I had dinner at Albona last week. I'd wanted to go there for years and somehow never made it. The restaurant specializes in food from Istria, the Adriatic peninsula that included Trieste (now Italy), part of Slovenia, and part of Croatia.
The meal was a complete disappointment. I found many of the dishes barely edible, and while this was a harsher assessment than my dining companions, it wasn't by much.
Three of us shared: an order of chifeletti, described as gnocchi but more of a mashed potato dumpling in sirloin gravy;
a marinade of red peppers and eggplant with olives;
mushroom risotto, which was the best dish of the night although it contained rather ordinary crimini mushrooms;
braised rabbit, and the loin of lamb.
The rabbit came with a soupy polenta that I enjoyed; the sauce was too sweet and the rabbit was stringy. Lamb was tender but flavorless, served in chunks with cipollini onions and potatoes. Portions were thankfully small. We skipped dessert.
Bruno, the owner, is a singular character. He described every ingredient in his minestrone soup, made by simmering a prosciutto base, then they slice the tomatoes, then they.... He described mouthwatering fresh sardines and then told us we couldn't have them because they needed another day to marinade. He also berated me for something or other--using a fork instead of a spoon? having my menu closed instead of open? After a day of jury duty, I didn't find this especially endearing.
I spent a week in Istria last summer and ate meal after extraordinary meal, so it's not that I don't like the cuisine. I would happily travel to Radovljica just for dinner at Gostilna Lectar.
Was Albona once a better restaurant? Why was it on the Chronicle's top 100 for 10 years?
Total for 3 came to $135 including tip and an unexciting bottle of Nebbiolo.