Michelin Starry Nights in Dubrava as Vokal, Mandaric Cook for Uganda

By 13 November 2021
Michelin Starry Nights in Dubrava as Vokal, Mandaric Cook for Uganda
Zagreb's only Michelin Star chef Bruno Vokal (left of the fat blogger) and Mario Mandaric, ex- Michelin 3-star restaurant, The Fat Duck, right

November 13, 2021 - Michelin starry nights in the unlikely location of the Dubrava district of Zagreb hosts a fund-raising dinner by two chefs with Michelin credentials, Bruno Vokal and Mario Mandaric. 

I am not really a fine dining person.

Don't get me wrong, I have been fortunate to have many fine dining experiences through my 'job' at TCN, and I am constantly in awe of the art, innovation and creativity that ends up on my plate. But I invariably return home a little hungry. 

So when I was invited to come to a 5-course charity dinner to raise money to dig wells in rural Ugandan villages by celebrated chef Mario Mandaric - he of Forbes list of 30 most influential people under 30 - who would be sharing the kitchen with Zagreb's only Michelin Star chef, Bruno Vokal from Noel, I secretly planned a kebab on the way home. At 600 kuna a head donation to the Uganda fund, the meal was certainly not cheap, but I decided to invest in it to support Mario, who will be playing a big part in what comes next on TCN in our new CROMADS project launching next month. 

And what a great investment it turned out to be, as not only did I return home full, but I also had one of the top 10 nights of my 18 years in Croatia. It was summed up rather well by current Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, Rax Suen from Singapore, who was my date for the evening. 


Everything about the evening was extraordinary, as well as a little unusual, starting with the choice of venue.

No central Zagreb posh address for this very chilled event, but a journey to western Zagreb to the Dubrava district, where Trattoria Volare proved to be an outstanding host. 


And inside the atmosphere was cosy indeed.


Guitar legend Yogi Lonich took a break from jamming with some of the biggest names in rock to provide the music with his Zagreb trio - big shout out to the incredible vocals and sax from Kristina Samardzija - awesome stuff. You can learn more about Yogi in this TCN interview last year

But the night was supposed to be about the food. Fortunately, Balkan Nomad Boy Steve Tsentserensky also joined us and brought his camera. Most of the photos are his (apart from the one below and the lead photo). 


A most unusual way to start - Grisini breadsticks with squid ink.


Steve had access to the kitchen so could see what was coming next. 


Home made butter with nutmeg / somun bread, out came the sea bass / citrus / fruits.

It was followed by what for me, was the dish of the night.


Mushroom tartare / rice / confit boletus with lemon juice. It was insanely good. 

But there was more to come.


I am a big fan of lamb, and how about this for a combination - rack of lamb / pistachio / mint / honey glazed carrots.


And to finish, young Bruno from Noel served up one of his signature dishes - deconstructed "strukle".


It was quite a finish to one of the finest meals of my life, accompanied with excellent wines. Now I get what this whole Michelin Star chef thing is all about. 


A fantastic evening, but this is just the start of the Mario Mandaric story in Zagreb. Once he returns from Uganda in early 2022, Mario and business partner Egyptian-Algerian entrepreneur Adel EL Miniawy will embark on a culinary story which will add another level of class to the Zagreb culinary scene. You can read a little teaser in Local Knowledge with a Foreign Eye: When Gourmet Visions Collide.

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