Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Nigiri, Akami, Gunkan, rolled… what is the chance to get great Japanese sushi on a Dalmatian island? It is possible only in Kali, on the island of Ugljan, where the company Kali Tuna took over the concept of the usual blue fish snack and turned it into a unique Dalmatian-Japanese combination. Homemade fresh fish gets completely new flavours when combined with Japanese culinary tradition. Not all islanders immediately accepted this new taste, but today Srdela Snack is certainly one of the most important gastronomic brands in Kali, but also the whole of Ugljan.
Located right next to the pier of the port of Batalaža, Srdela Snack is a preserved gastronomic monument of some past ideas. Back in the mid-2000s, the concept of fish "fast food" was conceived by Ante Kolega from Kali, who imagined a series of small restaurants that would offer affordable fish menus. Very simple and good, sardines, chub mackerel, bonito, anchovies, tuna, fried and baked fish with boiled potatoes and salad, and a glass of white or red wine, and here are the classic brunches in every corner of Croatia. Several such Sardine Snacks were opened, but the concept did not come to life. There are more reasons than that "home-made fast food" is still considered primarily grilled meat, as well as the fact that such snacks exist in most coastal cities and large continental centres, so another fish corner turned out to be superfluous.
The Srdela Snack in Kali is still here, and when it was taken over by the Kali Tuna company, it started stepping towards new gastronomic experiences. Fried sardines, along with fried squid and shrimp are still consistent on the menu, thus maintaining the beloved taste of the Adriatic. Sardines are fresh and not "soaked" in oil as can often be seen in quick snacks. With a little salad and potatoes, the portion will surely cheer up a hungry tourist who has just come out of the sea, feeling the enticing smells. For those who prefer grilled fish, sardines are also offered, there are mussels too, but preference should be given to roasted squid that entices with its look and taste.
The flavours become very interesting beyond this offer. First of all, Srdela Snack is now oriented towards making great sushi. Restaurant manager Zlatka Blaslov tells us about the details of a ten-day educational course for chefs and waiters who have learned the meticulousness of preparing quality sushi. Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish prepared from cooked rice spiced with vinegar that is often served with raw or smoked fish. Only sliced raw fish is called sashimi: although it is a completely different dish, it is often mixed with sushi. Sushi served wrapped in dried seaweed leaves (so-called nori) is called makizushi, while small "packets" of fried tofu stuffed with sushi rice are called inarizushi.
Various flavours are spread on the table, but preference should be given to Sushi Toro. The Japanese consider the part of the tuna they call Toro the most delicious, and this can be seen in Srdela Snack. It is a fatty part of the fish. The juicy piece of tuna captivates with its freshness, followed by Akami, the red and fleshy part of the fish that is most commonly found in classic Japanese menus. Gunkan sushi is named after the boat (gunkan) because the main ingredient of this sushi is placed on top of rice in the shape of a boat. This is how sushi is offered with tuna tartare, then with corn salad and with tuna salad. Finally, there is rolled sushi in which the great flavours of tuna tartar and akami tuna are hidden, and rolled sushi with cucumber, which is also a favourite among the staff.
Director of Kali Tuna, Mr Jiro Kambe is happy that guests have recognized such dishes and that it receives positive gastronomic reviews: "As Kali is a place where you get fresh fish and where locals like to eat fish, we thought it was better to offer fresh products. With the original sushi flavours, we gave a Japanese touch to the dish. Fried fish is typically eaten in Croatia, but there is not much of it in Srdela. " Of course, for those who cannot eat raw products, many alternative dishes are offered here. In addition to fried and roasted fish and squid, far more imaginative offerings can be found here such as carrots with tuna and sesame, marinated peppers, tuna sandwich and, quite popular among locals, a tuna hot dog.
What excites are the prices as well. Few places in Croatia, and especially in the coastal area, can be found at such favourable prices for fresh products. Portions are smaller, but it is possible to try more dishes and thus enrich yourself for a real Croatian-Japanese experience!
Zadarska street (Luka Batalaža)