Excellent seafood and meat from a local ranch…plus a controversial entree
Spajza is located up a small side street off of the canal in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city. It has an indoor dining room that mixes in touches of modern with old world Europe, but the outdoor garden seating is what gives it a really special vibe.
The garden area is enclosed with shrubbery and other greenery and flowers and fountains are placed throughout the space. If Europe’s going through an epic heat wave, it can get hot as there’s not much of a breeze going through there, but any other warm night and it’s a lovely, romantic place to enjoy a meal. Despite the fact that it can seat 60 on the patio (and 75 indoors) the layout still manages to have the feel of a smaller, more intimate restaurant.
Spajza is Family Owned
Spajza has been owned for the past decade by a brother and sister duo and much of the meat on the menu is sourced directly from their father, who is a rancher in Slovenia. As a result, Spajza has a large selection of meat regional delicacies, some of which may be surprising to outsiders.
I was dining at Spajza with my mom and we started out our meal with a cold appetizer of buffalo mozzarella, bresaola (dried beef), figs, and honey. I love buffalo mozzarella and these ingredients combined with it were the perfect balance of savory and sweet.
I ordered the monkfish for my entrée and was so glad I went the fish route instead of the rancher meat route, which was a bit of a hard decision. The monkfish was buttery, truffly, garlicky goodness. It was cooked to perfection – very tender and moist – and felt almost like I was eating decadent lobster.
Mom got the venison in a berry sauce (the venison came from the owner’s father’s ranch). I tried a bite, of course, and it had a very unique flavor with seeds from the berries popping in my mouth along with the tender meat. The berries also gave it a bit of a tangy edge with a full bouquet flavor that quickly vanished after a moment of chewing. It was unlike any meat dish I’d had before and I quite enjoyed it, as did Mom.
Horse Meat on the Menu
One caveat that was hard for me is that there is horse meat on the menu – this was the surprising regional delicacy I referred to earlier. I know this has traditionally been a local delicacy in Ljubljana so tried to remember “when in Rome” and remind myself that I eat cows so can’t get too righteous, but…I love horses, so that was difficult for me to see and comprehend. I didn’t try any horse meat and I asked the owner, Petra, about it when I had a chance to talk to her. She said to locals there’s nothing weird or bad about it, and that when it comes to tourists, there’s many who are uncomfortable with it, but just as many who visit the restaurant specifically to try it as Spajza is known for the quality of its horse meat. This didn’t surprise me, but I still stuck to not trying horse meat, regional delicacy or not.
Mom, who grew up on a farm, apparently had more of a stomach for the idea and tried a little tiny bite (it was the amuse bouche our server originally brought us), but mind over stomach ultimately won and she couldn’t bring herself to enjoy it or eat anymore. She mentioned it was saltier than she expected though that may have been what it was mixed with.
If you visit Spajza and are concerned about trying any of the meat items (though they make it very clear which ones have horse meat in them as there is English descriptions next to the Slovenian menu items – you probably don’t need to worry about it hiding in menu items or being confused by the language) stick to the seafood entrees, which are excellent. That monkfish was one of the best seafood entrees I’ve ever had.
Would you (or did you) try horse meat while visiting Ljubljana?
Note: I was a guest of Spajza and received a complimentary meal, however all opinions and reviews are — as always — completely my own.