The Column with Simone B. Michielen: Amuse me or lose me…

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One of the main events for me and many food lovers with me, is restaurant week. It is a week of tasting, getting to know new places, meeting the chef and being surprised by the effort they make to convince you to come again. Proper advertising. At least, that is what it should be. You can feel it coming, as many things that started as a great idea, sometimes they perish to their own success. This year I could only visit 2 restaurants.

One almost decorated with a Michelin plate and the other one the day before we came with a star, but already on their way within this restaurant week. With high expectations we drove over 1½ hours to the West, up on a mountain, to visit Grič, where the young chef Luka Kušir is running the show. The basic menu for 25 euros that was offered was indeed basic, so we decided to go for the extended one for 42 euros. Not really what I like to do during restaurant week, but well, spending some extra money might keep the restaurants above the water during these hard times. The food was good. Simple ingredients served in a nice way, beautiful presentation, no real highs or lows. But… than the Petits Fours came. Très petits, as my daughter immediately reacted. And she was right, in a positive version they looked a little bit like friandise. We both are addicted to the real thing; little pastries kissing your taste buds and putting a smile on your face by how beautiful they look! None of this, not even close. Come on Luka, don’t do that to us.

Will I come again? Probably not. Although the staff was friendly, I missed excitement in what I tasted and a chef being proud of what he served.

My next experience was also a 1½ hours travel, but this time to the East. Hiša Denk was already on my list for quite some time and this was the moment. Somewhere between my reservation and the lunch Gregor and his staff received a Michelin star, so how much confirmation do you need to know you are probably going to have one of the best meals you can get. What a beautiful spacious restaurant Gregor has here, as if you are in a green house. As we were brought to our table we heard that the staff celebrated the star the night before and I think they were still a bit shaky as they were obviously not at their best. It started out great, the amuses bouche were absolutely perfect and beautiful, the waiter explained the plate and it went well with the Denk Penina. No additional sales, which was good, a bit more information would have been good too. The menu was great, except for the first dish. We had no clue what we were eating. It was put on the table in total silence, no explanation about the wine, nothing… The shape was like a Chinese dumpling that is supposed to be burned a bit on one side, but it wasn’t. It was filled with potato and to make it a bit better some vegetables, so we later realised: it must have been žlikrofi! But please stop with that heritage, the reason that idea came up obviously had to do with poverty, not with fine dining.

What came next made us realise again how privileged we were to taste this menu. What a delicious main course, and the dessert, mmmmmmmm. Lovely taste combinations and inspiration on a plate. As a whirlwind Gregor passed the tables, showing interest in his guests and obviously glowing with pride for the achievements he and his staff made, crowned by Michelin. As promised I’ll be back for your chef’s menu Gregor! Chefs, staff and restaurant owners of Slovenia, please keep proving to us, like Gregor Vračko did, that your main goal is to amuse us with every meal you serve and you will never lose