There are relatively few restaurants in the city of Rijeka and the surrounding area that pay close attention to almost every detail, from the exterior, interior design, to the shapes of tables and chairs, kitchens, cutlery and glassware, origin of food and care for it, and especially for the guests, the content of their plates. Gastronomy tradition did not rise up in the right way after 25 years of the market economy in Croatia, and its major message that image sells the product. We can look all around for the reasons but it seems we cannot reach the simple answer. However, in the recently open restaurant Jist, they have decided to make quite big gastronomy breakthrough.
Located in Široli, a neighbourhood near Viškovo, the restaurant Just looks like a popular version of the American Steak House. The chef Darjan Urdih, originally from Banja Luka, is known to work with gastronomy starts such as Deniz Zembo and Andrej Barbieri, and some may know him also as a heavy metal guitarist, previously working also in the Lido Bevanda prestigious restaurant. His ideas are instrumental in having a place where lots of interaction is needed from the guest to experience Jist in its entirety.
Urdih briefly told us about the idea of the restaurant, while we enjoyed excellent Cabernet Sauvignon from Radovan, obvious choice for aged steaks and other dishes in Jist. The current owner wished to eat a piece of quality meat in Rijeka and realised there is a serious deficiency of such places, so he decided to take this unusual and risky venture of opening such restaurant. Why is it risky? Because a piece of high-quality meat means paying a price most people cannot afford in the current economic context.
Still, in Jist, they don't worry much, as they make satisfied guests who will be happy to return. And indeed, the quality of food processing and its serving is what this restaurant differs greatly from the rest. Top meat processing is connected with authentic chef's creation and finishing aesthetics on the plate is immaculate. Yes, it is the true art on the plate!
Jist is among the few restaurants in Croatia to own dry ager in which the meat rests for at least four weeks. Meat is supplied by local producers, who, Urdih stresses, are not always prone to doing business with restaurants, but still have the best meat. All foods and drinks are of Croatian origin and the restaurant rightly owns the slogan Croatian Food Experience. In front of the house is a garden with herbs and vegetables. The only thing that is missing is fish, but Urdih is right when he says the focus should be on best quality meat. Also, the location itself doesn't suggest a connection to the sea and fish.
A rich offer includes Jist's own dried beef bresaola, duck salami, homemade bread, and their version of the famous Italian sauce Bolognese, called Bombognese because they make it in the form of a candy (bonbon). Beef tongue carpaccio, Tatar steak with only six basic spices, rolled lamb dumplings with crème brûléeom (vanilla and caramelised sugar), goulash with gnocchi made from sweet potato, or Krk šurlice with prosciutto and sheep cheese cream are among the favourites on the menu. Not only elaborative dishes found a home in Jist. An inspiration from a classic Sunday lunch, chicken with potatoes, is also listed on the menu, albeit with a typical Jist twist.
The plate is like an empty canvas, and the real art of food comes with arranging colours and tastes on it. We were offered a huge, vivid, and just picturesque appetizer plate, that included almost anything imaginable from the Jist kitchen. Pure meat flavours blend with apples and refreshing vinaigrette sauce, while a more elaborative way is to try the orange and turmeric sauce. Chunks of pork have an even better taste with finishing touch of the sea salt. Among different things, a special emphasis should be given to the smoked and juicy duck, rich in taste and just rightly seasoned with salt. The duck meat simply gives numerous combinations with various sauces. The pinnacle of the plate is, however, the beef Tatar steak, a rich, fresh, spicy and mighty dish enriched with the lightly fried grains atop.
No visit to Jist could be done without tasting the beautiful strip steak. We ordered medium grilled, and it is served indeed in a royal style. Aroma of smoke and grill mixes with excellent skin taste and juicy and mild interior. The best is to try meat alone and then to combine various sauces, in order to feel the pure enjoyment of meat. One sauce is, however, particular, made with saffron. Its deep orange colour is as enchanting as the flavour, which took the author of this lines to the days when he spent time in Iran, country where saffron is an essential part of the cuisine. And while he did dream about the deserts of the Iranian plateau, where even desserts are made with a touch of saffron, this sauce may be a daring option for many!
Desserts are presented as stories, and one can find chocolate (lots of kinds combined in one), dairy (don't miss the Učka curd) and fruit (berries all around) tales on the plates. Creativity, inspiration, and constant experimentation of chef Urdih and his team can indeed fascinate the guests.
The wine list includes twenty labels of top Croatian wineries, including Galić, Radovan, and Medea. Fans of craft beer will be delighted to find here Fakin and Grička vještica from the Medvedgrad brewery, San Servolo from Buje, even the Zadarsko pivo, which is still quite a secret of the Croatian beer scene. There are also a dozen types of locally produced brandies, and most appealing is the Croatian Jägermesiter made by the family Auguštin, from Hum na Sutli, a brandy containing 44 herbs! Welcome to Jist, something completely different from any of your imaginations!
Jist Široli 27, 51216 Viškovo 00385 (0)51 374 597 https://www.facebook.com/foodexpirience/