Valsabbion kept showing up in my research of restaurants in Istria. It’s the kind of place where the dishes are small and fancy, and there are a lot of courses. I love that kind of restaurant. I asked if they could accommodate a vegetarian. They could. I reserved.
Valsabbion is a hotel and restaurant located near the giant harbor in Pula, down at the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula. The immediate area was disappointingly uninteresting for wandering around, but that was fine: we were there to dine.
We settled into the outdoor table that would be our base for the afternoon and accepted an aperitif of local sparkling wine. The men chose a seven-course prix fixe menu that would set the pace for our meal. We were warned it would take several hours. That was OK, we had time. We chose a local rosé to complement our meals, and we were off.
My delight started with the appetizers, presented in a series of little glasses and spoons which contained tasty spreads of local veggies, cubes of local cheeses, and interesting little fried creations.
My next course was a sort of vegetable lasagna with an abundance of fresh truffles.
Next came a layered cup of local wild asparagus, a poached egg, and a wild asparagus puree.
One of the omnivores’ dishes involved fresh local fish stacked between sheets of crispy brown mashed potatoes.
Wild asparagus risotto. Wild asparagus was indeed wild, local, and in season, as illustrated by the woman picking it by the side of the road on our drive into town.
Gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms.
No haute cuisine dining experience would be complete without a little bit of theater. This came in the form of little corks of beef which the waiter charred with a blowtorch as he told us about the near-tragic history of the local cows. I was a little concerned that his story was going to end with “they are now extinct and I am serving you the meat from the very last one,” but luckily it did not.
We might have been too full to eat our desserts had they not been so tasty. The chocolate souffle came with a sprinkle of freshly-grated Himalayan salt, a drizzle of local olive oil, and a scoop of fennel ice cream. The other desserts were similarly elaborate and delicious.
Overall I was very pleased with my four-hour lunch. The chef did an excellent job with my vegetarian tasting menu, and the omnivores seems quite happy, as well. If you’re looking for a splurge on the Istrian Peninsula, this is the place to do it.