Among the old houses of Rijeka's Mlaka, you can recently enjoy smoked meat, which the residents of Croatia's largest port have not had the opportunity to do until now. Ivana Haramustek and Dušan Zajec – Zeko, after a long search for their gastronomic corner, found a place for their smoker right here, and Nataša Pevec joined them as chef. Right after the opening, the hungry audience took their place in the new restaurant "Smoke'n'flame", and there are plenty of reasons for that.
The roots of American barbecue come from Native Americans who smoked fish and game to preserve food for leaner times. When Europeans first came to North America, they brought with them smoking techniques from Europe and Central Asia and combined them with Native American techniques. American barbecue has distinct regional differences: the North Carolina Piedmont style is pork shoulder with a vinegar and ketchup-based sauce; Eastern style is a whole pig with vinegar and pepper sauce; South Carolina is a whole hog or shoulder with a mustard-based sauce; West Tennessee and Memphis are known for their dry ribs; Kentucky is known for its mutton, pork shoulder and pork; Kansas City barbecue is more famous for its sauce, often used with smoked pork, lamb, chicken, beef and turkey. Beef ribs, smoked sausage, brisket are prevalent in Texas.
As a smoker reminds of smoke for a reason, it was necessary to find a good place where guests can see with their own eyes how the meat is prepared, which is actually the reason why you should come to this restaurant. "Smoker is an American dish, a process of roasting meat at low temperatures. Pork is prepared for six to eight hours, while beef brisket takes twelve hours, and sometimes we also try other meats, such as turkey breast," Zeko tells us, while we drink excellent homemade brandy.
The meat is juicy and soft, it is purchased in butcher shops and from Croatian farms. The smoker is on coal which is lightly smoked over the meat. Meat is placed twice a day. Every two hours the pork is checked, and after four hours it is wrapped in paper and baked. The plan is to acquire another smoker, because people's interest is increasing. Not only smoke but also flame exists here, in the form of a charcoal grill. Roasted veal is also prepared here. You must try homemade bread with pumpkin seeds, which is a touch of northern Croatia, where the restaurant owners come from.
Blues plays in the background, which additionally contributes to the good atmosphere reminiscent of the American southern states. We try the smoked pork, in a portion for one person called Death Punch. We wonder what is hidden behind the name: "the name comes from the group Five Finger Death Punch, Zeke's favorite band, so an idea that awakens the imagination was born spontaneously", Ivana tells us.
The smell of the meat doesn't give off much smoke, and that's somewhat of a surprise, but we also wouldn't be comfortable leaving a restaurant with the taste of smoke in our mouths. The evenly roasted meat is very soft and that is the most beautiful part of the smoked preparation. Along with the meat bites, we were offered a range of sauces, which give a classic American atmosphere through the palate.
Chili beans are spicier, and the peppers are grown on the restaurant's terrace. It has an excellent aftertaste, and is adapted to milder tastes, and goes particularly well with baked potatoes. There are also vegan and vegetarian dishes on offer, or those looking for gluten-free dishes, and Ivana herself does not eat excessive meat. We assume that after some time the wine list will be enriched, but as far as the beer is concerned, a full hit has been achieved. Craft beers from the Rijeka area go well with meals, and we hope to "strengthen" the American gastronomic scene. All in all, Smoke'n'Flame hit its mark in Rijeka, and with a little effort it will achieve even stronger recognition in smoke and fire!