Located in the prestigious historic area of Ljubljana, Stari Trg, you will find Valvas’or restaurant. Opened in 2008 Valvas’or has slowly come up the ranks as one of the city’s finest dining experiences. I was excited when I got the call to come and review it. My companion for the evening was Justin Young of Slovenia Estates. Justin often takes foreign clients to local eateries and I was curious to get his opinion too.
I was instantly impressed by the interior design of the restaurant. It was contemporary in its design with rich brown leather booth seating on one side that encased the whole back wall. An exciting perforated gold metal sheet lay along most of the opposing wall. The perforated holes were smartly designed to
create a map of the city and the actual street of Stari Trg. However, I must say that I was a bit sceptical once seated in the restaurant. I was sharing these concerns with Justin. I so often find in local restaurant that the scale between design and food do not often come to a balance.
I have been in many situations when I have been thrilled with the interiors and hugely let down with the meal or been thrilled by the culinary experience and yet longed for a more atmospheric venue. Nonetheless, I am very excited to say that Valvas’or is as accomplished in its design as it is in their food! Halleluiah! We started our evening with a Slovenian specialty, a Teran sparkling wine that originates from Karst; it has an attractive ruby colour with traces of blackberry and redcurrant aroma. It was my first time having a Sparkling Teran and both my guest and I agreed it’s was fantastic. It can be deceiving because of its rubyed colouring, very low in tannin and refreshingly light to the pallet. Not what you expect from a glass of red. With a short introduction from our manager we left the menu selection in his more than capable hands and got back to more pressing issues, finishing our delicious sparkling wine! My father always told me growing up that you can judge a restaurant by the bread they serve and its toilets. If this is an accurate assessment then, Valvas’or came up champions on both. The mini brioche rolls were still warm, light, and airy with a buttery silky texture. My visit to the lady’s room was just as memorable. Sleek black tiles with ambient lighting and minimalist décor. Feeling refreshed and ready for more, our first course appeared. Adriatic tuna tartar with a tangerine foam and blood orange Aperol jelly.
The tartar was finished with a drizzle of local olive oil and fresh cracked white pepper. The tangerine foam was subtle and added just the right amount of essence to the dish without over powering the tuna. Gorgeous. The dish was paired with a Malvazija, a graceful, floral wine brimming with tropical grapefruit characters and a gentle note of peach. The prefect paring. My partner had the dried Karst ham with melon and olive tapenade. Simple and using only the best ingredients it was faultless.This was by far the best “prosciutto crudo” I have had in Slovenia and I would love to know their supplier! I thought that
the olive tapenade was such a clever accompaniment to the ham. I am often served olives with this dish although the tapenade just makes everything, a little more interesting. Our waiter soon serves us twin steaming bowls of two local styles of pasta.
To begin with, was the homemade Istrian style pasta with truffles. Thin sheets of pasta hand rolled to resemble a cone. It is served with an exquisite, delightful truffle sauce. On many occasions I have had this traditional Istrian dish, however in the past I have always had it served in a heavy creamy sauce and it can tend to takes away for the aromatic flavors of the truffle. Valvas’or’s variation of this delicious dish does not add cream. They incorporatedthe creamy texture by adding rice cream and therefore not mellowing the flavors of the truffle.The truffle had more of a predominant presence in the dish because of
this. My theory is when ever cooking with truffles, don’t over complicate, the truffles are perfect just the way they are! The wine served with this dish was Scurek Pikolit, this wine is full-bodied, harmonious and warm with a long creamy aftertaste. The acidity broke through the buttery flavours of the sauce and helped the truffles sing out more. Prefect pairing.
Our second pasta dish was Žlikrofi, also a national dish of Slovenia, made from dough with a potato filling and shaped into characteristic parcels. The žlikrofi was served with a morel mushroom sauce. It was so rich in flavors and using the morels in this dish was pure genius.The sauce resembled a mushroom demi glace, rich, earthy and full of flavor. It was truly the perfect partner to this pasta.Still enjoying my truffle high and completely sadden by it disappearance, I was elated when my next dish of fillet of sea bass served with a truffle “tartufato” sauce appeared. As I have said, I am always just looking for the perfect vehicle for my truffles. The sea bass was steamed and served on a sliced poached potato. It was simple and fresh, the fish was fantastic and the truffles, as always hit the spot. Long live mushroom season!! Justin had the young lamb cutlet with a potato mozaic and a medley of vegetable florets. After invading his space with my fork and knives I as rewarded with some of the best lamb I have had in this city, perfectly cooked. In my opinion, I did feel that the dish lacked a bit in the balancing of flavors. I think that it would have benefitted with an acidic component, be it berries, herbs or tree fruit, It just need
something to help bring the flavors to the front of my pallet. However with that aside we did manage to finish both our plates, with a smile.
For dessert we were served Pear mozaic with a white chocolate sauce. This dessert did not work for me. I am not a big fan of white chocolate and the shaved raw pear seemed a bit random in the mix. However,
we were also served the Valvas’or cake. It was a layered cake filled with chocolate nut mouse, soft meringue and a sponge cake base.This was right up my ally! It was rich and creamy with a bit of a
crunch from the hazel nuts, all topped off with a soft meringue (there is no other meringue in my opinion!). It was stunningand a great way to end a fantastic evening. Valvas’or got the balance right. It is visually a stunning space with a very creative design. It is intimate but with a sense of bustle and excitement around you. The booth seating is very comfortable and also gives you a retreat and an impression of space. It is definitely a hub for locals and foreigners who are there entertaining clients and larger parties.
The restaurant is set up perfectly for larger tables, they have managed to create an intimate setting for large parties who still feel like they are part of the dining experience. If you are not acquainted with Slovenian wines, do not hesitate to ask the sommelier. He selected all our wine and did an excellent job. They also have the best lunch special in town. For value and quality you can’t beat it! I am already planning my next date night to be at Valvas’or.
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