In Vrsar, you can enjoy yourself. Many restaurateurs offer real gastronomic delights throughout the year, which sometimes remain hidden and reserved for gourmet connoisseurs. For the sake of them and the many low-season guests, this Istrian town has created a unique gastronomic offer that attracts all lovers of local flavours. These are goložece, pure feasts on local ingredients that, through the skill of the chef, become imaginative dishes inspired by Istrian tradition. The Tourist Board of Vrsar therefore invited us on an interesting culinary tour.
This year, we visited three restaurants in Vrsar that prided themselves on their dishes. We started with a visit to Villa Vrsar, i.e. the newly named restaurant San Giorgio. With a view of the old town of Vrsar, the terrace of this hotel is an oasis of greenery where you can enjoy the culinary skills of chef and owner Stipe, whose name is not at all that. In Istria, it is somehow customary to call all Dalmatians by the name Stipe, regardless of their real name. Our host is actually Željko, a native of Split who has been living and working in Istria since the 1980s. Here he founded a family that works in a hotel and restaurant.
We especially enjoyed the bruschetta with salted anchovies and tomato and Istrian cottage cheese. Warm cottage cheese is especially delicious while toasting on the terrace with a glass of Malvasia Kadum and hearing about the successful operation of this restaurant in the Vrsar suburb of Brostolade, which rests on the culinary skills and experience of Stipe/Željko Romić.
Sardines delight with their balanced flavours, they are not overly salty or sour as you can find on store shelves. They come from local fishermen, and a local woman prepares them according to old recipes, with spices, red onion and oil. Sardines are normally always saltier than anchovies, which are prepared in the same way, so this wonderful appetizer is all the more surprising.
The fish main course was salmon in malvasia, the mastery of the chef who offered the wonderful pink meat of this fish with plenty of juiciness accompanied by potatoes. The ancient Celts, who once inhabited the region of Istria and made a drink from mistletoe to induce a trance (and we all know today that it is biska), believed that salmon was associated with wisdom. In Irish myths about this North Atlantic fish, a salmon swam into the well of Segais and ate a magic hazel that fell into the water. Anyone who ate salmon after that became wise.
We don't know how wise we were after this enticing salmon, but if wisdom manifests itself in tasting roasted pork ribs in red wine and honey, then we are on the right track. This sweet and meaty dish is another trump card of the Villa Vrsar, with every compliment to the kitchen. Cabernet Sauvignon Kadum goes well with it.
For a sweet ending to this visit, the cake with poppy seeds and white chocolate is a good choice, another great combination of flavours and aromas, in a cake that will make us want to find a recipe!
San Giorgio (Villa Vrsar)
Brostolade 23, Vrsar
+385 52 442 228
Not far away, the Goran restaurant has been known to locals and guests since 1994. This old restaurant brings a touch of former tourist seasons, with smiling staff, a friendly owner and an always recognisable food and drink offer. The entrance is obviously known to many, because every day a suckling pig is turned on the spit, and according to the guests' wishes, the lambs join them as well.
We started our visit on the wonderful terrace with white fish pâté with marinated anchovies and toasted bread, and we were also served traditional Istrian prosciutto and young cheese with truffles. The whole of Istria can be found in this plate, with a glass of malvasia or teran from the local winery Privitelio.
Although it is not located on the coast or in the centre of the old town, the Goran restaurant is full of foreigners who obviously get good information about where to satisfy their hunger. Sea bass in pot with polenta particularly delighted us with its juiciness, along with an old-fashioned recipe for polenta in a rich sauce.
We also tried the pork fillet stuffed with cheese and wrapped in pancetta with a side of grated potatoes with forest mushroom sauce. This is a true autumn greeting from the kitchen, yet it reflects the Istrian climate and old eating habits based on the combination of fields and forests.
The fig tart reminded us temptingly of this late summer but also biblical fruit. The owner warmly greets us with a smile, knowing how we will plan our return to this restaurant full of nostalgia and friendly encounters.
Brostolade 120, Vrsar
+385 99 692 2031
We ended our trip at the Dvi palme restaurant. No one can bypass them because they are located right next to the central roundabout where they have been working for about 40 years. The married couple Alen and Snježana Žužić welcomed us with two to three glasses of herb brandy, which Snježana picks by hand and makes this elixir of life. Soon after, we get the fish rillettes, a very refreshing dish of sea bass and some tuna, accompanied by orange gel. Ingeniously designed, even more beautifully presented, and how could it not be when Alen Žužić is an artist himself who spends winters in every studio, including natural ones.
The cute restaurant is under the watchful eye of an 80-year-old nonna who still prepares dishes early in the morning, while future guests don't even know what they're going to eat. Her famous soup takes four hours to make, and the rest is the work of Chef Alen and the presentation of Snježana. This is especially true of the tuna for which this restaurant is famous. There is a lot of it in the open sea of western Istria, and many imaginative dishes can be made from it. This is certainly commendable, because every restaurant has tuna steak but the lack of imagination in its preparation is equally common.
But this time, we didn't stop for tuna, but sea bass sous vide on pea cream, together with fried onion, olive powder, cloves, cognac and orange juice. All of this is nicely chopped and mixed together, and the sea bass shows its generosity. With all that, a glass of Malvasia Legović is pleasant. Although the restaurant also offered pork fillet sou vide in wild mushroom sauce, with roasted potatoes and pancetta, we were tired after three full lunches.
But the end brought us a great surprise. Istrian caviar is also offered here. When you open the box with a picture of the Istrian peninsula, you can really see red caviar, but it's actually a fruity currant caviar with a layer of chocolate mousse and some walnuts underneath. A great idea that supports the imagination of this restaurant!
Dalmatinska ulica 12, Vrsar
+385 52 441 203