Monday, July 1, 2013

Damar Restaurant - Ohrid, Macedonia

While staying in old town Ohrid, we ate at a restaurant just up from our hotel and across the street from St. Sophia Church. We knew nothing about it, but saw the sign board indicating some items that sounded good (fried eel and baked lamb) and picked it on that basis. I see now that it is the no. 2 rated restaurant on Trip Advisor (out of 16) in Ohrid. Besides, earlier in the day, I'd stopped there to ask where our hotel was as I was out walking around trying to find it while Judy was in our parked car a block or two away (unfortunately a common occurrence with our non-functioning GPS) and they'd been helpful. 

When we travel we gravitate toward traditional dishes as learning about the culture, including the food, is part of the purpose of our travels. This meal was all of that. Some of it was great, some of it was not too great, but it was mostly different and fun to try. 

As an appetizer, Judy got red peppers stuffed with cheese. The peppers were mild and the cheese was mild and the spices on it were minimal. It was good, but not great. Not a memorable part of the meal. 
Peppers stuffed with cheese
I got a shopska salad. In a previous post on a restaurant meal in Kotor, I talked about shopska salads and mentioned that we probably had a shopska salad in each country we visited. In fact, we loved them so much that Judy made one up at home and I'm sure we will be eating more of them. This one was much better than the one in Kotor, but not in the league with the best one we had which was in a small town in Serbia. It had larger chunks of tomato and cucumber (I like them smaller), at least one olive and sirene cheese grated on top in what seemed a more traditional way. 
shopska salad
I ordered a shrimp, calamari and citrus salad just because it sounded kind of different and I thought that being right next to Lake Ohrid, they'd probably do a good job with the seafood. I was wrong. It was a really weird combination of warm shrimp, calamari and onions and cold leaf lettuce, cucumbers, tomato slices and orange slices and a dressing that was kind of citrusy. The combination did not work for me at all, the warm shrimp and calamari in the lettuce actually sounded kind of good, but this missed in the translation. Judy didn't like it either. Most of it went uneaten which is pretty unusual for me. 
Shrimp, calamari and citrus salad
The best dish of the evening was Judy's fried eel. I believe it was fresh water eel, cut into fairly large chunks. It had a very fishy smell, which was a little off-putting, but the taste was fabulous. It was tender, very juicy, and a little fatty with wonderful mouth feel. It still had the backbone in, which had to be chewed on and extracted from each piece, something I've never encountered with eel before. This went way over above and beyond eating eel as sushi, from a taste, quantity and presentation standpoint. This is a dish I would love to try again. 
Fried eel
In Skopje, I'd asked a taxi driver we'd spent several hours with what his favorite foods were. He wrote me a list and I'd been asking about the foods on it in several restaurants with little success. One I really wanted to try was meat (it could be several kinds) cooked in a clay pot.  When I learned that Damar had "lamb in a clay pot" I knew I'd hit pay dirt. I no longer have the list given me by the cab driver and it was in Cyrillic anyway, but I believe the dish may have been called turli tava (vegetable and meat stew) which comes from the Turkish words turli meaning "mixed" and tava, meaning "a pottery dish." Wikipedia says it is made of potatoes, rice, okra, eggplant, carrots, peppers and pork, beef or lamb. The ingredients are mixed and baked in an oven in a traditional pottery dish. I don't believe this had eggplant or okra, and maybe no rice, but I'm sure there are many different variations. The waiter brought out an impressively large clay pot with a big ladle and ladled a big batch into my bowl. The lamb was falling off the bones and it had big chunks of potatoes and carrots, along with peas and onions and a rich broth. It was good, but not great. The lamb was tender and fatty, but it was not seasoned well and it did not have a real lamby flavor (unlike the wonderful lamb I had later in Kotor). The stew otherwise was great. 
Clay pot that held the lamb stew

Lamb with potatoes, carrots, peas, etc.

The dessert was an unusual dish which was an emphatic hit. It was pieces of crepe, cut up in heavy warmed cream, with fresh fruit (citrus and apple) with drizzled chocolate sauce. We shared it and probably fought to lick the bowl when the waiter wasn't looking. Unlike the citrus and seafood salad, this was a citrus combination that worked. 

One of the hazards of adventurous eating is that you find some things you really love and some things you really don't love. For this restaurant, yes on both counts. All-in-all, it was a great experience. 


  1. I don't know if it was just the day, but I didn't really like the fried eel. It was just too much. However, I could eat that dessert every day of my life. It was amazing.

  2. I like the idea of eating the food of the culture to best experience travel. That's what gelato is all about, right?

    1. I think gelato is a culture all its own.