Monday, July 29, 2013

Dalmatino

After cleaning ourselves up after the day at the beach and all of our traveling, we were ready to go out for a night on the town. Unfortunately we were also celebrating German K's last night with us, as the next day we would all take the ferry back to Split and part ways. This meant that we weren't going to allow ourselves, as we had previous nights, to take the easy way out and behave like old people. We were actually going to dress up and go out for a girl's night out on the town.

This, of course, started out with a good meal. And after a quick look at TripAdvisor, I determined that we should check out Dalmatino, rated #1 of 83 for Hvar, and very oddly about 100feet from the entrance of our hotel. It was like fate was telling us to go there. The menu looked shockingly unique as well - things like octopus carpaccio, squid ink gnocchi. Yes, yes, and yes. I wanted all of these things.

We also decided, in the spirit of being silly and on holiday, that we were going to pretend that it was German K's bachelorette party that night, just to up the ante on how ridiculous we could get that night. Yes, you read that right: we were going to pretend that three single girls were bridesmaids to a girl who was going to get married.

The story was actually quite elaborate but I'll not get into that. We wanted to see how far it could go and how fun it would be to live in a slight fantasy for awhile. The answer was: an incredible amount of fun. But I'll get to that later.

First order of business, dinner at Dalmatino.

It literally was just 100feet away from our hotel's front door and we found it with almost no problems. Lucky for us they didn't have a wait that night so we just paused for a few minutes as they got a table ready for us (this just meant putting down the right number of place settings and arranging the menus just like so) and then we sat down.

The menu really was just as extraordinary as the TripAdvisor reviews had said it would be. I zoomed in straight on the aforementioned items but had the most extraordinary experience as our friendly (and very cute) waiter came over and we were ordering.

He first asked if we had read the TripAdvisor reviews, which we said yes. He then said he would recommend (although the octopus carpaccio was excellent) something a little different. The veggie carpaccio. Interesting recommendation, considering veggie carpaccio is really just...well, raw veggies. Although this one sounded a bit fancier (I'll get to that in a minute). He described it to us and we agreed that that sounded good. He also said that although the octopus carpaccio was good, you could get octopus carpaccio in a lot of places. But this veggie carpaccio was unique to them. That's what pushed it over the edge for us. It wasn't by a landslide, but a 55-45 win. Just enough to be interesting. Okay, we'll take that.


It actually wasn't just straight raw veggies, despite its name. It was shaved strips of zucchini that had been dipped in boiling water then bathed in ice water to stop the cooking process (so basically blanching as far as I've understood). Then dried, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with shredded parmesan cheese, salt, cracked black pepper and finished off with some toasted pine nuts and pistachios.

Lovely. It was lovely and tasty. I would definitely make this at home. Seems pretty simple, though I'm sure there is some magic here that I am missing that restaurants always seem to have with food that you can never recreate at home (usually it's butter). Whatever...one of these days I will try and hopefully succeed. Yes.


It came with a tiny little piece of garlic bread as well, though I'm not sure to the strategic food advantage of this piece of bread, to be honest. It was toasted french bread that had been vaguely rubbed with a clove of garlic. It was fine and all but nothing special. Again, not sure of its significance or advantage by being present. There was normal bread on the table already so it's not like it was adding relevant filler (this doesn't mean I didn't like, merely did not understand its necessity).


And something I forgot to mention that was presented at the beginning of the meal: little pieces of carob for our enjoyment. Carob is actually a pod that grows natively on Hvar, along with lavender (in troves, by the way) and truffles. Unlike how carob is unfortunately marketed in the States, carob is loved for its full fruity and tasty form in Croatia, allowing it to be loved for itself, not as a fake chocolate substitute. Taken in this context it is actually quite enjoyable. Tasted sort of like a really dry raisiny fig with the texture of slightly chewy bark. Supposedly good for you in some way.


Also presented to us was brandy to get our appetites whetted. Very nice and mellow. None of their alcohols were particularly astringent here, something I especially enjoyed. Again on the sweet side and quite nice. The glass on the left is water, in case you were wondering.

After we ordered (main dish will be described next) I told the waiter I'd like a glass of the house white wine. I was used to just ordering the house white because most restaurants had not too many choices. Croatia does make its own wine as far as I can tell but beer seemed to be more the drink of choice. I'm more of a wine drinker though and lately I've stopped drinking beer as much because I find it has a higher chance of giving me headaches.

The waiter looked at me and asked me what kinds of grapes I typically liked. Chardonnay? Sauvignon blanc? I said between the two I liked sauvignon blanc better. He said he had something that was not too dry and not too fruity, had a nice nose and was not so sweet. I commented that it sounded oddly too perfect. So he said he would bring over a taster for me. Okay then, sounds good.

Another waiter brought over the taster a few minutes later. It was...not to my liking. A bit too musky, cloying. Not what I would describe as having a nice nose, to be honest. This could also have been affected by the fact that it was quite warm. I didn't say this though. I called the waiter over again and he asked if I liked it. I said that unfortunately I didn't but I didn't want to make a fuss about it.

He then asked me what word I would use to describe the characteristic in this wine that I didn't like. I said that it was too musky. Perhaps I could have something lighter, with brighter notes in it? He said he had just the thing.

So he brought me another taster. This one was actually way too light. Tasted almost like nothing, and I took a taste, looked at him and he said I should tell him the truth. He said he thought it might be too light but that he thought he would try. He said he had another one that he wanted me to try.

At this point I was feeling a bit awkward about the entire thing. I love choosing wines and yes, I do considering myself a wine snob sometimes but this was getting a bit out of hand. Plus it didn't allow Hong Kong P to order her wine. Or German K the drink I had promised her (a Campari orange).

The next wine he brought me was...fine. It was alright. I didn't find any huge objections with it though I didn't think it was outstanding. I figured at this point it was not worth talking about anymore. I said I would take a glass of it. My conclusions at this point were that the service here was excellent, the wine selection...very so-so perhaps. The glass of the wine he brought me was quite cold and that made it alright.

Hong Kong P had a similar experience with her wine selection but decided after the first tasting that the wine he brought was "good enough" and settled. I guess she also thought the wine selection in Croatia was drinkable but not outstanding. I guess maybe this is why we haven't heard of Croatian wines before. ;)

And now to the entrees. Hong Kong P and I ordered the same thing after a recommendation from the waiter, but I was already rearing to order this anyway, since I can't remember a time I've had squid ink (though I feel like this is unlikely, given my culinary curiosity):


Black gnocchi with Croatian truffles in a cream sauce. Delicious. And extremely filling.

They make the gnocchi with squid ink to give it the unusual flavor and color. The waiter was saying it's less intense than black risotto, which uses a lot more squid ink and allows the full flavor to the experience (which sometimes can be a bit intense). I found this to be extremely pleasant. I would describe the flavor as...sort of like sea blood. Perhaps that's a morbid description but I don't have anything really to compare it with that wouldn't sound even worse (and I don't think I need to go into descriptions of that unless anyone wants to hear them).

Think of the smell-taste that you get when you're in the ocean mixed with the slight iron taste of blood in your mouth. That's kind of what it's like. It's a very internal body kind of flavor. Sort of like the lingering aftertaste of organ meat. Given what this liquid really is (the defense liquid that a squid squirts to get away from predators), it sort of makes sense. An animal created this liquid for a purpose. It just looks like the ink we manufacture for our writing instruments.

The cream itself was divine and the truffle flavor was very subtle, since these were black truffles (not white truffles, the younger of the two). The cream sauce was lovely. And very thick. I sprinkled the parmesan on myself.

I thought at the end of the meal, given the small quantities that we were given, I would still be hungry, but I was definitely not. Gnocchi is sort of like mantao (Chinese rice buns) in that way - continues expanding in your stomach.


And as an ending treat, homemade limoncello. This was much more subtle than any limoncello I'd ever had previously, which in my mind meant they'd aged it somehow. Sweet, citrusy, and refreshing.

Oh and after this they also gave us (which oddly I don't have a photo of) a glass of something that was sort of like a mix between port and brandy. Lovely stuff. Still liquidy though, nothing like syrup.

After this lovely meal we were ready to rock. And continue with our bachelorette party charade. We asked our waiter where the best night spots were for the night (it was a small town after all) and were told that Kiwa Bar would be happening with "alternative music" until 2am until the real clubs opened.

2am!? Jeebus. Well, we'd see if we'd make it that late. That's kind of pushing it. And German K had vowed to get up at 6am to buy the ferry tickets because she was afeared they would sell out for the day (Hong Kong P and I were not so worried but said she was free to wake up early to get them if she liked).

So we headed to Kiwa Bar and proceeded to have an excellent time dancing and playing on with our charade. Turns out "alternative music" really meant top 40 hits that we all recognized mixed with popular hits from all eras going back to the 80's and 90's. Whatever, all singalongable and all danceable. And that's what we cared about as we celebrated German K's fake bachelorette party.

Did we make it to 2am you ask? Oh definitely not. But we did make it to 1:30am, when we then left Kiwa to see if the real club was open yet. We walked over to find that the venue was completely empty and abandoned. Like literally the place was closed; no one was even working the place to let us in. I guess when the waiter said "doesn't open until 2am" he meant it literally. Just goes to show, you never know.

So we walked home with full hearts and crashed until the next morning.

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