Wanting to leave nothing to chance in search of an authentic Slovenian wine and food experience, my pre-trip research returned time and time again to this single address. Better yet, to judge by their web site, the restaurant known as AS (I’ve no idea what it stands for, if anything) is no stranger to non-Slovenian-speaking tourists. Joining Mario in the lobby, we’re led to table by a serene waiter who speaks a precise, almost Oxfordian English. We’re surrounded by deeply-tinted woodwork and very homey Old Word décor. Not a surface in the room is not an earth tone. It’s a monochromatic color palette for what turns out to be, for all its quality, a meal with a certain monochromaticism of its own.
We put ourselves in the restaurant’s hands, for food and drink. They’re happy to accommodate, though in retrospect I wish I’d specified Slovenian-inspired food. Or maybe that’s what they hear despite my omission, and I’m unable to recognize the results. In any case, the menu we’re served is difficult to differentiate from what one might call pan-Mediterranean, so I have no idea if most of what we’re served is local in source or conception. A mix of raw seafood gets us started: sea bass carpaccio (kinda boring) is nicely offset by a brilliant pile of shrimp with olives and vivid olive oil, as we finish off the dregs of a preliminary sparkler and move into our first full bottle of still wine.
Next is a dish that I can’t help but see as Italianate: a flawless dish of spaghetti and clams in tomato sauce. It’s very good, but it doesn’t exactly transport us to Slovenia. Alongside there’s a terrific basket of bread with very fine butter and a delicious puréed tapenade. And then, a very expensive slab (it’s not small) of sea bream, cooked a little more than I’d like but very flavorful in its concentrated chardonnay sauce, served with bland potatoes. At €33 per person just for this dish, I expect perfection, and this is not it.
We do come to our senses late in the meal and request a cheese plate restricted to the output of Slovenian udders. We receive two: a decent sheep’s milk and an intense goat’s milk, both of which benefit from a generous dollop of the accompanying black truffle honey. By now, we’ve moved on to bottle number two.
Coffee is good, and an intense blueberry liqueur (received when I ask for a local digestif) is a fine end to the meal. The verdict? It’s all a little pricey, and while a lot of it is good cooking, it’s difficult to see what we’ve been served as a cuisine. At these prices, I’d expect more of one. But maybe on another visit, things would be different. All in all, it’s a fun experience…and after all, we don’t get to have lunch in Ljubljana every day. (10/07)
Copyright © Thor Iverson