Molten Chocolate on the Adriatic
One thing is clear; I definitely want to return to Rovinj in Croatia’s Istria region. And when I do, I?ll be eating at the restaurant Blu again. I am just not sure whether I’ll be returning more for the view on the Adriatic, or for Chef Nikola Hrelja?s chocolate cake (bonus – I got his recipe, it’s below!).
It’s a toss up. And the food that is served while you ooh and aah at the clear blue water – so close you literally can touch it – is worth writing home about too. Istria is well known for its truffles (as in the mushroom, not the chocolate!) and its olive oil. Both were present – and delicious.
A glass of crisp white Malvazija wine came first, then flatbread with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt. My lunch that day started with a spring seafood salad with edible flowers and aromatics. Steamed branzino and baby shrimp were in the mix, and a little bowl of pink salt was on the side for sprinkling on top. A trio plate came next: a thin strip of zucchini wrapped around sole; monkfish steak with black summer truffles in cream sauce; and a calamari burger with a peppery sauce to finish. Never had a calamari burger before, but I have to say, I really liked it!
Now I know that a chocolate soufflé, or better yet, a molten chocolate cake, is nothing quite earth-shattering and original. And I?ve certainly had my fair share – in New York, Paris and many places in between. But the one I had at Blu really stood out. Baked to perfection, the chocolate just oozed out on to the plate with a simple touch of the spoon. I hardly even noticed the whipped cream – even though, I’m sure it wouldn’t have hurt. What got me most excited of all though was the exterior, the cake encapsulated in a thin, crunchy layer of crystallized sugar.
I cleaned my plate, licked my lips and headed straight for the kitchen. I was hoping to talk to the pastry chef, meet this molten chocolate cake wizard! I ended up having a long and very pleasant conversation with Lidia Fabris, the owner. She’s second from the right in the photo here, hiding between her son Lorenzo and Chef Hrelja. On the left is Blu waitress Ljiljana. Lidia is from Belgrade, born to a Hungarian mother and Italian father. She opened Blu six years ago with Nikola in the kitchen, wanting to be as close to nature as possible – the sea, the markets, the fishermen. Fresh seasonal food, with a menu that changes daily depending on their morning visits to the market. Luckily there’s nothing seasonal about the Lindt 75% chocolate Nikola uses, and you can find his “chocolate soufflé” on the menu all year round.
Back to the table I went, and everything was gone. All the plates cleared, that divine chocolate dessert but a memory. But now, I’ve got the recipe (and more than plenty Lindt chocolate here in Switzerland)! So even if I don’t quite have the same view from my dining room table here in Zürich, I think I’ll just close my eyes and pretend. Time to turn on the oven and take a quick trip back to the Adriatic…
3 km from the centre of Rovinj in the ?Borik? area of town, right on the beach
Blu’s “Chocolate Soufflé”
4 egg yolks
¾ cup (180 grams) sugar, plus extra to coat dishes
1 cup (120 grams) flour
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
8.5 oz (240 grams) chocolate
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon (240 grams) butter
a few drops of high end quality olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Butter individual baking dishes/ramekins and generously coat with sugar. Melt chocolate and butter in saucepan over low heat. Whisk eggs and egg yolks together. Whisk in sugar, then chocolate mixture, cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Pour butter into dishes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with few drops of olive oil before serving. Serve with whipped cream.