Meet Croatia’s Gourmet Ambassador to Japan… at Villa Magdalena in Krapinske Toplice

Total Croatia News


December 4, 2017 – Whisper it quietly, but there is a rather amazing story unfolding in a northern Croatian spa town, with the sixth healthiest waters in all Europe. Actually, several stories – we begin by meeting Mislav Bozic, the award-winning chef of a regular winner of Best Hotel in Continental Croatia, Villa Magdalena in Krapisnske Toplice.

The longer I live in Croatia and the more I travel around this diverse and fascinating country, the more I realise I am missing. It seems that every person and place has a multitude of stories, many of which go unrecounted to these English ears. 

Take this weekend, for example, a relaxing family weekend away without the laptop at Villa Magdalena, a wonderful 4-star spa hotel in Krapinske Toplice, which has been raising the standards of hospitality and service in the region since it opened in 2009. We have MUCH more to tell about a truly fascinating and relaxing weekend, but we start with one of those stories which might have gone untold. 

After a wonderful weekend relaxing in the jacuzzi in our living room, checking out the local aqua park and feasting on the fantastic Villa Magdalena menu (special mention of the vegetables, some of the best I have had in my time in Croatia), I interviewed the young and dynamic owner, Ivan Perkovic, over a Sunday morning coffee. More on that later, but during our chat, I complimented Ivan on (among other things) the food, especially those vegetables. After telling me that all the restaurant’s food is locally produced, he expressed his regret that I had not had the opportunity to meet the chef, Mislav Bozic, a local man he had persuaded to move back from Tokyo to the town where he grew up.


From Krapinske Toplice to Tokyo to Krapinske Toplice. This was a story I wanted to hear. And then, quite by chance, young Mislav showed up and came to say hello to my family at the end of breakfast, with his adorable young half-Japanese son in tow. 

After complimenting him on the excellent food (and managing to extract a promise to send a recipe – which he has already emailed through), I asked how in the world he had ended up cooking in Japan. A highly-trained quality chef who used to work at the Zagreb Sheraton, Mislav was working down on the coast for a while and then came back to see his colleagues at the Sheraton. One colleague was especially keen to see him and asked him if he was ready for a real adventure – to be the chef in the first Croatian restaurant in Japan! Apparently some Japanese businessman had fallen in love with all things Croatian during the 2002 World Cup, which was hosted in Japan and South Korea, having made friends with the chef who was cooking for the Croatian team, also one of Mislav’s colleagues. The Japanese businessman decided he wanted to open a Croatian restaurant in Tokyo, and asked the football chef for help in finding a quality chef to head up the kitchen. None of his friends was keen. Until Mislav entered the building… 

A new life in Japan awaited, which not only brought the successful restaurant Dobro, but also a Japanese wife and two young boys for Mislav. The most popular dish for Japanese customers? Sarma! The enthusiastic owner has even added a konoba downstairs to the restaurant above, and Dobro now serves authentic Croatian cuisine and wines, as well as Italian and other Mediterranean dishes. 

Dobro has proved an absolute hit over the years since it opened in 2003, and Japanese curiosity in Croatia has certainly been awakened as a result of this gourmet treasure, and the Croatian Embassy in Tokyo was quick to supply Dobro with as much tourism promotional material as it could handle. The significant rise of Japanese arrivals to Croatia must be due in part to the culinary skills of young Mislav. 


One of the things that really impressed me about Villa Magdalena was the attention to detail, and Ivan seems to be a man who knows what he wants and is unwilling to compromise on quality. After some negotiations, Villa Magdalena got their man, and Mislav returned to Krapinske Toplice, where he spent some of his childhood. And if the awards on the walls of the restaurant are anything to go by (Villa Magdalena awards best restaurant in continental Croatia in 2012, 2014 and 2015, for example), it would seem that others are recognising the culinary class of this very fine hidden gem. 

To learn more about Villa Magdalena, click here.

To visit Dobro in Tokyo, click here



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