Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Zee Restaurant, Woodstock, VA

We had a free day on Sunday, one of those rare Sundays that we reserve for ourselves, and we took advantage of that to make the 45-minute drive to Woodstock, county seat of Shenandoah County, our neighbor to the south. A customer had told me of a couple that had just started a small restaurant there in the summer and that the chef is Croatian and that there were some interesting dishes on the menu.

In the week before our lunch at Zee, I started up a conversation with chef/owner Zlatko "Zee" Saravanja via Facebook, so he and his wife Lorianne were expecting us. I had hoped to explore a little bit more about Croatian food and how it differs from that of its neighbors.

Chilean Cab
We were seated and then proceeded to find a bottle of wine for lunch; I noticed that of the four other tables in the restaurant, we were the only ones having wine with our lunch. I guess that is to be expected. And hence the very limited wine list. Of the five or six reds, there was a sweet wine, an Agiorgitiko, an Argentine Malbec, a Spanish Monastrell, and a Chilean Cab. I wasn't going to tackle the Agiorgitiko; my experience with the St. George grape is that very few wineries make a decent one. I like Monastrell/Mourvèdre for a Sunday afternoon sipping wine, but that one was sold out. So we ended up with the Chilean Cab, which far exceeded my expectations.

Flatbread and Dips
We started with a trio of dips: hummus, tzatziki, and a roasted red pepper spread ("capsicum dip"), the last something similar to the Greek htipiti, I suppose. The bread is a focaccia-like flatbread sprinkled with sesame and caraway.

Lamb "Steak"
We had asked Zee to cook us whatever he wanted and although we were looking for something Croatian, he cooked us lamb steaks, nicely sized steaks from a leg of lamb. I guess this is his Aussie side showing through: although he was born in Croatia, Zee moved to Australia when very young and grew up there, just having moved to the US. The steaks were delicious and very well cooked, crusty on the outside and perfectly done on the inside. I really don't eat steak, especially at lunch, but I did enjoy mine very much. Ann and I never order the same thing so that we can share, so it was a bit of a bummer to both get steaks. The iceberg salad did nothing for me.

So we went away with mixed feelings. The wine and the steak were both very good. But we never did satisfy our itch for Croatian food. Next time, we order off the menu. And bless this really nice couple for trying to do something different in Woodstock, VA!

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