Summer on Gacka is a real pleasure, especially in the calm of the day when the freshness replaces the heat, so the entire Bistro Ribič, which has been hosting lovers of trout and Lika specialties since the 1970s, is soon full! Right here we stopped for dinner and tasted the far-known trout from the river Gacka, which was expertly and lovingly prepared by Marinko Bobinac's staff. The trout is fantastic, and the atmosphere is equally great. The whole time we were followed by a lonely swan that whitens on the peaceful Gacka, which flows in the channel bed next to the town of Otočac.
With homemade plum brandy as a welcome, we notice the joy of the guests who already know very well why they come to Ribič. In those long-ago days, the Lika-Gacka water supply tunnel was being built, which ends at the Senj hydroelectric plant. After the works, what remained was a lonely pumping station, which was taken over by local fishermen and turned into a Fisherman's Home by their own efforts. The structure has remained the same: on the first floor are the fishermen's rooms, and on the ground floor is the restaurant that Marinko rented, of course, when he became a fisherman himself. Since then, people come to Ribič regularly after fishing competitions, for which Gacka is known worldwide.
The Gacka is exclusively a sport river, so trout for the restaurant's needs is procured in nearby Sinac, where there is a fish farm, only a few tens of meters away from Majerovo vrilo springs. This guarantees flowing and fresh water, and we were soon convinced of the quality of the fish. At first, Lika gastronomy does not call for fish, but it is definitely an important and traditional component of the Lika diet.
"Trout is a specialty of the house, namely grilled trout, miller's trout and cooked trout (or blue as they say in Otočac, because when the trout is cooked, it turns blue). True, Lika is better known for its "winter program". We have greens and meat, home-made sausages, stewed cabbage, potato halfs, bacon... We are more based on winter specialties", Marinko tells us and mentions that in the summer they also offer other dishes such as sharing plates and especially Fishermen steak - veal steak stuffed with ham and cheese. and by previous order, they also make lamb and veal under the baking lid (peka).
And while all that sounds tempting, we are looking forward to the trout. For starters, we had smoked trout fillet and trout pâté. All the praise for the pâté, and Marinko tells us how it is prepared: "The onion is stewed in butter, and when it turns yellow, bay leaves, pepper, salt, lemon, and olive oil are added. The fish is baked, cleaned and all the ingredients are mixed with a stick mixer". Homemade work is visible because the pâté is made a little rougher, which also delighted us. You can feel the fish, spices or some other addition, which is an equally important indicator of the expertise of preparation in Ribič.
Smoked trout fillet is an unparalleled delight and discovery. Even salmon is not equal to its phenomenal taste, at least not the one we have tasted so far. You can feel every aroma of fish meat. The smoke is present, but unobtrusive. It is not overdone with any additives or processing. Superbly presented, smoked trout increases the value of both the producer and the restaurateur who offers it.
Trout has always been eaten in this region, and this love between the people of Lika and this generous fish from the karst rivers is passed down from generation to generation: "My late grandmothers were very pious and always prepared fish on Fridays. Most of the food was done in lard, with corn or regular flour. There was lard then, but a lack of oil!" Marinko reveals to us, who admits that in his childhood, he liked to eat žmare (cracklings), potato halfs and bacon, and spicy cabbage with his grandfather. Here's an idea for the flavours we should be teaching new generations!
Marinko is not new to catering. He used to have Gačanska kuća, which really only served brunches, and dinners here and there. Today, Otočac is much more developed in terms of tourism and people from all over Croatia come here, as well as foreign guests. He started working in Ribič in 2011 and has not regretted that decision. He works in the kitchen together with his wife Ivana, and both are cheered up by their 11-year-old daughter, while chef Matej Malčić took over as the main chef.
That wonderful family story also provided the star of the dinner, Her Highness the trout. They prepared it for us in two ways: grilled and in miller style. Grilled trout has a crust full of flavour, and we are looking forward to the time when a large number of restaurateurs will switch to the convection oven, because they will get a better quality browned crust and juicy interior. This trout was fantastically juicy and we enjoyed it immensely. Trout once again proved to be one of the tastiest and best fish that can be found in freshwater. These Lika trout are a reminder of a whole history that brought Otočac onto world maps.
As Marinko mentioned, there was always a shortage of oil in Lika. It was bartered with rich fats and other benefits of a harsh climate that is increasingly changing. That's why people used to bake fish in lard, after wrapping it in corn flour. This flour was ground by hand on mills like the ones we can see at Majerovo vrilo in Sinac. Hand-made flour also comes to Ribič, so miller's trout is enjoyed. It follows its grilled cousin in its footsteps, although we would like to have the option of ordering trout in the original way of preparation in pork or vegetable fat. Namely, fat can withstand higher temperatures and a better quality crust can be obtained.
It is certainly a pleasure to sit next to Gacka and enjoy all her benefits
Along with that ice water, we also tried dessert, especially excellent cheesecake, and we invite you to meet again in Ribič!
Ante Starčevića 44. Otočac
+385 53 772 772