We’re back at Zinfandel’s Restaurant….
Chef Ana Grgić is the Chef de cuisine at the Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb, where ‘Zinfandel’s Restaurant’ and ‘Le Bistro’ have garnered awards and certificates culminating in her superb risotto featuring as one of the 101 world’s best risottos in the prestigious Guida Gallo 9th and 10th Editions.
H.R.H. The Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall ate her risotto and commanded their personal chef to ask Ana for the recipe.
What could be more relaxing than a leisurely Sunday Brunch in Spring with freely flowing champagne and wines? Whilst in Zagreb, I just had to try the legendary Grazing experience.
As one Zagreb resident said: “My family celebrates everything at the Esplanade — Birthdays, Engagements, Weddings, Christenings, Divorces and Funerals.”
Tomac Millennium Brut sparkling wine from Plešivica-Okić
What else for a Sunday brunch than bubbles? This Croatian bubbly is made using the same method as champagne. Tomac Millennium is a combination of 70% Plešivica old grapes and 30% Chardonnay.
Fine and stable bubbles set off the pronounced freshness and youthful acidity. The bouquet is fruity and the taste is dry. It spent two years on the lees and is ideal as an aperitif or paired with raw fish, oysters and other seafood.
Krauthaker Graševina 2016 from Korija-Dilike
Called a Welschriesling in the Balkans, this golden wine has the bouquet of freshly mown grass with lemon zest highlights. On the palate, it is citrus and refreshing.
Vinarija Benkovac ‘Korlat’ Syrah 2011 from Dalmatinska Zagora.
Super deep purple colour. Bouquet of blackberry, tobacco and coffee carries into the palate with chocolate notes, strong tannins and lingering palate.
Croatian wines are remarkably good and some rank with the best in Europe, more so with modern techniques introduced after communism. These were selected by the sommelier as typical accompaniments for the food at Zinfandel’s.
This was a free-flow buffet of starters and desserts with main courses ordered from a short menu. The starters included selections of cold meats, cheese, grilled vegetables and seafood.
The sushi was not up to the standard that I am used too but then again, I used to live in Japan and Tsukiji fish market was only 15 minutes walk from my home.
They came back strongly with the octopus salad, where the cephalopod was tender and the delicately smoked salmon.
The key point is the variety available at the Starter buffet to suit all palates. I did not even get to the cold meats, meat pastries and cheese.
Tartarski biftek pripremljen na klasićan naćin za vašim stolon.
Beef Tartare with classic condiments, prepared at your table.
My waiter, Josip Aćkar, did the honours to produce the classic Esplanade steak tartare.
The Zinfandel’s Steak Tartare is renown in Zagreb and is one of two star dishes featuring on the short Brunch menu. It is made to order, with about a dozen ingredients for a spicy, piquant, meaty treat.
When there is sufficient fat in the good quality beef, the interplay with the tart capers, Worcestershire sauce and chili makes sense as they cut through the fatty umami-ness. The toast is a vital accompaniment as it adds crunch to the texture profile for a balanced dish.
Zinfandel’s steak tartare deserves its status as an “institution” in Zagreb’s meaty firmament; and that is saying something in a country of obligate carnivores!
I had this feeling that you are usually restricted to one main dish but nobody flinched when I asked for the risotto as well….
Kremasti rižoto od šumskih glijiva.
Creamy risotto of wild mushrooms.
This was the other star feature on the menu – the award winning risotto.
With an-TI-ci-Pation, I inhaled the aroma when it arrived at my table…a heady waft of mushrooms and perhaps garlic.
The glaze was evident as every rice grain had reached optimum plumpness and coated with a ‘crema’ solely derived from the rice itself. Woe betide anyone who tries to cheat the Guida Gallo with dairy additives!
Was it worth the wait?
My favourite cuisine is Italian and I’m not ashamed to admit to pedantry when it comes to pasta and risotto. Zinfandel’s risotto was worth the wait!
Like the starters, the dessert buffet was again free-flow. This was only a theoretical benefit as I was already replete and am not a dessert fanatic anyway. In the interest of thoroughness, I nibbled at a selection…
For three years in-a-row, Pastry Chef, Mirjana Spoljar, won gold medals in the dessert category at the Croatian championships. Rest assured that standards have been upheld. The chocolate was chocolatey and the crème caramel quite caramel-ly.
AlphaLuxe Four-Tongues for the risotto but overall the brunch gets an AlphaLuxe Three-Tongues Award
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