Pop-Up Sushi on the Adriatic: A Japanese Tuna Masterclass at Falkensteiner Iadera

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July 7, 2018 – One more strengthening of the quality gourmet ties between Japan and Zadar Region, as Falkensteiner Iadera opens a Japanese pop-up sushi restaurant, with some of the highest quality Adriatic tuna starring on the opening night. 

I have come to learn that there are several unusual relationships in Croatia during my time here. I am still amazed that part of The White House came from Brac stone, for example, that there is a Kazakh consulate in Umag, a Syrian in Vukovar employing 600 people, and there are real live camels close to the Croatian Sahara in Djurdjevac, north of Zagreb.

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And then there is the increasingly interesting relationship between Zadar County and Japan. Did you know, for example, that there is a project to make Croatian wine in Japan, with vines from Zadar vineyards? Plavac Mali, the pride of Dalmatian reds, and a relative of Zinfandel, could soon be Made in Japan.

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Or that Zadar holds a sushi, tuna and wine festival each year, with some of the best Japanese sushi chefs and traditional music and entertainers? The festival is growing in international importance each year and is proving a strong bridge between the culture of Japan and Croatia.
Sushi and the Adriatic is always something that has confused me over the 16 years I have been here. With so much fresh fish and a rich culinary tradition, high-quality sushi has always been difficult to find. Until now…

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Keeping with the strong gourmet bonds developed between Japan and Zadar County, luxury hotel group Falkensteiner has added one more quality gastronomic bond between the two countries, with the opening of a pop-up sushi bar for the summer at Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Iadera, part of the resort’s new concept, ‘Adria Asia Fusion’, in partnership with Kali Tuna d.o.o., the major producer of tuna in the region.

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To Falkensteiner Punta Skala General Manager Georg Unterkircher, it was unimaginable that almost all of the tuna in Kali is exported. An Adriatic product, he wanted to bring it to Iadera to present it his guests, but not just in the Mediterranean style, but also with some Japanese flair. He found a willing partner in Jiro Kambe, the Japanese owner and Chairman of the Board of Kali Tuna d.o.o.), and a new chapter of the luxury gourmet story between Zadar and Japan was born.

 

The pop-up restaurant will run throughout the summer, and there are two Japanese chefs who have come to the Falkensteiner Punta Skala resort to prepare traditional Japanese dishes such as nigiriakami, sashimi and gunkan. Mediterranean freshness, Japanese-style, a winning combination.

 

There was an opening ceremony on Monday, July 2, as a huge 2-metre-long tuna weighing an impressive 230 kg was presented at Iadera to guests and journalists alike. General Manager Unterkircher gave a welcome and thank you speech, as did Japanese Ambassador Keiji Takiguchi, who had travelled from Zagreb for the event and declared himself thrilled and honoured to be there. Speaking in Croatian, Ambassador Takiguchi spoke warmly of the 25-year relationship between the two countries, which started with the opening of the Japanese Embassy in Zagreb.

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The ambassador spoke enthusiastically of the relationship between the two countries, which is growing, and of his pleasure at how well Japanese tradition and cuisine has been received and loved in Dalmatia, particularly through the Zadar Sushi, Tuna and Wine Festival.

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And there was plenty of tradition on display before guests tucked into the expertly-prepared sushi. The ribbon was cut by Mr. Unterkircher, Mr. Kambe and Ambassador Takiguchi, before a 20-litre barrel of sake was broken with four strokes, as is the tradition – bringing good luck to the restaurant Jiro. The sake was then served to those present, before four members of Kali Tuna d.o.o. and the two Japanese chefs set to work on the giant tuna – it was quite a show. Attendant waiters delivered an impressive ‘flying buffet’ offering finger food sushi bites on the Iadera terrace, washed down with sparkling wine.

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Apart from running the successful Kali Tuna d.o.o., Jiro Kambe is also very active in promoting the business, and his numerous contacts include a close friendship with the world’s most famous sushi chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, who came to Kali on the nearby island of Ugljan in March this year for an event called ‘Japan Fusion in Kali’, professing himself delighted with the quality of Adriatic tuna – just one more gourmet bond between Zadar and Japan. You can read more about that event in a previous report from TCN.

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As a huge sushi fan and former resident of Hiroshima, I find the pictures mouthwatering and, if my Falkensteiner gourmet experience was anything to go by last month (when Iadera was easily the best culinary experience on the Nikola Tesla EV Rally), this is a feast more than worth checking out.

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For more information and table reservation, please ask at the reception of Hotel & Spa Iadera: 00385(0)23 500 911. Open daily from 13 – 17 h (at Spa Bistro terrace); 19 – 22 h (La Veranda terrace) until September 15.

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