In a northern suburb of Zagreb, a traditional restaurant with rustic ambience and a beautiful garden is located. Beyond the preambulations of typical tourists, very few make it this far into the side streets of old Zagreb.
Baltazar is one of the ‘grand old ladies’ amongst restaurants in Zagreb that opened more than 30 years ago and still owned by the founders. About a decade ago, Baltazar was the preferred gathering place of the rich and powerful Croatian businessmen and politicians. Recent financial crisis and political turmoil changed their fortunes and it’s a little quieter today. I was introduced to this carnivore haven by the scion of a Croatian business dynasty.
Nova Ves 4, Zagreb 10000, Croatia
From the main street, it’s a walk down an alley through courtyards of old buildings before you reach the restaurant entrance.
Croatia is a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, on the Adriatic Sea. Its history incorporates colonisation, overlordship or influnces by Greeks, Romans, Franks, Venetians, Austrians, Hungarians, and Ottomans, followed by incorporation into the Yugoslavia and independence in 1991. Suffice to say, the Croatian cuisine is diverse.
While you can enjoy good grilled fish or salads at Baltazar, there is no doubt that their speciality is grilled meat (s roštilja), spit-roast (s ražnja), roast meat (pečeno) and fried meat (prženo).
We ignored the starters of cheeses and preserved meat cold cuts, which were most agreeable but our host hinted that capacity should be reserved for the carnivore-fest to follow.
My worry was that they would serve the historic Edible Dormouse – a specialty of the Dalmatian coast – once favoured by the Romans.
The platters of grilled meats followed. I was pleased that they were recognisable large slabs of meat that assured me no dormouse had sacrificed itself for my delectation that night.
The grilled veal was tender and flavourful with that char-grilled smokiness and ‘umami’ flavour, well seasoned and juicy, there really was no need to add condiments but the sauteed mushrooms, grilled peppers and duveč (baked summer vegetables, similar to ratatouille) were most harmonious accompaniments.
The grilled lamb cutlet was the revelation of the night for me. I don’t usually order lamb for fear of an older animal being…well…a little lamb-odourous. However, not to fear, it was Easter and the lamb was young and tender under excellent grilling ministrations.
Austro-Hungarian cuisine is famous for schnitzel and Croatia has been left with Bečki odrezak (šnicl) (Bečki = “Viennese”; šnicl = transliteration of German Schnitzel) and it is made of pork and served with French fries. A similar dish is called Zagrebački odrezak. Even better, these are stuffed with ham and cheese before frying – a sort of “pig stuffed with pig” recipe that is piggily divine!
Mlinci (roasted flatbread) satisfied the need for carbohydrate to temper the kick of meaty goodness.
We had token salads to comply with new EU Public Health Recommendations…
Wines and Rakija
I did not describe the wines and rakija (grappa) on offer. Suffice to say there was a good selection and Croatian wine can be amongst the best in the world for the price.
More than competent meat grill, roast and frying technique despite the current Croatian economic crisis.
AlphaLuxe Two-Tongues award for the overall experience although that may rise if we had enjoyed the garden facilities.
AlphaLuxe Articles about Zagreb
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).