Dining at Mrizi i Zanave

On the final day of our Northern Albania trip, Kelsy and I had lunch at Mrizi i Zanave, a farm-to-table gourmet dining experience located in a village outside of Lezhe! The restaurant served 15 amazing dishes – totally worth the $20 price!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018, 10:11pm

What a day it’s been! I’m absolutely exhausted, and I need a break from traveling. Maybe forever.

A trip to Mrizi i Zanave felt like the perfect way to end our trip in a delicious and memorable way.

Eating a meal at Mrizi i Zanave has been a bucket list item of mine ever since I heard that it was the best restaurant in Albania. The timing hadn’t seemed right when I visited Minju in the spring, but with Kelsy here, I felt like it was the perfect way to end our trip in a delicious and memorable way.

Mrizi i Zanave is famous for its farm-to-table cuisine and gourmet reimagining of traditional Albanian dishes. Part of the Slow Food movement, it’s dedicated to preserving local methods of cooking and ancient Albanian flavors. I was beyond excited to give the restaurant a try after hearing rave review after rave review from the volunteers in the north, and after the long ride from Montenegro, I was exhilarated to be in anything other than a hot, smelly bus.

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Exploring the farm at Mrizi i Zanave

As we wound our way through village roads, we passed lush green farmland surrounded by blue mountains. It was a beautiful, bucolic scene that made me a little homesick for Iowa. We pulled up to the restaurant under a vine-covered awning and made our way up the stairs to the restaurant. After a quick confirmation of my email reservation, we were seated on the terrace overlooking the farmland at a large, wooden table that easily could have accommodated six.

Over the three courses, we received at least fifteen plates of food!

We took our seats eagerly, and a waitress who spoke fluent English came over to introduce us to the restaurant’s unique menu. Rather than ordering individual dishes, we chose an entree (our choices were lamb, goat, pork, chicken, and duck) and were served a set meal of appetizers, side dishes and dessert. Over the three courses, we received at least fifteen plates of food – granted, many of the portions were small, but I was incredibly full after the meal.

First, we were given a glass of rose juice and an appetizer platter with cheese and quail egg served on carved corn. Kelsy decided to pace herself and take bites out of each item before committing to eating it fully. I had no such reservations, savoring each new dish with relish and eating every bite of the things I loved.

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Kelsy about to dig into the starters

Next, we were served a flood of starter dishes. All at once, one, two, then three, four and five plates of cheeses, picked vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, and marinated tomatoes appeared before us, and our eyes grew wider with each new dish. We couldn’t believe the gorgeous plating and the sheer amount of food.

Kelsy commented, “I feel like a real adult.”

We couldn’t believe the gorgeous plating and the sheer amount of food.

It was a special experience to have my first gourmet meal in Albania, and I truly could get used to the indulgence and artistry that’s part of each dish.

With our appetizers picked over thoroughly, we were served our main dishes: a serving of roasted duck, a jar of lamb kabobs, and a plate of roasted potatoes. Every bite was delicious, and I especially loved the duck.

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The amazing duck

Finally, to end the meal, we were served multiple rounds of dessert. The wait staff brought out a beautiful plate of cheesecake, jam, and fresh fruit. Then moments later, they delivered a fruit popsicle frozen on a branch, coffee ice cream with espresso beans as a garnish, and a rose ice cream encased in a large, pink ball of sugar that Kelsy cracked open with gusto. She loved the coffee ice cream while I preferred the cake, but truly everything was delicious.

To end the meal, we were served multiple rounds of dessert.

While I’d been feeling fine and eating more than my share of the appetizers and main courses, the dessert pushed me over the edge to uncomfortably full, and I couldn’t possibly take another bite of anything for the rest of the day after the meal. With our plates cleared away, we just stared out into the distance, letting our food digest and rethinking all our life choices.

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The delicious coffee ice cream

It was uncomfortable to even move for the first ten minutes or so after the meal, but eventually we got up to pay our bill (only $20 dollars a person for such an incredible experience!) and wander the farm. We took pictures of the sprawling fields, the animals in their pens, and the giant corncrib before the taxi driver arrived and whisked is back to Lezhe.

Overall, dining at Mrizi was an experience I’ll never forget! It was so much fun to try something new with Kelsy and introduce her to Albanian cuisine. I loved everything about the restaurant – its sustainable model, friendly wait staff, amazing food, and pastoral ambiance. I would go back in a heartbeat, no questions asked!


BONUS: Because I promised my mom pictures, enjoy the rest of the meal in photos below! (I took snapshots of everything except the bread basket.)

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Happily posing with my wine before we started the meal in earnest
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An interesting assortment of cheeses and a quail egg on traditional Albanian biscuits
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Various pickled vegetables
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A selection of byrek with white cheese
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Incredible mushrooms
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Vegetables in a corn husk, tomatoes, and cheese-filled petulla
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A meat and cheese platter
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Potatoes cooked three ways
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Lamb kabobs
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Cheesecake, fresh fruit, and a cranberry sauce
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Frozen fruit popsicle
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Rose ice cream in a sugar shell
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One final view of the farm

4 thoughts on “Dining at Mrizi i Zanave

  1. Could they serve the meal in reverse? I’d start with the rose ice cream ball, coffee ice cream and cheese cake. The mushrooms also look good.

    1. Haha! I don’t know about starting the meal in reverse, but it would have helped to have an emptier stomach to properly enjoy the desserts!

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