QUEEN OF TRUFFLE FOAM
(Chef Dennis puts finishing touches on plates before they are served)
(truffle foamed potatoes with poached egg yolk and shaved black truffles -- not your typical scrambled eggs and homefries!)
(fresh flowers gathered on the hill for garnish)
(I marvel as my nettle risotto is prepared by Ezio -- photo by Richard Ross)
There are meals – simple picnics, breakfast in bed, family dinners, lunch with a girlfriend –fun and nourishing . . . and then there are gastronomic experiences. Our dinner at Le Mondrac, in Opatija, Croatia, falls under the latter category. It was the type of evening where my dining companions could only manage to speak in between courses and savored each morsel seriously with their eyes closed, so as to fully taste each artfully composed bite. Le Mondrac is a destination restaurant – a place to base a trip to Istria around and enjoy an evening full of imagination, bright flavors and some of the best food of your life.
Le Mondrac’s smallish kitchen brims with activity – there are about five high school students deveining shrimp and plating appetizers, another young, dashing fellow guiding them, Ezio, the sous chef, and Dennis, the visionary director of the whole operation. Ezio and Dennis exude such passion and enthusiasm about the locally grown ingredients, they elicit huge grins from both my dad and me …“Just pick some fresh bay leaf and rosemary while out on a walk around the block!” Once our cheeks come back to life from smiling so much, we get it together -- in the kitchen, listening, laughing, learning and tasting. The energy and creativity is still making us bonkers, but we contain our grins as we glide across the chic dining room into our seats, ready for the magic to happen. Our dining pals don’t even know what their in for! HA!
The flow of the meal was perfect --- impeccable service from a knockout waitress, appropriately sized portions, a crisp local white wine, and each course trumping the last in sumptuousness and panache. The star of the meal – something so devastatingly light yet flavorful, my father described it as “angelic.” Roasted wild asparagus and mushrooms underneath a cloud of truffle-oil foamed potatoes with a poached yolk in the center and, in case you are still conscious (I had nearly passed out in awe at this point), a liberal shaving of local black truffles. The potato–truffle “foam” was aerated to create a feeling of eating nothing but pure forest-meets-heaven- flavor. I can still feel the whipped lightness in mouth. When the foam combined with the earthy truffle, rich yolk and tender asparagus, the masterpiece was complete. One of the most delicious and interesting dishes I’ve ever eaten. I shall never be the same-- now I want all my food transformed by Le Mondrac into a fluffy foam.
Come to Croatia, let the Adriatic blues and romantic cliffs sweep you away – stroll along pristine pedestrian main squares, eat at the farmer’s markets for local fruits, breads and cheese, and dine like royalty at the Mondrac with your mother who finished the meal with “well, who died and made me Queen for a day?”
If you go:
Obala F. Supila 10,
51410 Opatija – Volosko CROATIA
Phone +385 51 701 357