Sampling the Lesic Dimitri Chef Tasting Menu on Korcula
Fabulous Korcula Town has the potential to be one of Croatia’s most elite destinations. A dining experience on August 30, 2017, which is helping push it in that direction.
One of the nicest things about running TCN is the colourful inbox contents. While the vast majority of the emails are abusive and include the occasional death threat (or death treat, as one correspondent spelled it), there are plenty of emails of encouragement, thanks and appreciation. Many thanks for the latter, and as for the former – a little more originality would be appreciated.
The inbox also includes a few invitations to events, as well as invitations to visit various restaurants, hotels and wineries around the country. I would love to oblige them all, but someone has to keep the blogging machine oiled. But some invitations are rather hard to turn down…
There are a few boutique hotels on the coast which have achieved legendary status, and which truly show the potential of luxury Croatian tourism fully realised. Hotel Vestibul Palace in Split is one, the fabulous Martinis Marchi on Solta is another (check out their fabulous Roman toga ball earlier this summer), and undoubtedly one of the top examples was the hotel whose email lay in my inbox – Lesic Dimitri Palace on Korcula.
Apparently, they were TCN fans and invited me to come and stay earlier this year. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity, but a little impractical with my new base in Varazdin. It was in my mind all summer, however, and there were several other reasons to visit Korcula and with the excellent Krilo service from Split to Dubrovnik connecting Hvar Town and Korcula Town directly, I informed the Lesic team that I was coming and delighted to meet them. Not surprisingly, for a luxury boutique hotel in peak season, there were no rooms free, but I was invited to come for lunch.
Which is when I met Michael.
I love meeting successful foreigners in Croatia (and hope one day to become one), partly because there are so few of them, but mainly because they have usually gone through three lifetimes of agony to achieve their Croatian success, and one can swap stories with such people, and they can truly understand the joys and frustrations of trying to do business over 15 years in The Beautiful Croatia. They usually have an abundance of personality and great anecdotes, and I would have to place Michael in the upper echelons of that category. We were joined by his delightful wife Masa and colleague Ivana. This was going to be a lunch to remember, and they hadn’t even brought the bread yet.
I remember looking out to sea towards Orebic from my chair and wondering if the food could possibly match that stupendous view. I was soon to find out.
“Shall we try the chef’s tasting menu? And a glass of bubbly to start?”
Which is when I met Andrija – head waiter, trained sommelier, Moreska sword dancer, tuba player and vice-president of the diving club.
Some meals are about the food, some about the presentation, and occasionally, a meal is brought to life by a combination of quality, presentation and story-telling. With Michael in one ear and Andrija in the other, I realised that resistance was futile and I allowed myself to be seduced by the Lesic Dimitri experience. Some restaurants have olive oil with their homemade bread – Lesic Dimitri has three, all with different styles and tastes, expertly introduced by Andrija. All excellent, especially with a glass of Tomac Millenium to help them on their way.
And so to the prawn starter, but not just any prawns. The redness of their colour was astonishing, as was the softness of the shells – no need for shelling here. Marko the chef came out to explain more:
“The red prawn is a typical species of the Mediterranean that is fished in depths between 150 to 300 meters. It has a compact meat, rich in iodine with a slightly pronounced sweet taste.
The ingredient is the trigger for the new dish, this beautiful red prawn inspired me to create a new version of one traditional Croatian dish ‘ Frito misto’, which is traditionally fried prawns with their shells, served with tartar sauce and fresh lemon. In Lesic Dimitri our ‘Frito misto’ goes like this:
We clean the prawns with little scissors to clean and preserve their legs, we bake their heads and shells and then do clarified butter which is the base for hollandaise sauce with chili. We fry their legs because the sweetness is there, serve them raw on hollandaise sauce with some marinated leek in lemon juice.”
You don’t get that in Manchester…
Add a glass of 2016 Galic rose, and we were off to an outstanding start.
Andrija was soon back with some sea bass carpaccio, with spring onions, air cured bottarga, creme fraiche and egg yolk, accompanied by a 2016 Posip Intrada. I really liked the wine mix, I have to say, promoting the finest from Korcula and Peljesac (a supreme red and white combination, if ever there was one), as well as the wider Croatian regions.
I wasn’t sure if it was the view, the food, the wine or the conversation, but I was in heaven. And all the while, Michael’s drops of positivity about why Korcula really is the best place on the planet. Did he not know he was addressing a Hvar patriot?
There was no time to contemplate, as Andrija was back with course number three, macaroni with Rubia Gallega Iberico beef and black truffles, with a glass of Plavac Bire 2013. Not just any beef, explained Andrija, and he was right. I Googled later to cover for my ignorance and found that The Daily Telegraph was asking if this Spanish meat was the best steak in the world. Maybe yes, maybe no, but it was bloody good. The Plavac Bire surprised me. Bire is the premier name for Korcula’s Grk white, which only grows in limited quantity near Lumbarda, but I hadn’t realised that Grk needs the love of neighbouring Plavac Mali grapes to flourish. The excellent local accompaniment to the Spanish class was a mix of those Plavac grapes and others from the Plavac heartland of the Peljesac Peninsula.
Out came Drazen, the sommelier, to say hi. I am FAR from being an expert on Croatian wine, but I do know a few bizarre things and have friends who are Croatian winemakers, so I thought it would test him. To my frustration and total admiration, not only had he heard of several wines I mentioned, but had tasted and had opinions on each and every one of them. A very impressive young man.
There was no stopping Andrija though. Out he came again, this time with lamb loin chops, peas, carrots, lamb jus, goat ricotta and pancetta. A dish worthy of a glass of Babic Gracin 2013.
Drazen came back to assist with dessert, bring two types of Moskar prosek to go with this worthy dessert to finish one of the finest meals of my time in Croatia.
And still Michael was talking about how Korcula was the best island in Croatia. He had me spellbound by this stage. Could he possibly be right?
The jury is out on that one, but Korcula has a very fine British ambassador in its midst, a man who has done wonders to raise the island’s luxury profile.
View, company, food and wine – the Lesic Dimitri experience is pretty hard to beat. But I am willing to be persuaded…
Learn more about Lesic Dimitri from their official website.