Dubrovnik was a bit hit and miss when it came to food. We found Konoba Jezuite by accident, walking into it and being seated in the mistaken belief that we were at Restaurant Kopun, which is right next to it. We only realised our error after we began looking through the menu, but that was enough to draw us back for dinner there the next night. It is worth pointing out that the staff were absolutely lovely about it, and there were no ugly looks when we scurried out to go next door.
Konoba Jezuite is on a flat, raised area at the top of the Jesuit stairs, near the Jesuit Church of St Ignatius. The large, red-canopied umbrellas easily catch the eye, sheltering the outside seating from the elements. They held steady in the gusting wind that buffeted the area that evening. Standing heaters provided some warmth against the cool, and there were blankets across the backs of chairs for patrons to rug up with if needed. Red tablecloths over the wooden tables matched the umbrellas.
“Konoba” is a word you will encounter a lot in your travels through Croatia. It refers to a family-style restaurant which serves traditional Croatian dishes, and is meant to use local ingredients. We tried to visit these as much as possible on our trip.
The menus were presented in a clipboard-like format, with headers of each section of the menu cascading down in sequence, progressing from snacks to cold and hot starters, then seafood and meat dishes, and on to sides and sweets. Each of these had food items on one side of the page, and a bit of the history of the area on the other side.
As we pondered what to order, a bread basket was brought to the table. It had two types of bread, one light, and one a darker grain. Both had a light, spongy chew. Olive oil to have with the bread was already at the table, and balsamic vinegar was brought out with the bread.
Having had a hearty lunch on our day trip to Mostar, we decided not to be too greedy, and ordered just mains of gnocchi with boar, and black cuttlefish risotto.
We were brought a complimentary starter, a domed scoop of tuna pate topped with a curved, crisp cheese cracker. The tuna pate definitely had lots of tuna in it, but wasn’t too fishy. It was smooth, like a puree, and went well with the savoury cracker.
From the menu, the Home-made gnocchi with boar also had thyme butter and Plavac mali wine. It was a dish that made us think of rustic, country home-style cooking. The gnocchi were fluffy and soft, rather than stodgy, among the best we have had. The chunks of wild boar were tender, and while distinctly meaty in flavour, were not too gamey. The sauce with it was savoury, with a mild sweetness. There were notes of red wine, but not the sourness you get in some red wine sauces. (Plavac mali is the main red wine grape grown on the Dalmatian coast.)There was also a distinct thyme, herby note. The cheese shaved over the top melted with the heat of the other ingredients, and gave it more richness.
Black cuttlefish risotto is a typical Dalmatian dish. We came across it in many other eateries in our travels. The key components are the same in each case: cuttlefish pieces, the ink of the cuttlefish, and risotto. Still, we didn’t find another that matched the one we had at Konoba Jezuite. The risotto mix was dramatically pitch black, a stark contrast against the white dish. The cuttlefish pieces were tender, and there was a generous amount of them, though they were hard to see in the inky mix. The risotto was soft and creamy, and the smooth sauce had earthy, umami notes. It was mildly salty, instead of being overpowering. The uniform blackness of the risotto and cuttlefish meant that you focussed on the texture and the flavours, as the visual cues to tell you what was what were obscured. It was like a dining in the dark experience, but on a miniature scale.
After those well-rendered dishes, we decided that we had to have at least one of their desserts. We ordered what they listed as “Our Tiramisu”. It came presented looking not like a tiramisu at all, but as a deconstructed dessert, with the components sitting separately on a slate platter. There was a cup of cream, dusted with cocoa, a small pitcher of coffee, and a few biscuits stacked up together. There were a few ways one could put it together, but we decided to pour the coffee into the cream (in aliquots rather than all at once), and dip the biscuits into that. The coffee was strong and aromatic, and had no bitterness. The cream was light and airy, and sweetened a little. Instead of savoiardi finger biscuits, they were almond biscuits, so more flavourful and crunchy. We have had mixed experiences with deconstructed dishes, so tend to be a little wary. There is, after all, usually a reason why the components are put together.. Still, Konoba Jezuite managed to capture the right flavours of tiramisu in this dessert. The main difference was the eventual texture, as the biscuits had more bite than the usual soaked, spongy softness of the savoiardi biscuits in a typical tiramisu. Still, it was quite good on the whole.
Konoba Jezuite proved to be a fortunate find, and was where we found some absolutely delicious food. Their Black risotto is certainly a must have if you are there. It remained a benchmark throughout the rest of our trip. In the pricey town of Dubrovnik, we would recommend this as a place to drop some Kuna.
Check here for our tips on travelling Croatia.
Price point: Mains 117 to 198 HRK (about $25 to $42 AUD). Can’t recall the other prices, sorry.
Value: Reasonable for Dubrovnik.
Address: Poljana Ruđera Boškovića 5, 20000, Dubrovnik
Phone: +385 20 301 014
Website: Konoba Jezuite