Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Once it was the Zadar's port, near the monumental Porta Terraferma built by Michele Sanmicheli in the 16th century. Today, Foša is the brand name of a famous Zadar's fish restaurant which has recently gone through a modernisation of both its interior and its staff. A reason enough for us to visit one of the very few Croatian restaurants included in the prestigious Jeunes Restaurateurs.
Deliberately, we came there in the beginning of November, not only to have peace from the roaming tourists but also to have time to sit with the communication and marketing agent Ana Šašek and the chef Saša Began and to taste autumn menu in the restaurant. They are indeed great representatives of Foša: young and talented, together with other staff they show passion and talent, two main ingredients for a solid Jeunes Restaurateurs place. In Foša they dedicate themselves to the local Dalmatian tradition, with a modern twist.
While we sip a glass of magnificent Korlat herbal brandy (travarica) and wonder how did they manage to settle so nicely a restaurant inside the cultural monument and an entrance to the medieval harbour, we learn that this place is based on exclusively local products, fresh fish from the local fishermen and vegetables from the Zadar's rich agricultural hinterland. Together with a young team and innovative approach to the traditional culinary ideas, it is no wonder there are more and more young guests, between 25 and 35 years of age. They would browse the menu easily, as the menu is presented on a tablet. Here they will find classic Dalmatian flavours, but also some new additions, such as pumpkins and pumpkin seed oil.
However, we got a unique chance to try very fresh and very seasonal Autumn Fish and Meat Menu. An elaborative menu was followed by Korlat Supreme Wines (reds) and various white wines, finely presented by the waiter. Kickstart was with the bean puree with smoked mussels and marinated octopus; it will never get into our mind how strong-flavoured smoked mussels do not transfer its flavour to other parts of this entree. The octopus was mild, bean puree adorned with capers, and everything was nicely blended with Adžić Pinot Grigio, fresh and semi-dry appetizer wine. Baby-beef tartare with pumpkin cubes and hard sheep's cheese, however, was a startling revelation of the imaginative kitchen in Foša, as it is unusual to mix tartare with pumpkins. Tartare is adorned with a soft and crunchy pancetta, while red onion jam gives added value to this mild appetizer with a rich meaty background. It ideally goes with Korlat Supreme Merlot, ruby in colour, soft and velvety wine that was preserved four years in barrique.
If you arrive at Foša, be sure to opt for Korlat wines. „The Stone Wine“, as it is sometimes called, Korlat is a winery settled in the rural surrounding of Benkovac, in the midst of Ravni kotari. This is a splendid agricultural hinterland of Zadar, continually inhabited for centuries. And while old wine sorts are being discovered today, most of Korlat's production is of known Italian and French origin. It is because, before the rule of Venetian Republic, the wine production in this part of Dalmatia was forbidden by law.
Because of the mild climate, in Ravni kotari you may find chestnuts, some pumpkins, even truffles. In Foša this wealth of the land is cherished. Thus, they've made pumpkin and chestnut gnocchi! It was a good thing to start with chestnut gnocchi with Dalmatian prosciutto on cheese espuma. Sweet-chestnut meal features soft and somewhat spongy-felt chestnut gnocchi with a very mild cheese and prosciutto. By itself, it is a great antipasto, served with a bit stronger Korlat Supreme Cabernet Sauvignon, barriqued for four years. But, they made a stunning mistake! The essence of this nice dish is overshadowed by a magnificent pumpkin gnocchi with Adriatic scampi, an absolute favourite of appetizers we tried in Foša! It is a blend of pure feeling of sea and sweetness of scampi, together with orange-coloured gnocchi made of baked pumpkin, garlic and just a pinch of spices. Stunning taste remains long in your mouth and feels just wonderful! And it is even better with a glass of gentle Krauthaker Chardonnay. Definitely, our choice for the best blend of exclusive Adriatic seafood and continental tradition! This mix is not found exclusively in the food. Foša's chef is local, proud descendent of Zadar, while the marketing agent comes from the northern Varaždin county, and there is a subtle feeling she has influenced some tastes in Foša.
As a fish restaurant known for decades, Foša is also loyal to some old traditions of preparing fish. One of them is very classic fish „škartoc“, fish fillet vacuumed in the scoop with vegetables. We were served with John Dory fish and Bass; of course, the offer changes according to the last night's catch. Some spicey detail among the vegetables only accentuates the pure flavour of this beloved Adriatic fish, while John Dory is especially juicy and nice. Served with a special Pošip from the Zadar region, it is a testimony of Foša's history and specialty. Pošip is famous wine further south and would raise many eyebrows if Zadar's Pošiš would be served. This northern Pošip was cultivated in Napoleon times in the Royal vineyards near Zadar and the tradition continues until today. Be sure to add some homemade extra-virgin olive oil from the island of Iž that is proudly presented on every table, or leccino extra-virgin oil from Belić and Chiavalon oil. These enhance the flavour and ask for a special plate just to dip homemade bread.
We believe very soon Foša will also be known for its meat menu. We had deboned veal chop in rosemary and capers sauce with roasted potatoes. And while you can have lots of veal chops anywhere, the ones that are soft, aromatic, and juicy as they are in Foša, remain in memory. Indeed, it is a sense of Mediterranean meat present here and Foša shouldn't divert from this culinary trail. A fruity Korlat Supreme Syrah fits perfectly with this story.
The concept of open kitchen, visible behind the glass, keeps guests in touch with the preparation of every meal. Jolly company inside care for the ideas of a new chef, who has spent 11 years as su-chef in the same restaurant. Knowing all the secrets in Foša is an advantage and visitors may be well acquainted in a great atmosphere of the interior. However, many of them will not stick to this advantage, as the Foša's exterior is magical and enchanting. The sea, little port, historical walls and stunning terrace are the assets Foša is known nationwide and beyond.
The sweet finish of our stay in Foša was again an autumn masterpiece. We were served with chestnut cake and pumpkin&lemon mousse, pleasing in its taste as much as in its appearance. Chestnut cake is an unavoidable part of the autumn tastes, but the dessert itself is Korlat Supreme Merlot Boutique, a fruity dessert wine that will instantly become your loving partner. Pumpkin&Lemon mousse is served in a glass and has such an appealing look that one would hesitate to ruin it. It blends nicely with Kozlović's Muscatto.
It was hard to get up and leave almost homely atmosphere in Foša. This classy place is not at all snobbish or yuppy as one would think and its foods are magnificent in its humble origin. The wine list is stunning although not too wide. The balance between fish and meat is just right and there is no wonder why Foša is so popular among Croatian and foreign foodies. A big recommendation to everyone visiting Zadar. The restaurant Foša is also listed in the 100 leading Croatian Restaurants by Gastronaut.