Bistro Mala riba is the latest restaurant in Kvarner region that we tried out. A small strip of coast along Opatija Riviera is perhaps the most exciting part of Croatia when it comes to seafood.
So when we heard that yet another little restaurant near Kastav opened its door, we didn't lose our time. We had to check it out and report our impressions here at Frank About Croatia.
Before we start, you need to know that we are suckers for tapas-style dishes. Even at home, we always try to prepare small quantities of various dishes.
When we heard that bistro Mala riba offers exactly this kind of plates, we were hooked immediately. It seemed like a perfect place to spend a grey Saturday afternoon.
Located right on the main road from Matulji to Kastav, bistro Mala Riba is fairly easy to find. The restaurant is set in a quiet residential neighborhood, with a nice summer terrace surrounded by tick pine trees.
Interior décor reminds of a simple Italian osteria, with an open air fireplace, wooden beams, and white walls, while the table setting gives a feel of a more formal restaurant.
The bistro Mala riba, meaning a small fish in Croatian, is a seafood restaurant. And although they do offer few meat dishes, it would be a shame to eat meat here.
The owners have fishing boats and they are also experienced restaurateurs, as they run a well-known fine dining restaurant Draga di Lovrana. Mala riba is their second venture of this kind, but with totally opposite concept: they try to create tasty but affordable dishes based on a fresh local seafood.
Our experience at bistro Mala riba
We were a group of five, and instead to order a plate each, we wanted to taste and share as many dishes as possible.
Our selection of cold appetizers included: anchovies and red mullet fillets marinated in a lemon juice, salt-cured anchovies, squid and carrot salad, shrimps and white beans salad, onions-cured hake, octopus salad with potatoes, and fennel marinated salmon.
The dishes were good, although they weren't better than somewhere else. Most of those plates are Croatian classic seafood dishes, found often in restaurants, and while at the bistro Mala riba, all of those dishes were properly prepared and tasty, and we have eaten them all, we all agreed that they haven't blown us away.
We continue our meal in a similar style, ordering a selection of warm appetizers this time. Our selection included: shrimps and clams gnocchi, clams and mussels in a white wine sauce, breaded olives, cheese, shrimp and tomato served on a piece of bread and grilled, zucchini and shrimps skewers, breaded mussels, and the most divine plate of freshly caught Adriatic scampi prepared alla buzara.
We all agree that warm appetizers were way better than cold ones, and that each of warm appetizers served was enough reason for us to come back to the bistro Mala riba.
We accompanied a meal with a nice sparkling wine (no fancy label, instead it was a house wine). The wine was of a very good quality, and at 60 Kn a liter really affordable.
Final verdict: a very good restaurant with friendly staff, fresh and tasty seafood, and affordable prices. However, somebody told us that the bistro Mala riba tried to copy concept of the restaurant Tramerka. That's not the case.
We found two places to be totally different. Tramerka's dishes are more refined, and for now more creative. If Mala riba tries to compete with Tramerka, it will fail big time (in our opinion), but if they try to create their own style (and it seems to me that they do), they have a bright future ahead.
I hope that the location don't pose them a problem in attracting crowds. Its location is a bit weird, not so close to any tourist sites. You don't simply stumble upon the bistro Mala riba. You have to plan to visit it.