Exploring Istria: a very fine dinner at Monte in Rovinj

Monte was Croatia’s very first Michelin starred restaurant, currently one of three. So far we’ve visited the other two: Pelegrini in Šibenik, and 360 in Dubrovnik, to find out what makes these restaurants so special. Nothing if not thorough, we’ve now driven up to Istria so we can experience Monte’s award-winning cooking too! I’m particularly excited to try it, as they have an all-vegetarian gourmet menu!

Top of Montalbano street

Top of Montalbano street

Here’s what the Michelin inspectors had to say:

Using top quality ingredients, dishes with distinct flavours are carefully prepared to a consistently high standard. The cool, contemporary style of this softly lit, romantic restaurant comes as a contrast to the old town, in whose enchanting lanes it is hidden. Creative and occasionally theatrical, the cooking is also somewhat of a surprise using modern techniques to create beautifully presented, flavour-filled dishes.

Monte is owned by  Danijel and Tjitske Đekić, a Croatian/Dutch husband and wife team – he’s in charge of the kitchen, while she attends to the guests. Their care and attention to detail is wonderful, and the combination of flavours sublime. They have a lovely intimate dining room, and there’s only one sitting each night, so no rush. Relax and enjoy!

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

Of the three separate gourmet menus, himself selected the Red, which includes fish and meat – “characteristic courses of the best local ingredients prepared and combined in a way that emphasizes and preserves their original, essential taste and aroma”. Meanwhile, I opted for the Green (all veggie) – “creative creations of vegetables, wild herbs and dairy products from local farms, fields, forests, meadows and pastures of our certified producers and foragers”. It all sounds remarkably tasty!

Before we get to the the actual listed items, there are a few extra goodies to open up the appetite. A teeny tiny pizza, some local olive oil with fleur de sel and honey butter with wonderful homemade olive profiteroles, and a sorbet.

Course 1:

GREEN | tomato melange | barley and pesto | Istrian fresh cheese | bloody mary | served with a glass of Dobravac Suita Malvazija 2017

RED | ceviche | tartar | sashimi | all of Adriatic tuna | served with Veralda Rosé Refošk 2017

Course 2:

GREEN | beetroot in balsamic vinegar | gnocchi and beetroot variations | served with the Veralda Rosé Refošk

RED | black grattini | shrimps and champignon | Kvarner scampi | mousse of carrots and crustaceans | served with Poletti Chardonnay 2017

Course 3:

GREEN | bell pepper stuffed with rice | smoked pepper soup | crumble with oriental spices | served with Enjingi Venje Barrique 2008

RED | dentex | cod | Lim fjord mussels | potato and savoy cabbage | served with Pilato Malvazija Sur Lie 2015

Course 4:

GREEN | strudel filled with spinach | spinach cream | pine nuts | blue cheese | served with Meneghetti Merlot 2016

RED | grilled Istrian ‘Boškarin’ beef | celery cream | onion | served with the Meneghetti Merlot 2016

Course 5:

GREEN | breaded oyster mushroom  | potato foam | carrot | peas | served with Roxanich Istrijanac Ré 2008 (Teran)

RED | suckling pig from SureStine farm | lentils | yellow cabbage | kulen sausage and pork rind | served with Roxanich Superistrian 2009 (cuvee)


Course 6:

GREEN | aubergine and tomato compot | meringue and yoghurt | oregano granita | almond powder | with Kozlović Momjanski Muškat 2017

RED | meringue | yoghurt-honey ice cream | apple confit | cinnamon crumble | in a very fetching pot, served with Dobravac Allegro 2013

This incredible gourmet feast was rounded off by tea and coffee with homemade biscuits and fresh fruit.

What can I say? The whole evening was just amazing, from start to finish. It’s very rare, not to say exceptional, to find a vegetarian gourmet menu that has been planned as meticulously as the fish and meat versions. It’s not just the balance of flavours within each dish, but the succession from one to another that builds up so beautifully into the complete experience. The accompanying wine pairings were a delight, as we really haven’t spent much time exploring the local Istrian wineries. Tonight’s selections were perfectly chosen, and wines to look out for again!

With Tjitske

With Tjitske

Marvellous evening, everything perfect, and clearly a well deserved Michelin star!! We had a lovely time, thanks so much to Tjitske, Danijel, and all their staff! And just to point out the obvious – if you want to eat here, you will need to reserve ahead!

Find out more…

Restaurant Monte