There are not too many restaurants in Istria we haven't heard about. We certainly haven't visited them all, but at least we thought that we've got them all on our bucket list. Well, it turned out not to be the case.
We spent a weekend in Zagreb. And on a totally different note Vera managed to forget her wallet in Zagreb (and I don't carry a wallet, and I am totally against any bank card – so this meant we were both out of money). To make things worse we invested our last 50 kn in an awesome pizza. And this was the same day we've found out about Sole restaurant Umag. And beside that, Sunday was really sunny and a perfect day to dine out.
Except we didn't have any money. Unless … Here comes my romantic side! I always keep change for Vera's birthday gift (I'm not cheap I collect plenty over the year!). And off we went to the Sole restaurant Umag.
Sole Restaurant Umag is located in a small village Juricani, not far from the restaurant Nono that we visit quite often. (Still shocked we haven't heard about this place before!). It's on the main road going from Umag to Buje, and you can't miss it. The place is big with a large parking in front of it. This is a family-run restaurant and one of the friendliest places we've come across in Croatia. Mother and son run front of house, father and daughter-in-law back of house.
The atmosphere is convivial. The service is extremely attentive, but the approach is casual. They are proud of their place, but not arrogant. Everything served here is either homegrown or locally sourced. And this is not just a good marketing slogan. All the vegetables, salads are grown right there in their garden, or in their neighbor's garden (they've shown it to us!). Although the menu includes meat dishes, they are more into seafood. All seafood is from the local fishermen.
Our experience at Sole restaurant Umag
We haven't made a reservation. But we didn't worry. On arrival we happily acknowledged more than few empty tables at the terrace. But as we will soon learn, empty tables are not the sign of available seating. At the Sole restaurant, the staff doesn't take more than 80 people at the time. They might have available tables, but their kitchen is capped at 80 persons, if they want to keep the quality of food and service. We put our friendliest faces and almost begged to be seated. Yay, it worked!
We could notice that the majority of guests were regulars. Umag area is also the westernmost area of Istria and the closest to Slovenia and Italy. Our fellow diners were mostly Italians. Owners came out occasionally to exchange short, pleasant chatter with each table.
First we were served a homemade spread made of fresh cheese, porcino mushrooms, and black truffles. This small appetizer was a welcome bite on the house. We started our meal with a crab salad. We just cannot get enough crab when they are in season here (December-June). White crab meat is served in a clean crab shell. The meat is just steamed. You can season it to your taste, or not season it at all if you prefer it natural. Soft, rich and brown flesh from under the hard upper shell is served in a small bowl aside. Some people like it, others don't. I like when it's brought to the table as we actually enjoy the brown crab meat as well.
Next, the waiter suggested us to taste their homemade bigule pasta with wild asparagus, crab meat and scampi tails. Bigule is a spaghetti style pasta made without eggs and always served al dente. Their pasta was excellent. Maybe the best one I've ever eaten in any restaurant. And the pasta sauce was so good that by the time I've finished eating my plate was so clean they didn't have to wash it.
The biggest treat of the day was our main course. And when this statement comes from the guy who is crazy about sweets (although he's not allowed to eat them anymore), than you should understand how good that main course was. We had a dish they call in Croatia “dirty calamari” – seared baby calamari. This is like the sweetest seafood you can have. For a side dish we had a big bowl of homegrown salad (green and red radicchio, and rocket salad).
No meal is complete without a dessert (even if I am not allowed to eat it, and I still eat it). I ordered a chocolate cake (chocolate desserts are the only real desserts) with olive oil and pepper. Yes, folks, olive oil and pepper! And it was delicious. Vera chose a panna cota with balsamic vinegar and berry coulis. Awesome! Sole's signature dessert. Every dessert is actually their own creation and the result of a playful duo of father and son.
We paid for a meal a little bit less than 30 € per person with wine, water and coffee. It wasn't a cheap meal, but considering the quality and the choice of food we had, it's a pretty fair price. Highly recommended!
Contacts: Donji Picudo, Sošići 58 , Umag; t: +385 52 730 123 ; m: +385 91 150 1224