On a picturesque and widely popular beach of Mošćenička Draga, amongst various cafes and bars, there is a special restaurant Zijavica, a destination for imaginative and elaborative kinds of seafood.
The owner Stiven Vunić welcomes us on his terrace with a spectacular view, while his staff gives a final touch to the small and enchanting bites waiting for us. In Zijavica they say: “Extremely harmonious blend of romantic past and exciting challenges of today – that is the feeling when entering the interior of small and cozy tavern “Zijavica”. The discreet touch of wood and stone bathed in pastel colors creates the impression of domestic and very pleasant atmosphere. Terrace, situated just a few inches above one of the most beautiful beaches of Kvarner, is really a special place – perfect for experiencing small masterpieces of the Kvarner and Istrian cuisine.“
While sitting at the table, we indeed feel these impressions, guaranteed by the 40-year tradition of fishing and especially scampi catching in the Vunić family. This experience is upgraded to cooking and serving fresh food in this tavern.
The tavern’s name sounds somewhat like a joke. It contains two basic meanings: either woman that shouts, or a cave that howls. Indeed, there is a cave in the nearby mountains, but you should not joke with Mr. Stiven: he is a member of the Croatian adventure team Ad Natura that travels the world for extreme sports and adventure tourism.
When he is not running through Patagonia or climbing the Andes, he makes magic with food. Scampi tempura with self-grown herbs (of which marinated samphire is especially noticeable) is one such example. The tempura itself is quite tasty, but the way you eat it is a superb example of imagination: it is served on a flat sea stone! To eat it, you need to slurp it into your mouth. Excellent experience!
We’ve tried deep-fried cod; evidently, it is a major hit nowadays in the Northern Adriatic to deep-fry all the unusual fish and seafood (Croats can think only of deep-fried hake). But, it comes handy to refresh the taste for scampi mousse, served with a net made from olive oil and salad. Another feast of flavours makes you think twice about the boringness of seafood.
Apart from standard salted anchovies (ever heard of a better cure for a hangover?) and octopus carpaccio, the menu is a mix of Istrian-styled dishes such as scampi risotto, homemade fuži pasta with Istrian truffle, or gnocchi with smoked bacon and fresh garden vegetables. For more detailed experience, you should order oven-baked octopus, mussels in buzara sauce, monkfish in Istrian Malvasia wine and caper sauce, or for those who just cannot be pescatarians all the time, beef in a green pepper sauce.
Zijavica is a fairly new way of culinary enjoyment and spectacular scenery, and it is well worth to come and sip some sparkling wine with local Lovran cherries inside, just as we did. Cheers!