I haven't seen a lot on CH about these countries, so I relied mainly on Michelin and Tripadvisor, along with advice from a Croatian friend.
These are the restaurants we tried:
Konoba Brig - Draga
This was just down the road from where we stayed in a suburb of Rijeka and was a good choice after a long day of driving. It was a very simple place with a pleasant outdoor terrace. The food was tasty enough but not out of the ordinary. Prices were very low. We started with a charcuterie and cheese plate, generous but not of top quality. For main courses Stanley had pork chops with potatoes, and I had pork medallions with a cream sauce with sage and prosciutto, which came with grilled mushrooms and vegetables. That was very tasty. We also had a liter of the house red wine. The bill came to about $40. Nothing to go out of your way for but a good, cheap neighborhood spot.
Puntulina - Rovinj
It was absolutely beautiful sitting on the multilevel terrace with a stunning view of sea and mountains.
The food was just as stunning. We shared a starter of local squid “Rovinj style”, tender and delicious, then an order of ravioli with black truffles. My main course was grilled sea bass filets with a green herb sauce, on top of soft polenta mixed with cherry tomatoes, while Stanley had a different fish filet with nuts. We also shared some excellent grilled vegetables. For the wine, we picked a local rose, about $35. With water and coffee, the total was about $150.
Bevanda - Opatija
Bevanda has a Michelin star and is expensive. This was our big splurge meal, as our Croatian friend had told us we should absolutely not miss it despite the cost. We started with pasta, for him the seafood agnolotti with black truffle, for me the squid ink gnocchi with shellfish in a tomato saffron cream sauce. Both were superb. We then had a whole grilled fish, arbun, for which there is no equivalent English name. It was excellent (certainly should be for $115 for 2 people!). We had a side of Swiss chard with potatoes, a local specialty. Dessert was forgettable, a millefoglie of biscuits layered with whipped cream and (supposedly wild) berries. We had a really good, full-bodied Malvasia ($35), so with water the total was around $220. We would probably spend around that for a similar meal in New York, but as we find restaurants in Europe generally cheaper, it seemed a bit excessive. Service was less attentive than it should have been in a top level restaurant. It was not busy at all, yet our server kept disappearing or attending to other things and not noticing that our wine glasses were empty (she had placed the ice bucket away from the table) or that it was 20 minutes after we ordered dessert before we finally caught her attention or we might have sat there all night waiting for it. Regardless, I would recommend this place for a special dinner.
Ostarija Peglez'n - Bled (Slovenia)
For our day trip to Lake Bled, we had planned on lunch at Restaurant 1906, a fine dining but not expensive place on a hill overlooking the lake. I had emailed in the morning requesting a reservation, not even sure we would need one in the off-season on a weekday, but it turned out they were fully booked. We could see from the long tables that they were expecting a tour group. The hostess recommended a couple of other places, one of which (probably the better one) has no parking so would require a 15 minute walk from the nearest parking place, so went to the other one, Ostarija Peglez’n, a cute but simple place facing the lake.
The waiter was genial and the food was decent enough, if nothing to write home about. We both began with fish soup, which was pretty good. Stanley had pork Wiener schnitzel with French fries (not home made) and I had trout (not local as I might have hoped) with the typical chard and potato mixture. A liter of house red wine (bottles were expensive). With 2 coffees, we spent about 65 euros, which is what we typically spent in Italy for much higher quality. Why is Slovenia so expensive?
Konoba Nebuloza - Rijeka
This was another recommendation from our Croatian friend. It also happens to be the highest ranked of 130 restaurants in Rijeka on Tripadvisor, and is deserving of that.
We were tempted by a number of dishes, and the choice became more difficult as we saw wonderful looking plates of food going to the tables around us. The tuna steak looked great, but I decided to stick with my original choice of duck breast, and Stanley chose duck confit, but first, we shared cuttlefish on grilled polenta, and then Istrian pasta, homemade pasta tubes with sausage and bacon in a tomato sauce. A liter of house red was good, and reasonably priced, as everything here was. The confit was succulent and served on a bed of potato puree with a polenta cake and small sides of beets, leeks and preserved lemon. My duck breast, cooked to a perfect medium rare, was on a balsamic vinegar reduction, and accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes and an arugula and mango salad. For dessert, a chocolate ganache made for a perfect ending. The creative cooking, attentive service and nice atmosphere make this place special. The bill came to just under $90.
For a full report with photos and our travel experiences, see my blog post: