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Restaurant “Vela Nera” Pula: The decline?

by Gogo on July 14, 2009

in Restaurants

In the city of Pula works Dušan Černjul, one of the most gifted chefs in Croatia with an enormous experience. He is in the gastronomic scene over 30 years, won many international prizes and personally I admire his ability to juxtapose two or more traditional tastes in a new, creative way. You will easily recognize Dušan since he totally looks like Karl Lagerfeld.

Wine list in Vela Nera
Wine list is expensive – a very commom habit in Croatian restaurants

His main working place is restaurant “Vela Nera”, located in Marina Veruda, a marina just few kilometers from the center of Pula. The place is an up-scale one, the atmosphere is more formal in the winter, but in the summer a large patio with a nice sea-view offers a more relaxed dining experience. The interior is decorated in the style of an elegant yacht and a Black Sail (Italian: Vela Nera) that dominates over the counter is a nice detail, but overall the place is too sterile for my taste.
Ambient 8/10

The bread was not homemade, but of decent quality. The olive oil we found on the table was very disappointing, mostly due to a slight rancid smell and dull taste, probably because the oil was too old or it was made from the olives that were not pressed within 24-48 hours from the harvest. The first impression improved when the red house wine arrived. It was a young (2008) Merlot of very good quality, easy drinking and well balanced, more herbaceous than fruity with smooth tannins, but a bit overpriced (70 kuna per liter) for a house wine. We remained with it since just a glimpse on the wine list confirmed what I expected – the bottles prices are way too high, more than 300% of their release price! (this comes as no surprise, since practically every Croatian restaurant has the same absurd price policy. The result is that rarely Croatians will order a bottle in restaurant considering it a luxury). Like in every Croatian up-scale restaurant, there is a cover charge (15 kuna) for which we got the following amuse-bouche.
Details 7/10

Amuse Bouche - Restaurant Vela Nera, Pula

Here we got a simple Rice salad made with fresh red peppers, ham and steamed corn. I expected a more creative dish from Dušan, like the ones he was serving few years ago – fish paté for example. Tasted OK, but too boring.
Score 7/10

Fuzi with chicken stew and Teran - Restaurant Vela Nera, Pula

Fuži in chicken ragu and Teran wine. Fuži, tube-like, rolled up pieces of pasta, is the most popular Istrian pasta that in the last ten years acquired immense popularity even outside Istria. The most traditional pairing is with chicken stew sauce, so I was delighted too see this combination on the menu. Fuži was handmade and cooked to perfection so that they remain al dente. To achieve this excellent tactile sensation the cook cleverly decided to use slightly thicker pasta sheets. The chicken stew sauce was made with tomato concentrate and Teran wine and was such a delicacy, a real jewel whose taste was a time machine returning me to my childhood when my grandmother was making it in the same way. Such sauce can make only a true connoisseur of the Istrian traditional cuisine. The portion was so copious that it was enough for two hungry persons. Fair price and stunning performance.
Price 55 kuna (7.50 eur) Score 10/10

Fillet steak in green pepper sauce - Restaurant Vela Nera, Pula
Fillet steak in bernaise sauce - Restaurant Vela Nera, Pula

Fillet steaks in green pepper/bernaise sauce returned us to crude reality. The steaks were at least 30% smaller than the last year and the price jumped from 90 to 110 kuna, a fact not very understandable in current Recession Times. The meat tasted OK, but not enough tender and juicy for a fillet steak. The sauce bernaise was a complete disaster – it tasted like mayonnaise with unidentified herbs in it and no sign of estragon which the main ingredient of bernaise sauce. Another disaster that in an up-scale restaurant should never happen is serving the frozen, ready-made french fries. Very bad quality-to-price ratio. (for the same price in Trattoria “Da Manuel” in Trieste -Italy you get a fillet steak twice as large, prepared on real barbecue with wood. Here is the proof)
Price 110 kuna (15 eur) Score 6/10

Apple Strudel in vanilla sauce - Restaurant Vela Nera, Pula

Apple strudel with vanilla sauce was crispy and delicious. The filling was made in a way that you can feel the juicy and aromatic apple chunks under your tongue. The vanilla sauce was excellent.
Price 30 kuna (4.10 eur) Score 9/10

Tiramisu - Restaurant Vela Nera, Pula

Tiramisu tasted good, but it was a bit too sweet and there was not enough coffee in it. I prefer the classical version on the plate.
Price 30 kuna (4.10 eur) Score 7/10

Conclusion? Restaurant “Vela Nera” is in decline. Appart from really excellent fuži, other dishes lacked immagination, elegance and uncompromising quality that only one year ago were attributes of the restaurant and the reason why I kept coming back.

Overall 7.5/10

Restaurant “Vela Nera”
Marina Veruda, HR-52100 Pula
tel. +385(0)52 215 951


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 20:42

Whoa you gave a 10/10! Vela Nera is where we had our wedding dinner, but I can't remember what we ate except for the appetizer: an octopus salad, which, to this day, is the only one I really appreciated.
Once I took fuzi (Klara Maric) to France as typically Croatian presents for family and now people ask for them!
Clem

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Dr. Gogo August 21, 2009 at 10:32

Yes, the fuži really deserved the 10/10 score but as you can read the rest was not so breathtaking. After we left Vela Nera, we had that awful feeling in the stomach of being robbed.
Regarding the fuži, next time you go to France I will give you the address of a lady that makes them at home and are much better then the ones from Klara Marić.

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El Klimpo September 17, 2009 at 08:05

I agree that Vela Nera is declining. Sadly, because I used to like the place. I especially enjoyed reading your opinion about their sauce bearnaise. It really is a disaster!

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bob ama October 17, 2010 at 10:53

It has gone bust! We went there the other day (Oct 2010) and the whole place has shut down.

What a shame. Now the only other quality restaurant in Pjescana Uvala is the Valsabbion.

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Gogo October 22, 2010 at 15:50

I think it is closed because the restaurant will move to Šišan, a small village 10 km east of Pula, where the owner has just built a new country side boutique hotel. From what I have seen from outside, the hotel is beautiful. I hope the quality of the food will be as nice as visual appearance of the place, like in the first years of “Vela Nera” when it was among the top5 restaurants in Croatia.

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Joseph G September 12, 2011 at 10:14

Anyone know what will be in the Vela Nera’s former spot in Pjescana Uvala ? Last time we were there (late April 2011) it looked like some renovation/building work was in progress. New restaurant, or….?
We too had some wonderful meals at the Vela Nera over the years and were very disappointed to see it go.
Lanterna in Pjescana Uvala was a good surprise last time we were in the area though.

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Gogo September 12, 2011 at 11:13

Dear Joseph,
Thank you for your comment.
The owner of Vela Nera, Dušan Černjul, has decided to move the restaurant to Šišan, a small village 10 km east of Pula, where it is a part of his new countryside hotel. I pass there every weekend and I see the hotel and new Vela Nera are now opened. I can’t wait to see what’s cooking in Dušan’s kitchen 🙂
For more recommendation on restaurants, fine dining, good wines and traditional products from Istria and Croatia check out Taste of Croatia web. It’s a project that I started together with other three girls. We also have a Taste of Croatia Android app that can help you to find all these hidden gourmet spots.
Keep in touch,
Goran

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Netty September 18, 2011 at 20:55

Exactly where in Sisan is the new restaurant? I drove there to find it and couldn’t……..Am going back to Pula on Sunday and would love to try it….

Gogo September 18, 2011 at 21:34

Dear Netty,
When you come to Šišan from Pula follow signs from Ližnjan or Medulin. Once you almost exit the village there will be a crossroad with a road sign for Ližnjan pointing on the right. Follow it an after few ten meters or so on your right you’ll see a brand new hotel that tries to follow traditional Istrian architecture. Hope it helps! Tell me how was the food…
Goran

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