Bistro Karlo, was an elegant restaurant in an old house just off the main square of Zagreb. Marcy had engaged her social media workforce to find a great place for us to eat on our free day in Zagreb, and @Visit Croatia had slyly indicated that it was, indeed, Zagreb Restaurant week. What a find! While Liza and I were getting post flight massages (yes, you can hate us now), Marcy went to work finding a great locale.
Our first choice was either closed, or booked, so our next option – Bisto Karlo, seemed liked a terrific choice. The owner, a sommelier as well as chef, and his staff were top notch and greeted even my own sneakered feet with pleasure. We were the only people in the restaurant, which wasn’t that surprising for a Sunday night, for a while and had all of their attention . This wasn’t really that much of a shock, since you have three American’s who are clearly wineaux. The head waiter dabbled in acting, and was a charmer and a comedian. All of the staff were absolutely enchanting, and we let our dinner linger as long as we could.
As it was restaurant week, we had our choice of two set menus. I chose the Fish Menu, as did Marcy, and Liza chose the pork option (which she tells us about here). Once our orders were in, we set about thinking about the wine. One of the reasons Marcy chose this place was the extensive Croatian wine list, most of which were available by the glass. Since I am a newbie to the wines of the region, I told Karlo to pick his favorite pairings, and I am epically glad I did. Since Marcy and I ordered the same menu, Karlo made sure we had some unique wines between the two of us, and there was a riotous game of pass the wine glass between the three of us.
The first course was a pannacotta of cod fish, with freeze dried strawberries and beet sprouts. Now, this is clearly not a pairing I would make myself, and I was not sure about the flavor of panncotta flavored with – dare I say it – my favorite <dripping sarcasm> bacalao (salt cod). However, when it arrived, the creamy pannacotta only had a hint of the sea, and while creamy, was not sweet. The strawberries were that unusual European variety that grows in the south of Spain, and while fresh and delicious, is not terribly sweet. Coupled with the bitterness of the beet sprouts, it was a stunning dish. This was paired with Karlo’s own Pink Elephant Posip.
Next up, a fresh salad of spinach leaves, with fresh sardines, lightly fried. Now I am NOT a fan of the sardines we get here, but these little fishes – crispy and melt in your mouth delicious – were something to remember. With this dish, Karlo served the KrauthakerSyrah, which was so good I had to have another glass with the salmon! Who says you can’t have red with fish?
Finally, the salmon. This was most likely the best salmon I’ve had to date, and was cooked just to the point of setting; Liza described it as having a custard like consistency, and while I’d go a bit firmer, it was just perfect. Paired with an odd sauce of white chocolate, the pairing was surprisingly delicious and playful on the palate. The Syrah was perfect for this as well.
Just another fabulous day in Zagreb! Oh and the cost of this epic 4 course dinner plus the free entertainment? Less than US$50 each.