IPA Magazine-Luxury Travel Reviews

Shambala Restaurant in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Shambala is a mythical Buddhist land, depicted in ancient texts as a land of joy, peace and enlightenment.  It is inhabited by masters of great wisdom and ability who had reached the highest level of spiritual evolution and are therefore no longer reborn into the material world.  It is a land that lies hidden but some say they have found it on Križevniška street in Ljubljana.  This street is fast becoming known for being one of the most charming streets in the old city.

Located conveniently in the central part of Ljubljana’s throbbing historical district, we passed through the long hall of the restaurant to the outdoor elevated wood deck area, gaily festooned with lights under large umbrellas and surrounded by a lovely garden landscaping of trees, lush bushes and bamboo. We learned the restaurant has been topping the lists of not only the best Asian restaurants, but also some of the most beautiful gardens in Slovenia.  We were seated at small wooden folding table on cushioned wood folding chairs—everything around us resembling an Asian garden.  We were greeted by our server for the evening, Mr. Anže Gumilar who brought us a bottle of still water and menus.

Bjana Brut Rosé from Slovenia’s Brda region (just across the border from Italy, a fine region for Slovenian wines) was poured for my wife and a Brut sparkling wine from the same producer was poured for me.  “Rosé for the lady and Brut for the man,” our server announced. Bjana sparkling wines are produced according to the traditional (champenoise) method from optimally ripe grapes of the old local variety Rebula and the classic Champagne varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir). We began with one of the signature starter dishes from Shambala, their famous Vietnamese salad rolls.   Wrapped in rice paper, there are three varieties that may be ordered separately or as a combination of all three.  We had the 6-piece combination of shrimp and herbs, chicken and herbs, and green papaya with sour mango. This tasty combo was accompanied by three dips, a spicy Vietnamese fish sauce, so with cashew nuts, and pineapple sauce. The menu provides suggestions for wine and beer pairings.  Dishes may be ordered with slight spiciness (one pepper), spicy (two peppers), or “veeeery spicy” (three peppers).

Next came two more items from the “Starters” menu: Grilled Tuna slices with wasabi mayonnaise and Scallops with Asian pesto made with Thai basil and cashew nuts.  Altogether, the starters we enjoyed up to this point could have served well as an entire meal.  But we were only half way to the end of a fabulous dinner! These dishes were accompanied by a 2015 Monte Moro Malvasia wine from Istria in Slovenia.  The story of Istrian wine goes back in the time when Turks were attacking this territory and even back to the time of the Roman Empire. Between World Wars Istria was occupied by the Germans, and the Monte Moro vineyards later became a part of multicultural Yugoslavia. When Slovenia declared its independence, their wines became Slovenian. The origins of these wines, then, are the mix of different countries and cultures, but at the end they originate in the European Union.  This wonderful Malvasija wine was aged 10 months before bottling. It has a golden color with a gentle green shade. Organically grown then using hand-picked grapes placed into baskets, this wine also has notes of flowers and peach.

Our third course, also from the “Starters” portion of the menu was Grilled “Black Tiger” shrimp served slightly spicy.  It had been marinated in fresh herbs and chili and served with mango sauce.  For anyone dining at Shambala, we would consider this a “must” order.  While the sauce was only slightly spicy, our waiter said the mango “dumbs it down.”  Nevertheless, the shrimp was clearly one of the top hits for the evening.  It is possible to order the “Selection of Starters” on the menu, a degustation of five starters (for a minimum of two persons) for €11.5 per person.  We would recommend this as a great option.  The three starters we did not try were: the Japanese vegetable tempura with sweet and sour dip; Snow peas with silken tofu and cashew nuts (served with sweet and sour dressing); and Bali style chicken with lemongrass (served with fresh chili and long beans).

The menu featured three kinds of soup: Japanese Miso soup with wakame (seaweed) and vegetables; Thai spice soup “Tom Yum” with shrimp and mushroom; and Thai coconut soup “Tom Ka” with chicken and mushroom.  We had the coconut soup which was sweet, milky white, but tasty.  After this came the first of two main dishes.  We had Miso marinated black cod fillet, served with pineapple and snow peas.  The cod was very tender and flaky.  It was paired with a 2016 Batič Rosé from the Vipava valley in Slovenia’s western Primorski region.  In the past few decades the Vipava valley has become one of the country’s most successful viticultural areas, along with Goriska Brda.  This rosé was made of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It pairs well with a variety of culinary specialties from risotto to pasta, white and red meat, and is an excellent companion to most seafood dishes, including clams, octopus and tuna carpaccio.

The next main course was the Marinated grilled Black Angus beef fillet.  The beef was prepared with marinated lemongrass and fresh chili.  It was served with snow peas and taro, an Asian type of potato, that looked liked French Fries.  This very tender beef was cooked to perfection and enhanced by the lovely sauce.  It was paired with a 2014 Tilia Rubido, also from the Vipava Valley.  Tilia is a private vintner owned by the family of Melita and Matjaž Lemut, both University trained vintners and enologists. The vineyards are located in Slovenia´s south-western Vipava Valley, about 70 miles from Venice.  Established in 1994, it launched its first vintage in 1996. The name Tilia is Latin name for the linden tree that grows on the estate.  Its total annual production is 3,700 cases.  This hearty, full-bodied Rubido (14.5% alcohol, only 330 cases produced) was a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, a designation for a blend that might be called Meritage in California.  Recommended pairing is for red meat dishes and some spicy meats.

For dessert I had the chocolate soufflé served with mango ice cream and coconut foam.  Served warm, like a chocolate lava cake, this was the ideal dessert for chocolate lovers.  My wife had the Passion fruit ice cream served with almond cream, coconut foam and coconut flour crumble.  Our very sweet and lovely dessert wine was a Kikkoman Plum wine.  Yes, the same maker of soy sauce produces a nice dessert wine under its label as well.  A special plum essence is imported from Japan to give Kikkoman its true plum flavor. This fruity, sweet wine is made with real Japanese plums. It has a ripe cherry aroma and crisp, smooth plum flavor.

Ljubljana is a lovely, modern capital city in the heart of Slovenia.  If you are looking for something different from the typical Balkan fare and Asian fusion dishes are on your preferred list of meals, one could not do better than the Shambala Restaurant in the historic part of town near the Ljubljanica River.  Highly recommended!

Shambala restaurant (Restavracija Shambala)
Križevniška ulica 12, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Tel: +386 31 843 833
Website: www.shambala.si
Reservations: rezervacije@shambala.si
Office: info@shambala.si





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