Joel Hotel Restaurant: Best Gourmet Restaurant Novalja

Posted in   Uncategorized   Updated on September 21, 2023    By Dexter Jones  

The Joel hotel in Novalja is a relatively new addition to Novalja as it only opened in 2018. If you are not familiar with the Joel Hotel, it is located near the Lokunje beach in Novalja,on the Island of Pag, and is owned by the international Croatian footballer, Dejan Lovren

We happen to drive by the hotel most days and there is always an eclectic selection of luxury cars parked in their car park. From that, I gathered that the hotel must provide some pretty outstanding services and accommodations.

The Universe worked its magic and recently, we were invited by the manager to review the restaurant that incorporates a modern and elegant inside area and an outdoor terrace.

To be totally honest, we went into this culinary experience with no expectations and were pretty excited to see what the Joel Hotel restaurant had to offer.

We arrived at around 8pm and were met by our super friendly waiter Uroš who showed us to our reserved table on the outdoor terrace. Within minutes Uroš delivered Prosecco and still and sparkling water to the table. 

We were then told that we were going to be trying out a full six course gourmet menu. How exciting! 

We literally had no idea what dishes were to be served so every course was an absolute mystery to us. What a start to the evening! 

This is our experience of the Joel Hotel Restaurant Novalja.

Hotel Joel Restaurant

First Course: Oysters 

Oysters have long held a coveted position in the Adriatic world, especially in a location such as Novalja where we have a daily fresh catch to pick from. Oysters are a popular starter, not just for their distinct taste but they also create an unmistakable sense of sophistication to any dining table. 

Serving them as the first course in a gourmet restaurant is certainly a way to catch (excuse the pun) the restaurant diner’s attention immediately. And it worked for us at Joel Hotel restaurant! 

Origins and Varieties:

Let’s talk a bit about Oysters as I bet there are many people out there who haven’t tried them…yet! 

The world of oysters is rich and varied.  From the warm depths of the Adriatic to the cold waters of the Pacific, oysters come in numerous varieties, each with its unique flavor. 

The oyster flavor depends on the water they grow in and the minerals present in the sea, oysters can be sweet, salty, buttery, or even metallic. 

The seawater in this region around Novalja is famous for its very high salt content so this particular evening, we had oysters that had that familiar Adriatic salty taste, and as soon as they reached the taste buds a feeling of the fresh open sea rushed through us. 

Presentation:

A big part of the magic of oysters lies in their presentation and as you can see by the photo the presentation was just perfect! 

They were served in their large sea shell, on a bed of crushed ice, with a wedge of lemon, and a piece of rosemary and they looked as exquisite as they tasted. It definitely started our evening off with a vivid oceanic experience.

How Do You Eat Them?

Is this a strange question? Not at all!

I have been out with friends before and when Oysters arrive on the table they look up with that “Ok, that looks amazing, but how on earth do I eat them?” look on their faces!

Well, there is a trick to that! Eating an oyster has its own methodology. 

First, we checked the oyster's freshness, and, of course, ours were as fresh as a daisy. Then, with a tiny fork or simply tilting the shell, we slide the oysters into our mouths. 

We were both hit by that usual Oyster initial burst of brininess, followed by the natural creaminess and finishing with its salty aftertaste.

Oysters are a unique taste experience like no other. That's for sure.

As I mentioned above, with such a crazy family and work life, neither of us are big alcohol drinkers these days but Jelena did dabble with a glass of Prosecco which certainly helped cleanse the palate, making every bite feel like just the first. 

She does like her Prosecco! 

What We Thought:

Starting our Joel Hotel Restaurant Novalja experience with oysters was more than just a  perfect culinary choice; it was a statement and it really did set the tone perfectly for the entire evening. 

They were beautifully presented and tasted wonderful and after this opening course, we knew we were deep into the world of gourmet dining here in this Novalja restaurant.

Hotel Joel Restaurant

Second Course: Duck, Red Wine, Aceto balsamico and Shallots

I was particularly happy to see that duck was on the menu! My Dad introduced me to duck when I was very small, I loved the taste of it from a very early age, and it always reminds me of my childhood.

So lots of memories attached and I am very familiar with Duck dishes.

Of course, the use of duck in such a meal is synonymous with gourmet indulgence. It's a meat known for its rich flavours, tender flesh, and luxurious taste in the mouth.

When cooked just right, especially with ingredients like red wine, acetto balsamico vinegar, and shallot onions, it was always going to make an impression. Which it duly did!

The Duck's Distinction:

Duck stands out for its darker meat and a type of fat that crisps up beautifully when cooked perfectly.

It's this richness that makes it an ideal poultry for accompaniments like red wine and alceto balsamico. A perfect sear on the duck ensures crispy skin, while the inside remains succulent and juicy.

Sauce Sophistication:

The sauce was beautiful. It was made from red wine that acts as a velvety backdrop, inserting real depth into the dish.

The inclusion of aceto balsamico vinegar then introduces a tangy, sweet complexity. It really did add a touch of sweetness and depth.

Shallot's Subtlety:

Shallots are the in-between point between garlic and onions – they offer a gentle sweetness that doesn’t overpower.

They added an element of surprise, a delicate crunch, and a hint of sweetness that contrasted brilliantly with the Aceto balsamico and the richness of the red wine sauce.

Presentation:

In a gourmet setting, presentation is paramount. This was spot on as the image displays. The chef presented slices of perfectly cooked duck, glistening with the red wine reduction, placed elegantly on our plates.

The drizzles of the sauces created artful patterns, and the shallots added not just flavour but also a visual fizz.

Some micro-greens added the final touch and it made the plate a visual joy

What We Thought:

I was won over as soon as the dish was brought to the table, and I think I can safely say Jelena was too. Duck with red wine, shallot onions, and aceto balsamico vinegar, isn't just a dish; it's an experience. 

As a second course, it made us both suspect that the subsequent courses would all be carefully curated with equal thought, passion, and attention to detail. Again, this dish set the stage for a gourmet journey here in Novalja. 

Hotel Joel Restaurant

Third Course: Risotto with Truffles and Prawns

In the world of 6 course gourmet dining, every course is like a musical composition, and by the third act, expectations are soaring. Risotto, an Italian classic, and hugely popular here in Croatia due to its local proximity to Italy, truffles, and the delicacy of prawns, offers a harmonious blend of land and sea, promising another mouth-watering experience.

The Essence of Risotto:

At the heart of this dish is the risotto itself. Crafted from rice, the risotto's beauty lies in its creamy consistency. Rice is one of our favourite foods so we were excited about this immediately. While maintaining its structure, the rice had a velvety texture, which had obviously been put through a meticulous process of slow cooking and continuous stirring.

Truffles: Earth’s Black Gold:

Truffles: Their rarity and unique flavor certainly make them a favorite in gourmet circles.

I’ll be strictly honest here, Jelena is not a fan of Truffles whereas I am a big fan! I use them at home and Jelena often has friendly moans at me about the smell of them whilst I cook them. So the outcome here was definitely an unknown.

Surprisingly, she took to them quite well! I loved them obviously. 

They were cut thinly and that created a distinct, almost musky aroma and that deep, earthy flavour. 

These thin shavings of this underground fungus elevated the risotto's profile, and did not overpower the dish, which I guess was the thing that Jelena was anxious about!

So, well done to the chef, it was a thumbs up from both of us when it came to the truffles department.

Prawns: The Adriatics’s Delicate Offering:

Prawns are the perfect addition to a risotto. Being local to the region we have eaten all types of risotto dozens of times so we are pretty well-versed here.

Prawns introduce a gentle contrast to the risotto's creaminess and the truffle's earthiness. 

When cooked just right, which they were, they have a tender, almost buttery texture. Their salinity and sweetness work well with all the other ingredients, creating a multi-layered flavor combination. 

Presentation:

It goes without saying that when it comes to a gourmet setting, the eyes eat before the mouth does. 

The risotto, with its glossy texture, served as the blank canvas. The prawns, placed strategically, add all the colour, while the sprinkled, thinly cut truffle shavings, give the dish a rustic elegance. 

What We Thought: 

The Risotto with Truffles and Prawns was a wonderful mixture of flavors and textures and it was obviously crafted with care and passion.

As the third act in our Joel Hotel restaurant experience it set the stage for the crescendos to follow. The earthiness of the land met the magic of the Adriatic Sea throughout our third course. 

Hotel Joel Restaurant

Fourth Course: Fillet Beef Steak and Polenta and Parmesan

Now this was the course I was secretly waiting for, the meat dish. The fourth course always plays a pivotal role in a multi-course dining experience.

It's that important bridge between the initial opening burst of flavors and the gentle descent into dessert.

The Fillet beef steak was beautifully tender and it was paired with the traditional charm of polenta enriched with Parmesan. 

It provided us both a sumptuous and heartwarming fourth course. And, Fillet, is my favourite cut so I was double-happy.

The Elegance of the Fillet:

The fillet beef steak is the champion of cuts, known for its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Every bite was juicy and tender and we could not fault it. Seasoned simply, the steak allowed its natural flavors to shine through, making it one of the stars of the evening.

Polenta's Humble Excellence

This one was a new one on me - not Jelena of course with her cheffing background. Of course, I have had polenta many times before, and our two kids adore polenta so it is a regular in our house. 

But in this case, it wasn’t just any polenta – it was enriched with the sharp goodness of Parmesan cheese. 

Cheese is a big thing here on Pag and this cheese certainly injected a velvety texture and a depth of flavor, which transformed the humble polenta we are used to eating into a dish that's both comforting and elegant. It really did add a welcome and unexpected twist.

Harmony on a Plate:

Combining the beef fillet and the Parmesan-infused polenta created a balance of textures and flavors. The richness and tenderness of the steak harmoniously mixed with the creaminess of the polenta.

Each mouthful is a dance of earthy cornmeal, savoury beef, and the unmistakable tangy flavour of aged Parmesan.

Presentation:

In two words, so good! The steak showcased its perfect cook. Nestled alongside was a circular portion of polenta, golden and entwined with the melted Parmesan. 

A sprinkling of fresh herbs finished elevates the dish, making it a visual delight.

What We Thought:

The "Fillet Beef Steak and Polenta with Parmesan" course was excellent, possibly my favourite but I am a big steak lover so bias is creeping in here. It was a mixture of regional heritage, craftsmanship, and thought.

It's where rustic meets refined, ensuring that as the fourth act of our Joel Hotel meal, it remains in our memories long after the last bite. Top marks.

Hotel Joel Restaurant

Fifth Course: Poached Sole Fish with Mashed Potato

We are in Novalja, on Pag Island, which is an island thriving with fishing activity. Of course, we were expecting another fish dish. I love Sole, again it is one of my favourites. 

Poached sole fish, has a flaky texture and subtle flavours, and was accompanied by the most amazing velvety mashed potato. Honesty, the potato was next level! 

Sole's Oceanic Serenade:

The Sole we had was delicate and had a lean white flesh. It was carefully poached preserving the fish's flavours and it kept the tender texture.

Soaked in a light broth infused with aromatic herbs, the sole bathes in this, resulting in a bite that's subtle, flaky, and moist.

Mashed Potato's Earthy Embrace:

At the heart of this dish was the superb mashed potato. Boiled to perfection, and then mashed with butter, cream, and seasoning which achieved a texture that was smooth, creamy, and cloud-like.

It was some of the best mashed potatoes we both have ever had! But don’t tell Jelena’s Mum that - she also makes a famously stunning mashed potato. 

Unison on a Plate:

The combination of the sole and mashed potato creates a perfect symphony of flavors and textures. The brilliant potato acts as a soft cushion, complementing the delicate layers of the fish.

Again it was finished with fresh herbs, tying the elements all together delivering a dish full of zest and freshness.

A Visual Treat:

Two circular pieces of poached sole, simply sat nestled next to the fluffy mashed potato, creating a picturesque scene. Garnished with microgreens the plate reflected both culinary skill and artistry.

What We Thought:

"Poached Sole Fish with Mashed Potato" is where the flavors of the ocean and the land combine.

As a fifth course, it was great and totally prepared us for the grand finale, the desert! And after all these thrilling courses we were most definitely ready! 

Hotel Joel Restaurant

Sixth Course: Chocolate Soufflé and Lime Crostata

Any gourmet meal demands an impactful finale, a crescendo that leaves the diner both satisfied and longing for more.

I think it's one of the most important courses as it is the final course and one that a diner is most likely to remember the most, especially if it off the scale fabulous! 

We were not disappointed. The pairing of a a rich Chocolate Soufflé with Lime Crostata and blueberries did just that. It offered a slice indulgence and finished off our experience perfectly.

The Art of the Soufflé:

The chocolate Soufflée was made with the finest chocolate, it had a hint of sugar, and delivered a mix of of airy lightness and deep cocoa.

Its molten centre is always a surprise, the core contrasting beautifully with its spongey exterior.

Lime Crostata’s Tangy Elegance:

Hailing from Italian traditions, the Crostata is a rustic tart, incorporated with a tad of lime.

No complaints at all here as the buttery, crumbly crust envelops a zesty lime curd that was both sweet and tart. The crostata made an ideal palate cleanser after the chocolate soufflé.

A Duel Combination:

Together, the warm, chocolatey depth of the soufflé and the crostata create a perfect combination. Each bite took us on a journey from the textures of indulgent chocolate, to the crispness of tart zesty pastry. 

Presentation:

Desserts are well renowned for exciting and inventive presentation. Ours was no exception!

The dome of the soufflé, was sprinkled with half a dozen blueberries, dusted with powdered sugar, and the crostata sat majestically next to the soufflé, adorned with a blueberry making it as much a feast for the eyes as for the taste buds.

What We Thought:

We all love a stunning desert. The "Chocolate Soufflé and Lime Crostata" course really did encapsulate our evening in every way. It played the final note and paid tribute to the excellent culinary journey that preceded it. Bravo! 

Now time for a coffee! 

The Waiter Service

We have to say something about the immaculate service. The quality of waiter service is something that's often neglected but coming from a lifelong restaurant background Jelena is very well versed in this world.

Our waiter, Uroš, was perfect. 

He described each meal wonderfully well and delivered the food and drinks in a professional and, obviously, well trained, manner.

Top marks to Uroš. 

Joel Hotel Restaurant Novalja: The Verdict

Now it’s time to conclude our night at the Joel Hotel restaurant in Novalja. It is very evident that every course was crafted with care, passion, and a deep understanding of gastronomy.

From the delicate oysters that started our Joel Hotel Restaurant journey, all the way through  to the harmonious indulgence of the Chocolate Soufflé paired with Lime Crostata, each course played it’s own unique part and we will not forget this dining experience for a very long time.

For anyone seeking a high class dining experience that's nothing short of exquisite, this restaurant stands as a hidden gem in the world of gourmet cuisine in Novalja. 

The mixture of flavours, textures, and presentation during our meal is a testament to the  skills of the chefs. 

We wholeheartedly recommend you treat yourself to this gastronomic gem at Joel Hotel in Novalja.

About the author

Dexter arrived in Novalja in 2011 after living in Ibiza for many years. He's a digital media and electronic music strategist who promotes prominent events all over Europe. He met a local girl, Jelena, and they now have two beautiful boys. With a long-standing involvement in Croatian tourism Dexter has now turned that passion into a Novalja focussed blog.


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