Hey, Croatian taxi driver! Take us to the restaurant with the best štrukli in Zagreb

The result was…unexpected. 

Croatia is often overlooked by the international world, but it’s had a boost in attention after making it to the FiFA World Cup semi-finals. As it just so happens, our Japanese-language reporter and world traveler Ikuna Kamezawa recently visited the Balkan country for the first time last summer and found it to be a very peaceful and relaxing place, where she also discovered the wonders of using pasta noodles in a ramen dish.

Ikuna had another interesting food-based experience in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city. This time, she hopped in a taxi and asked the driver to take her to the best štrukli (a traditional Croatian dish) in the area, but the result wasn’t quite what she expected.

Zagreb doesn’t really have that many taxis just cruising around, as its downtown isn’t as densely populated as some other European cities. While it’s possible to call an Uber or other rideshare company, Ikuna didn’t want to use an Uber, since it didn’t quite fit with our theme of asking taxi drivers for recommendations. So she asked a passerby to direct her to a taxi stand.

When she found it, she didn’t waste any time climbing in the first taxi and asking the driver to take her to the best štrukli in the area. But to her embarrassment, he simply turned around and said, “Just walk!”

Ikuna had never been rejected by a taxi driver before, so this interaction, in a foreign country she wasn’t familiar with, scared her a bit. She was about to bolt from the taxi when the driver began pointing to his phone. “Cars can’t drive on these streets, so you have to walk,” he explained.

Her pounding heart slowed in her chest as she realized the taxi driver wasn’t mean; he was actually just trying to be helpful! He even gave her directions to the restaurant. His kindness, after the initial stab of fear she experienced, really touched her.

“Croatians are really nice,” she thought as she followed his instructions and soon approached a tourist area, where she spotted a rare Zagreb crowd.

Her route took her down a small alley filled with restaurants…

Until finally…

The driver’s recommendation, La Struk, appeared.

The inside looked small, with only about 10 seats by the entrance, but Ikuna soon learned the building was built like a row house and there were more seats in the back. Still, it was just after noon, and all of the seats were full. If you want to eat there, it would probably be better to avoid peak times to miss the crowds.

Ikuna had a hard time understanding the items on the menu, so she decided to go for the most expensive štrukli and whatever beer the waitstaff recommended. Apparently, štrukli can take 20 minutes or more to cook, so Ikuna settled in to wait.

After 30 minutes of leisurely drinking…

The štrukli arrived!

It was the “Truffle Štrukli”, which cost 45 kuna, or 863 yen (US$6.33).

This was, by the way, Ikuna’s first time ever eating štrukli, so she only had a basic understanding of it as a dish made with dough and various kinds of filling. What she received looked something like lasagna. She didn’t know at the time that štrukli is often considered a type of lasagna.

The smell of truffles was almost aggressive as it wafted up from the sizzling hot cast iron dish; it was absolutely mouth-watering. What Ikuna truly wanted was to dig in with a spoon and scoop up a generous helping, but they’d only supplied her with a fork and a knife, so she had to do it the local way. She picked up some of the pasta and truffle cheese mixture and took a bite.

“It almost feels like eating tofu!!” she thought, shocked.

While the flavors were very similar to the gratin that’s popular at Saizeriya, one of Japan’s most popular family restaurants, the texture was like eating very firm and low-water content tofu, or even udon noodles.

The basic format of štrukli is dough made from flour layered with cottage cheese, and other ingredients. It’s a very simple dish, but as Ikuna ate hers, it started to get just the faintest bit spicy.

This particular štrukli also had a very rich truffle flavoring, and Ikuna thought it was absolutely delicious. The portion was huge, so if you decide to go, you might want to share one plate with several people, or be prepared to have some leftovers when you’re full.

So even if she didn’t have to take a taxi ride to get there, Ikuna was glad she’d asked the Croatian taxi driver for his recommendation, since no matter what country she’s in, she likes to eat where the locals eat.

Images © SoraNews24
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