated in the restaurant itself, as the interior decorations change with the season.
Indeed, our visit to Žganjer restaurant was a truly tremendous gastronomic experience. Cold starter consisted of cured delicacies, made by the house itself. Included are homemade sausages, ham, buđola salami, and bacon, next to fresh cottage cheese and sour cream from the nearby homestead. The products are processed manually in family’s own slaughterhouse, following the family recipes over 100 years old and dried in own kiln.
As some sort of announcement, a lamb liver pâté was added to the plate, a masterpiece of flavour and freshness. Peppers and mushrooms add to the experience, while the lamb liver might just well be the softest liver you have eaten so far.
Very important part of Žganjer gastronomy is „dishes with spoon“. Soups are a must, but even more so a buckwheat porridge, especially in colder part of the year. At the same time we enjoy Gramusch. The wine of the wine house Gramusch is a unique blend of taste and aroma of Riesling, Muscat and Chardonnay, an acclaimed wine product of the Žabčić family which complements Žganjer’s dishes in a special way. Next to it, the restaurant provides 50 selected Croatian wineries and winemakers of the Ozalj-Vivodina wine road, such as Vrbanek, Šoštar, and Frlan.
And while we savour hors d’oeuvre we talk with Lidija Žganjer Gržetić about „Her Majesty the Lamb“. The restaurant is famous for its lamb, especially for spit roasted lamb. The uniqueness of the restaurant is the tradition of the transport of live lambs from the islands of Pag and Krk and preparation on a spit over dried beech wood immediately before serving.
The owner, Ivan Žganjer, personally takes each lamb and transports it on a truck from the island of Pag or Krk, depending on the season. Lamb is purchased from small family farms, families that he has known for over 25 years, so he knows how these animals are fed and treated.
It is not a joke. We went to the family’s yard to find Mrs Marina Žganjer, the lady of the house, in giving the last touch to the lamb. She proudly said this lamb was still alive on the islands that very morning. The yard also houses pigs, but the horses too. Soon we return to the table, in order to feast with the lamb and veal, almost a mythical symbol of whole Karlovac region.
A quite special story is desserts. Old-fashioned strudel with apples, cheese and sour cherries is an unavoidable dessert and one of most famous restaurant products. Even today, it is still made by spreading the dough over the whole tabletop surface, as owners were showed by Grandmother Dora a few decades ago. This provoked a totally new line of product – Granny Dora’s Sweets. Top product is without doubt the Katarina Zrinski Cake, a collage of ancient Ozalj flavours.
With its sophisticated flavour which excites with its complexity, the Katarina Zrinski cake is a 12-layered section of selected ingredients of Baroque sweets of the aristocratic family Zrinski of Ozalj. The cake was created as a result of Mrts Zdenka Stupić’s research as an admirer of the Ozalj history and culture. Homage to gastronomy of 17th century boldly combines ingredients such as blueberries and raisings with pimento.
And if strudel is your thing, guess what – this is not only a place where strudel is great, but the place where Guinness record was beaten with astonishing 1479,38 metres for the longest strudel in the world. Consequntly, every September Jaškovo prepares a strudel festival, where whole village takes part. But, after having the pleasure to be Žganjer’s guest, it is not a wonder at all…
Video by: Grad Ozalj
Restaurant Žganjer 2 Jelaši 41, 47000 Karlovac tel: +385 (0) 47 641-333 fax: +385 (0) 47 641-304 mob.: +385 (0) 98 303 408
Photos by: Taste of Adriatic & Restaurant Žganjer