I can say -without boasting- that after living in Albania for almost four years, I am quite familiar with Albania and the South Balkans. As a tour guide, I had the chance to wander around these areas and attend countless restaurants, taverns and vineyards from Pristina to Butrint and from Durrës to Ohrid. I can easily say that wherever I went, I didn’t experience something like the incredible “Mrizi i Zanave”.
Mrizi i Zanave (Albanian: “the shadow of the fairies”) is located in Fishtë, a small village north-west of Tirana, which doesn’t really speak to many people, except from literature lovers who know Gjergj Fishta. It goes without saying that the north of the country hasn’t been very popular with tourists, until recently. And yet, the restaurant ”Mrizi i Zanave” has gained clients from all around the world. Founded by brothers Altin and Anton Prenga, the restaurant is based on a simple and yet very innovative concept for Albania: The Slow Food Movement. For those that haven’t heard of this concept before, “slow food” means using products grown in harmony with the environment (aka: environmentally-friendly), using no pesticides and cooking with products growing within a reach of 20 km. In this respect, Mrizi has taken a transparent approach and all twenty supplier’ names have been detailed at the entrance door. Although, given the fact that the establishment is set in the countryside, Mrizi i Zanave grows a major part of the veggies/ fruits used in the restaurant. So, here we grow, we raise, we harvest, and we cook!
So, what are we having here?
Well, I cannot provide you with a menu because the meals change as per according to the seasons and moreover, there is no menu here at all! Here, everyone haves the same thing, which helps in avoiding food waste and allows the restaurant to provide its customers with “farm-to-table”, extremely fresh food. It also adds a sense of surprise and wonder to the whole food experience. Basically, you sit down, the adorable waiter asks if you have any known allergies whatsoever and whether you would like white or red wine – as produced from local grape, certainly – and from there a number of tasting discoveries and wonderful flavours follows! The dishes are beautifully presented but retaining that refreshing, local, Albanian tradition.
Don’t ask me what was my favourite dish as it’s really impossible for me to pick one, only! Yet, there is something that really caught my attention and totally amazed me -to tell you the least-, the desserts.
Whereas, the mains contained fresh fruits and vegetables which were presented in a simple way, so as to retain that local vibe to my understanding, the desserts looked like they had just came straight out of the kitchen of a Michelin-starred chef. Who would have thought that in this small village named Fishtë, they served rose ice-creams and sorbets with liquid nitrogen, crème brûlées with figs and melting ice cream sprinkled with roasted coffee beans!
Translated into English & edited from “Mrizi i Zanave, une experience feerique”