This could be one of those posts peppered with overused travel expressions like ‘off the beaten path’, ‘the local experience’, ‘authentic’, and my least favorite, ‘wanderlust’ (see Are You a Naive Traveler?). This experience won’t make me use softer words in future posts, but it is the type of experience that reminds me why I travel and why winging it is still the way to do it (see How to Book Trinidad’s Carnival Last Second for Free*).
When I arrived in Tirana, I had a list of restaurant recommendations from my Albanian friend (see Tirana, The Best City for Food). At the top of the list was Mullixhiu. I hopped in a taxi and told the driver to take me there. He said that the restaurant is usually busy, and I should call to make a reservation. The nice driver called and, as he expected, they were full. As it was my last night in Tirana, I told him to go anyway and I would figure it out.
As I was coming in, I saw people being turned away for not having a reservation. This made me want to go in even more. I confidently approached the hostess and said I had a reservation for one. Inexplicably she could not find my name. Instead of turning me away, she gave me a glass of wine and told me to wait.
While waiting, I took a few photos.
Mullixhiu makes its own pasta and that process is on full display. I failed to take a photo of that traditional process.
Just as I was about to give up hope, I was finally seated.
This evening, there was a set menu for dinner. It was now clear why reservations are necessary and why people were in no hurry to go.
A bottle of vino is not included in the set menu, but since I was anticipating great food, I ordered one.
Much like my inability to describe fine wine (see We’re Off to Wine Country Worldwide), I cannot articulate how delicious food is (see Where to Eat: Cusco Edition). That’s a shame because calling the salad, a salad “a salad” is like calling Michaelangelos’ Pietà a carved piece of marble. (I also can’t speak profusely about art.) Hopefully, the pictures tell the story.
Saffron and Grapes
I vividly recall the greatest combination in this pasta dish: saffron and grapes. It is something that I continue to crave.
The Main Dish
Look and enjoy. This is why a full bottle of wine was necessary.
After Dinner Drink & Dessert
I don’t know what the drink was exactly, but it was a nice way to round out the meal.
Why This Experience Was Special
Yes the ambiance was nice and yes the food was great. But, that’s not what made this experience memorable. After I had the aperitif, I learned that the young gentlemen was not a waiter. He was the owner, Bledar. He invited me to share a bottle of wine while he closed the restaurant. We discussed politics, food, and travel. I learned about Albania, its history, and Bledar’s journey to open a restaurant that serves traditional Albanian cuisine. It was an “authentic” Bourdain experience that I will not forget.
Mullixhiu was voted one of the ten best restaurants in Europe (see the article featuring a bio of the chef in the German publication Der Spiegel). Make sure you have a reservation before you go. You may not be as lucky as I was.