Hiša Franko, being reborn in Kobarid

After the lockdown, the restaurant of Valter Kramar and Ana Roš, the only two stars in Slovenia, is in excellent shape

27-08-2020
Valter Kramar and Ana Roš, since 2002 at the he

Valter Kramar and Ana Roš, since 2002 at the helm of Hiša Franko in Staro Zelo, a hamlet of Kobarid, in Slovenia, a few minutes’ drive from the border and Cividale del Friuli

With the lockdown over, there’s a thesis that is becoming widespread among colleagues: restaurant food has never been so good. There’s a strong suspicion that these three months of closure, on top of the worries, has also given some extra time to authors to think of details that slipped away before. It seems like the inner goodness of the dishes has increased. And more than before, tasting menus appear for what they should always be: journeys, not series of unconnected delicacies.

The distance between the before and after at restaurant Hiša Franko, seems even stunning. First of all, it’s our fault, as we hadn’t been to Staro Zelo – a short drive from the border between Italy and Slovenia – for three seasons now. An eternity in today’s restaurant scene, let alone in the perception of an inn that each year invests almost all its profits to improve. The reception serving the rooms is now separated by the one for the restaurant. There’s a shop selling wines and good and intelligent products conceived during the lockdown (we wrote about it here). Next to it there are 3 tables where you can have a lovely open-air aperitif. And the dark dépendance where ten years ago you would warm yourself up with a wool blanket, has become a light dehors-area, overlooking the green valleys, in the shadows of Mount Krn.

Most of all, there’s cook Ana Roš and patron Valter Kramar, two people with the same energy they have when kayaking or going downhill on their bikes. She pulls out so many ideas on the micro and macro that you wonder where she finds the time. He’s a living encyclopaedia of natural wines from Slovenia, and for sure he’s also responsible of one of the nosiest growing movements in the European viticulture of the last twenty years. The secret? «If a product is good», Kramar explains, at ease while uncorking all sorts of wines, «it is so regardless of its name». Taste with no preconceptions, the hardest of all tasks.


All around, the calmness of the Soča Valley

All around, the calmness of the Soča Valley

Since the 16th of June, Hiša Franko has two Michelin stars, the only in the country. It’s the first edition of the Red Guide in Slovenia. Worth celebrating with a tattoo (in the photo, the cook’s fingers)

Since the 16th of June, Hiša Franko has two Michelin stars, the only in the country. It’s the first edition of the Red Guide in Slovenia. Worth celebrating with a tattoo (in the photo, the cook’s fingers)

Hiša Franko’s records include the 38th place in the World's 50Best and the title of Best Female Chef given to Ana Roš in 2017

Hiša Franko’s records include the 38th place in the World's 50Best and the title of Best Female Chef given to Ana Roš in 2017

Yvonne Simon and Ilias Ntoykai

Yvonne Simon and Ilias Ntoykai

Together they’ve created an incredible brigade. In the kitchen Ana has already been supported for some time by the dedication and flair of Californian Yvonne Simon, Colombian Leonardo Fonseca Celis, Croatian pastry-chef Maša Salopekand Slovenian bread making master Nataša Djuric, aka @mydailysourdoughbread. But we should also mention the chef de partie and commis (note down the name of Ilias Ntoykai, from Greece). This is a Babel in which everyone speaks the same language, the one of experiments and perfectionism, never replicating plates or formats seen elsewhere. In the dining room, with Valter andMatiaš, a pillar, there’s Slovenian Alen Audic , Mexican Alicia Ahua, and Stefano Cavaterra, a Roman guy with a nice future ahead of him.

The Early Summer menu(175 euros, 255 with the wine pairing) is a vertigo-generating rollercoaster, following the philosophy of the chefs from the last twenty years: local and seasonal ingredients, and global techniques. In the first part of the menu (With the fingers) Buckwheat puff pastry with fermented ricotta and porcini mushrooms, fabulous, as well as the Potato cooked in hay with Tahini-style yoghurt, which had already captured the audience in New York last autumn, stood out. With the fork instead, you’ll pick the memorable Courgette with black garlic, goat’s milk cheese from the Oresnik farm and tuna belly (thanks to all those who spend minutes and the imprecations to make such beautiful and delicious micro-tastings) and the Trout served in three dishes, the cook’s emblematic ingredient, which this time is used nose to tail, like Fergus Henderson’s pork: 1. Filet with beurre blanc, poppy seeds and black cherries 2. Skin with emulsion of belly and liver bottarga 3. Consommé with verbena. A dream.

As for the desserts, herbs only used as medicine are made edible (Sorbet of fallopia iaponicaGoogle it up), a Tolminc cheese turns into mochi and then there’s the refreshing joy of the natural and reduced sugars in the Gelato of sour milk with pine cones and prunes.

Buckwheat puff pastry, fermented ricotta and porcini

Buckwheat puff pastry, fermented ricotta and porcini

Courgette with black garlic, goat’s milk cheese from the Oresnik farm and tuna belly 

Courgette with black garlic, goat’s milk cheese from the Oresnik farm and tuna belly 

Sorbet of fallopia japonica

Sorbet of fallopia japonica

A knock-out quintet

A knock-out quintet

The breakfast mise-en-place

The breakfast mise-en-place

The wine deserves a separate mention, a series of unknown labels and big stars, like you would only find at Mugaritz: we start with KeltisAtelier Kramar (a rebula as drinkable as water), and then we move to the table with Bjana and Malvasia Reia and finish, with a Coravin, with a quintet that sums up the greatness of the district, on both sides of Collio. In order of appearance: Radikon Fuori dal Tempo 2006, Gravner Ribolla 2008, Sutor Merlot 2004, Organic Anarchy Pinot Grigio 2016, Damijan Podversic Prelit 2009. Help.

And don’t think breakfast, the next day, will be any different: there’s poetry even in the way the scrambled eggs are plated.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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