Konoba is a mouth watering word for me. It means small restaurant in Croatian, but if you get a chance to visit one. you will come away with the connotation of so much more. A highlight of my visit to Istria was definitely my dinner with @marcygordon and @LusciousLushes,Thea, at Konoba Batelina.
I had seen this restaurant featured the TV program, "No Reservations". Though I love Anthony Bourdain, having seen some of the things he eats... well, I was a little worried I was in over my head with fishy fish cuisine. Ha! Batelina gets rave reviews and with
good reason. David Skoko works hard to please the hungry palate. And he not just features, but elevates what some would consider bait fishes with impeccable and imaginative preparations.
Everything in the restaurant is fresh and seasonal, so it changes daily. David's dad is a fisherman, so he brings in what he brings in. Not everyday brings monkfish, but red mullet is reliable and convenient. It's
also super delicious simply presented with a vinegar reduction and pristine Istrian olive oil. My worries about overt fishiness were swept away in a series of briny delicious bites.
David's philosophy that if you present poor fish beautifully, people will like them, was borne out in me as I gobbled everything presented, marveling at the freshness and tastiness of each presentation.
From shark liver pate to grey mullet medallions, which were presented like jewel box patisserie on a
bed of sesame seeds sauced in a tasty bright green emulsion, each bite was better than the next.
The signature crab salad, served in it spiny shell, was spiked with citrus and herbs and all mine due to allergies at the table.
From cold appetizers, we moved to a hot soup and biscuit cleverly
baked in a scallop shell to give it is lovely form.
And then to an amazingly toothsome pasta with shaved bottarga. Bottarga is a product formed from pressed roe, dried, often of Grey mullet but sometimes of tuna. In any case its a strong flavor that sings when handled deftly as in this case with the tender pasta and buttery sauce.
David told us that his mom and his grandmother are fantastic chefs who share his love of nose to tail (fin?) cooking, He often gets an idea and they work on it to improve and perfect. They love to transform ingredients to delicious fresh dishes that keep people coming back.
The talent in the family also extends to his sister whose pastry creations will bewitch you. My favorite were tender cookies, cherries and custard. Yum! Cappuccino is actually a trompe l'oiel dessert. Delish!
We lingered on a rainy weekday and got to talk and enjoy David's company and conversation, but during the busy warm season, the tiny cute place is packed and turns away some disappointed poor planners. No matter what Bourdain say, be sure to call for reservations when you go:
Cimulje 25, Banjole, Pula 52100, Croatia(052) 573767
As for wine, we drank deeply of the house white and did not ask enough questions about it. Trust the kitchen to provide lovely house wine or recommendations for great local wine by the bottle. Fortunately for us, we were packing, having just come from a tasting at one of the Wine Wizards of Istria. More on that later...
|Delicious local cheese|
Many thanks to the Istrian Tourist Board for planning and hosting this bucket list event!