We just finished a week's cruising the islands off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Those unfamiliar with this area might consider it as an alternative to the better known cruising areas of the Aegean. You can find wild, isolated landscapes in close proximity to lovely, pocket-sized Venetian towns like Hvar and Korcula. The weather is generally cooler, and, now to the point, fish and seafood are far more abundant than they are in the sadly depleted waters of Greece and Turkey.
Starters in Dalmatia generally consist of the fabulous sheep cheese from the island of Pag, where the sheep drink brackish water, and sardines in different marinades. They aren't so big on salads and mezzas here, as they are in Greece and the Middle East. Scampi, mussels, oysters, octopus and lobster are commonly available, as are sea bream, grouper, and scorpion fish. If you tire of fish, call ahead and advance order a paka, which is lamb or veal (in spring a kid) cooked with potatoes under a metal bell with hot coals placed over it. Croatia is dessert-challenged, and usually you will find only pancakes and ice cream on the menu, but the better restaurants may have rosata, a sort of orange-flavored flan cake. In the bakeries, look for borek - a crisp, savory cheese pie, made with a thick, noodle-like dough, rather than the more typical phyllo-made variety, and far better. Finally, some of the wines, with their unpronounceable slavic names, aren't half bad, the whites in particular. The reds tend to be "hot" and overly alcoholic. They aren't expensive, so splurge for the most expensive one on the menu, which will be $20 tops. It is much better than the carafe wine.
Here are a few restaurant recs that you may not find in the guide books:
On the island of Mljet, the harbor of Pomena, located in a nature preserve, is lovely, and the quay is lined with restaurants. Something that I'd never seen elsewhere- in the concrete quay in front of each restaurant was a square hole covered by heavy wooden planks. Lifting the planks and shining a flashlight into the dark water underneath revealed a holding tank filled with lobsters. Our dinner that night was a freshly caught, 4 kilo grouper, which was tasty, but a bit chewy. Later, I was told that the younger, smaller grouper are considered better eating.
Also on Mljet, in a lovely anchorage called Prozura, we had a black risotto, which was nothing like the Italian, but more rustic and soupy, flavored with cuttlefish and capers.
On the Island of Hvar, the vineyards come practically down to the sea. We tied up at one of these winegrowing hamlets, called Svetanediya, and had lunch at a restaurant run by the winegrower, called Zlatan Odok (the name of the wine and the restaurant). The main event was a freshly caught scorpion fish, which was delicious. This is the only restaurant I've been to where you can finish lunch, get up from the table, and plunge off the jetty for a swim.
On the Island of Vis, two recommendations. First, the restaurant in the lovely, secluded anchorage of Stoncica, which is really a glorified pit barbecue, but great food. And in the small port of Komezia, the restaurant Buko, where we had lobster to celebrate our last night. Most of the lobsters are the clawless, mediterranean spiny lobster, but clawed lobsters, though rarer, are also indigenous, and this is what we had. We had it barbecued and cooked in a tomato sauce - the barbecued is much better. Stewing ruins the texture of the meat.