Since I first started writing about food and restaurants nearly ten years ago I have steadfastly refused to write restaurant reviews. In a world where anyone with an internet connection and a Yelp account can write a review based on a single experience, I greatly respect the true reviewers who dine anonymously over multiple days and weeks before writing a professional review.
I’m going to break my rule for the first time to write about one of my favorite restaurants in Zagreb - Beštija. Pronouced “bay-shtee-yah”, this addition to Zagreb’s exploding dining scene has been a standout star.
Beštija, Masarykova 11/1, Zagreb, Croatia
Beštija (“beast” in English) is neither high-brow nor low-brow; Its not a tourist destination and its not a hidden gem. It may sound like a weird description, but this is a restaurant that exists exactly as it is.
There are no pretensions. There are no white tablecloths. There are also no typically “Croatian” dishes. All they serve is well-sourced, impeccably-cooked food in a modern, comfortable setting.
They honor local Croatian ingredients, acknowledge historical Croatian cuisine, and then turn out dishes that are at once traditional and modern, and leave you marveling at the delicious simplicity of it all.
The menu is as small as the restaurant itself - don’t expect the sort of Cheesecake Factory style menu you might find at some of the bigger Zagreb joints. The wine list follows suit - well curated and trimmed down. Whatever you do, don’t mistake a lack of choices for a lack of quality.
Harper and I have eaten at Beštija a half dozen times and never once have we had a bad experience. The lunch special is always a good choice, and you absolutely MUST order their sourdough bread. Gluten allergy be damned. Other than that its hard to recommend a specific dish because the menu changes frequently based on whats available and in season, and trust me, this is part of what makes Beštija fun. You can go multiple times and never have the same thing twice. (Except, again, the bread. Which is mandatory.)
But what if you’re a bit menu shy?
My advice? Rely on the staff - they are saints. Ask questions. Ask for recommendations. Prepare to share. This is a menu that begs to explored, so order one of everything and get ready to pass plates.
You will leave Beštija feeling like you’ve just discovered your own personal dining room in Zagreb, and as soon as you’re done eating you’ll want to do it all over again.