Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Dubravkin Put

Seafood in Zagreb, Croatia

Elderflower mousse with white chocolate,
strawberry ice cream & edible flowers

My time in Croatia was an unexpected blessing. I had been squirreling away money over the year for a potential holiday, and off-peak prices allowed me to indulge in a short trip around the country earlier this month. All I knew about Croatia was their 1998 World Cup performance (classic story of the underdog surprising everyone!) and their beaches, courtesy of a friend who had spent a summer there. As such, most of the itinerary I put together was the result of rather impersonal Googling and Lonely Planet, but Dubravkin Put stood out as a definite place to eat from multiple sources, especially for its seafood. 

The interior. The entrance to the wine bar
next to the restaurant can be seen in the left corner

The restaurant is located in Tuškanac Park, a twenty minute stroll from Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb's city centre. We made the trip for lunch one day and arrived at a mostly empty restaurant, and were given our pick of the tables by a waiter who spoke perfect English. Language had been a worry of mine before coming to Croatia, and we were equipped with a few phrases and ingredients courtesy of our guidebook, but almost everyone we met spoke a passable level of English. Menus at most restaurants were also available in English, unsurprising given many parts of Croatia are geared towards tourism, and Drubavkin Put was no exception.

Fresh bread. Our basked included wholemeal, seeded,
tomato bread etc., with olive oil already at the table

Our waiter brought us menus as we settled in, and proceeded to recommend wine to my friend at her request. We had a busy schedule for the day and so we decided to keep our meal short, opting for mains and desserts only. Sadly most of the a la carte menu was unavailable for lunch, during which the restaurant offers a shorter and less expensive selection of dishes. However, upon hearing we were biased towards seafood, our waiter recommended trying monkfish as a main course, even though it wasn't listed on the menu. We ordered this along with another main of tuna steak, and sat back to wait for our food. A batch of freshly baked breads that were brought to our table, and we sampled the different types - I preferred the tomato bread as usual - to pass the time.  

Tuna steak sat atop a bed of broad beans, olive oil & rocket

Our mains when they arrived were properly sized: thankfully the chef here isn't stingy, and doesn’t serve tasting menu portions for all the items on the menu. I don’t recall if we could have ordered any carbs or other sides on the lunch menu, but we didn’t feel the need for any given the bread we’d just had. My tuna steak was simple but delicious, grilled just right to leave the meat rich and juicy. I never thought I’d be impressed by broad beans as an accompaniment, but I was here. They were cooked soft, dressed with olive oil and rocket, and complimented the steak perfectly. My only complaint was the sea salt scattered over the steak – it made the dish slightly too salty for me, but I get the impression this level of seasoning is a local norm.

Monkfish cooked in Croatian spices, served with a creamed
cauliflower, alongside mushrooms and a tomato-olive paste

My friend’s monkfish was a slightly more complex dish. Served as a large chunk cooked with Croatian spices, the fish had retained a springy meatiness though it came apart easily on the fork. I recognised thyme among the herbs used, and the fish sat atop a layer of creamed cauliflower if I recall correctly. The richness of this fish and cauliflower combo was cut through nicely by the tangy tomato-olive sauce that sat beside it, with the mushrooms adding some extra texture. My friend and I shared our mains half and half, and we agreed that while both mains were excellent, the monkfish had a slight edge.

Hazelnut mousse in a spicy chocolate sauce

Very pleased with our food so far, we ordered dessert. My friend opted for the hazelnut mousse, which turned out to be the better choice. The mousse was served on a chocolate biscuit base in the style of a cheesecake, an island in the middle of a spicy chocolate sauce. This chocolate sauce stood out for its pleasing kick. Often the hint of chilli in desserts is so elusive the ingredient feels like a gimmick more than anything else. My elderflower mousse, as seen in the top of this post, was beautiful but not as well put together. The flavours were light, which was welcome after the heavy mains, but the solid white chocolate refused to melt in my mouth next to the cold mousse and ice cream. Perhaps a white chocolate sauce would have been a better choice here. 

Unfortunately, the more disappointing issue with my dessert was the insect I found crawling around one of the edible flowers. I’m not particularly squeamish, and I just put the flower aside and got on with my meal. However, this falls below the standards one would expect from a restaurant like Dubravkin Put. I'm glad that staff apologised and took the item off the bill without us having to pursue the issue. In fact, service was otherwise flawless, and the low score is due to the insect more than anything else. I don't drink, but my friend reports that the wine recommendations were great, and not particularly expensive for the quality at around 30 KN a glass. The rest of the meal felt reasonably priced for the quality of the food, though my judgement is skewed by prices in western Europe. Our mains cost around 130 KN each, and desserts around 40 KN each. The dinner service is more expensive, with mains reaching 200 KN and desserts around 60 KN. I realise good food can be had in Zagreb for half this price, or even lower, but this is a fine dining experience, and a rather good one at that. I would definitely return, despite the surprise (potential) protein in my dessert. 

Food: 8/10
Service: 6/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Value: 6.5/10

Final Score: 7/10

Contact Information
A: Dubravkin Put 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
T: +385 1 4834 975

NB. The final score, while influenced by the sub-scores, is a qualitative reflection of my overall impression of the establishment.

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