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“Strange set up”
Review of Damir & Ornella

Damir & Ornella
Ranked #23 of 70 Restaurants in Novigrad
Certificate of Excellence
Cuisines: Seafood
Dining options: Late Night, Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Late Night, Reservations
Reviewed September 23, 2013

This is an expensive restaurant; it doesn't have any outside dining area; it had been recommended to me by 2 people, so I went to check it out.
As we entered, the owner (I presume, or possibly the manager but, if so, with a rather annoyingly superior attitude) greeted us with a perfunctory 'you want to eat?' - and then laughed at his own razor wit, before wheeling away to attend to some other diners.
I began to feel uncomfortable.
There was one table occupied, which the same man was attending to with some of the same type of self-satisfied flourish.
A polite waiter came to seat us and took our order for a glass of wine and some water, but looked askance when we asked to see the menu.
The first man returned to deal with our impertinence in wishing to see a menu, and rather grandly explained that what he had that day was xyz, for a cost of some 450 kuna (I think it was, certainly at least 400), basically pasta and then 3 types of raw fish.
We decided that we didn't like the atmosphere or the price and left (and I will separately review the excellent place we found in its stead).
To be fair to them, they refused payment for the glass of wine, bread and water, but then again it was done in a sort of 'we are far too important and rich to dirty ourselves by talking about such trivial sums of money'. Relating this made me question whether I should perhaps feel a tad guilty, but no: I wanted to pay, they specifically wouldn't deal with it.
But now, as I have finished reviewing this place, let me shine some light on this particular form or snobbery, which I sadly see more and more of in Croatia.
It often goes like this: "fresh in today and not on the menu we have some sea bass/sea bream/dorado, etc., we can cook it anyway you like it".
You order it. It's delicious.
Then the bill comes and you find that you were charged €50 for a quite small fish. And by then you can't complain because it wasn't on the menu.
(BTW, our 'counter measure' is to only order from the menu now, to deny them this little rip-off trick.)
The other bit of silliness I've started to come across is the "we have such fine food that we don't expect to discuss the price" type of nonsense. In other words, either you're a really rich and therefore worthwhile person, and you don't tarnish yourself with small talk about the cost of eating, or you are a nobody because you are interested in the price.
I detest this type of BS, and it is sad to see it becoming more widely practiced in Croatia than was the case a few years ago. And if you are truly interested in Croatian gastronomy, which is one of its greatest (and unsung) tourism assets, then head away from the tourist towns: the more genuine establishments are off the beaten track, where you never find this type of attitude.
Too much tourism spoils the locals, unfortunately.

    • Value
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10  Thank Grantski
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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49 - 53 of 221 reviews

Reviewed May 5, 2013

Recommended. Was apprehensive about this restaurant. But did not need to be. Fish prepared in front of us, was delicious and super fresh. We had four fish dishes and a dessert. Fantastic choice of wine recommended by owner who served us.

Thank Cheflizzie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 3, 2013

Last time I tried to have a lunch there, late July, the city was so crowded that I gave up before reaching the restaurant; Sunday early February is obviously a much better moment to visit Novigrad and Danile e Orneila. If your are a meat lover, the place is not for you: it is about the fish, only the fish and anything but the fish (and seafood). Not only that but everything is raw and cut in front of you from the fish and seafood caught in the morning.

Experience is interesting and clearly worth trying - I do not think the restaurant has a menu so it is all about the discussion and choosing what you feel like having; today it lead to a langoustine tartare followed by a raw sole with lemon and olive oil, thinly sliced calamari and two kinds of scallops, small ones and usual size as well as some gnocchi with sea bass. Great wine choice, including all crazy local makers of orange wines; a bottle of Damjan went very nicely with the lunch.

I loved the freshness of the fish and the way it is cut in front of you (transformation of a small sole into four filets is a beautiful show). seven tables only is also a guarantee of a top notch service, with enough time dedicated to take care of you. Two remarks however - olive oil, very good that being said, is used very abundantly and sometimes hides the taste of the fish/seafood. Also, the place is (very) expensive - at 100 euro per head, even if it is of excellent quality and well suited for various eccentric tastes, the value for money is a bit challenging (but still worth trying) - I wouldn't make that comment should the restaurant be in Paris, London or New York but compared to few other places tested during this gastronomic weekend, it is rather on the expensive side of the scale.

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3  Thank Scipion-Paris
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 2, 2012

So we heard and read so much about Damir and Ornella and all hungry, decided to visit. We knocked on their door and then noticed that we are a half an hour early. Damir (we recognised him from the photos in all the "wonderful review books") opened the door and I kindly asked: "Are you open?" He pointed at the sign next to the door and VERY ARROGANTLY said: "As is written" and closed the door....!!!???? Seriously? Customer service? How about, no but let's offer you some bread and olive oil while you wait (and meanwhile we would drink a bottle of their finest"... but NO! Get lost, I am not in the mood was the message. WELL... we are very keen on trying all the Gault Milleau and similar restaurants in the region but LET ME REASSURE YOU, with this LACK OF RESPECT for potential customers, he will NEVER EVER see our money!

    • Service
14  Thank VivianVivi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 19, 2012

Fortunately, Novigrad is a small town, so you will find the restaurant easily. Finding a parking lot within a short walking distance during high season might be quite a feat, though. The restaurant is small, hidden in a small alley among closely packed old buildings. Tables propely set for a restaurant with high aspirations. Bathrooms faultless and well kept. Expect no great views!

Admittedly I have never seen a wine list during my three visits, but whatever top Istrian wine I come up with as my proposal, they have it. If you are not an expert on local malvasia or the neighboring Slovenian and Italian orange wines, leave it for the host to decide – the choice will be faultless. For the first time now we were served by Damir's daughter rather than himself – well done, »old« man, she's learned the trade perfectly, both preparing the raw fish at the table and presenting the wine properly! No fear for patrons for the following decades.

I have never seen a menu, either… Clearly, they offer what they got during the day. It is difficult to evaluate a kitchen when vast majority of work is done on a table a foot from you. Fish is always perfectly fresh (like in Tokyo Tsukiji market), I always admire the art of cutting it properly and getting just the very best pieces of meat in some ten minutes. It can be shocking for a faint hearted soul to see a living lobster getting its neck broken and made into a fantastic course in 15 minutes with just some lemon sauce, pepper, salt – and plenty of olive oil. Not just any olive oil, you will learn; there is a perfect matching varietal for each dish. Thinly cut raw small squid is another surprise. Of course, you will eventually enjoy some pasta or risotto with seafood and one of the extremely tasty deserts, but the key is the raw fresh seafood. 16 out of 20 for cuisine would be my overall mark.

This is an absolute must for the sashimi lovers, but also for all gourmets enjoying fresh sea food, both raw and cooked. It is unlikely to be matched not only in Istria, so be sure to book well in advance during high season and weekends, Italian well educated foodies come in hoards. Considering all said, one does not expect the bill to be highly encouraging. Indeed it is not...

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Thank ZahtevniGost
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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