(Poljička cesta 11A; 21310 Omiš; +385 21 735 557; www.hoteldamianii.hr)
In the past few weeks, quite a few eateries have popped up in and around Split as the summer season kicks off and rumors of new openings keep spreading. I have been on eating duty to find out what’s new, hot and tasty in Split and I was particularly excited to be visiting a restaurant out of town that more and more friends in my foodie network were praising as THE gastronomic gem of Split!…even though it isn’t even in Split!
Just before sunset, two friends and I ventured 25-minutes south of Split to the coastal village of Duće. Duće is, well, just a coastal settlement dotted with holiday homes popular amongst the Splićani for its beaches. The deluxe four-starred Hotel Damianii is located in Duće along the coastal highway and houses Restaurant Goldcode, our destination for the evening. The boutique hotel’s interiors are Fendi design-inspired with swanky fittings and upholsteries in cream and black tones.
The prim and proper restaurant interiors put you right into a fine-dining mode with plush booths, deep chairs, designer lamps, and panoramic windows that lead you onto a wide terrace with pool and sea views. Although the building is set back on the land plot from the road, the sound of traffic disturbs and throughout your visit, you wonder WHY would anyone with a sense of business place such a luxe product in a destination without any tourism offer other than a nice beach and a noisy road.
Despite the hotel’s rather odd location, our jaws dropped when we skimmed the tasting menu; the dishes sounded so tempting and original that I once again had to double check whether I indeed was in the Split-Dalmatian county! I then learned that Chef Špiro Pavlić who once worked in Dubrovnik’s famed Restaurant Nautika and trained in the world-renowned Noma in Copenhagen, conquered the Goldcode kitchen…in Duće! Ok, enough about Duće and on to focusing on what matters, the food!
Goldcode will launch their a la carte menu in late June but we had the pleasure of being presented with two tasting menus; one of three courses for 220kn and the other of five for 330kn. Skimming the wine list I spotted many of my favorite Croatian wines but I found that the prices were indeed much higher than in the city; for instance, Pošip Čara was priced at 260kn where in town the price averages 160kn. We opted for a versatile rosé, the sassy Dingač St. Heels from Saints Hills Winery. As the friendly and perhaps slightly over-formal waiter took care of all the details, he informed us that we could combine any courses from either of the menus according to our liking so we all combined a varied menu of three courses each.
As we waited for our starters of cuttlefish salad, a trio soup and a tortellini, we devoured the warm breadbasket of hearty buns with truffle, bacon and onion in the mix and the amuse bouche, a cold vegetable soup with Parmesan sticks.
My cold salad of cuttlefish with mango, olive oil, honey and citrus emulsion was light, sweet and acidic; a refreshing early summer combo to open up my appetite.
My dining partners in crime enjoyed a trio soup and a tortellini. The waiter poured a shellfish cream soup over julienne vegetables and apple purée at the table. Otherwise slightly reluctant when it comes to creamy soups, this was a winner, a soup for the senses that was not over-creamed; hearty and smooth, this was an Adriatic flavor bomb! The veal-stuffed homemade tortellini came with an intricately spiced mustard sauce which won the heart of my foodie friend.
As a main course, two opted for the Best of Veal, a wintery dish of veal fillet with sherry sauce, potatoes dauphinoise, mashed peas, and beetroot. Although the waiter didn’t ask how well done we wanted our meat to be prepared, Chef Špiro’s execution of an otherwise classic dish was spot on.
The table’s third diner went for the Macaroni and Shrimp, a homemade tri-color pasta, indigenous to the island of Korčula, in a flavorsome (thankfully non-creamy) shrimp sauce topped with a shrimp skewer. Although wholesome, this rustic plate was a little out of place and could do with some added flair or re-interpretation…perhaps a deconstruction.
The moment we had all been waiting for, dessert! We all opted for the Tonka, a milk chocolate cream with tonka (a rare bean similar to vanilla but distinctly fruity and spicy rather than floral) topped with Amaretto jelly and gold-leaf on a macaron. This naughty little dessert blew our socks off; the sweetness of the macaron and chocolate were well contrasted with the tang of Amaretto…and it all just melted in your mouth.
We were so thrilled about the dessert that we just had to try the other dessert also on offer, the Caramel Mousse with almond and hazelnut cream covered in a chocolate glaze. This creative semifreddo re-interpretation is something I urgently need to have on stock at home; Špiro! I am ordering a batch!
Before drifting back home to Split, the humble chef came out to greet us with a sweet platter of lemon jelly, homemade Rocher, and choco-cornflake bars; the perfect icing on the cake after a spectacular experience for my taste buds.
Restaurant Goldcode truly offers a unique gastronomic experience however, its odd location is a pity as it is out of view and out of the way for customers; there was actually only one other table of guests in the restaurant. I look forward to my return when Chef Špiro Pavlić launches his a la carte menu so I can flavor some of the things he has in store for us this summer.