Bar Restaurant Plazhi I Ri Caci, Sarande 09-2019

After driving back to Sarande and returning the car, we had enough time for one final Albania meal before taking the ferry back to Corfu. While walking toward the port, an older man sitting outside his shop saw us and asked what are you looking for? Some food I guess. Albanian? Yeah. Cross the road and go down the stairs and walk until you find the restaurant. And so we did. And opposite the beach with its perfect blue Mediterranean waters we came across Caci.

A couple of wasps seemed to hover, but not too bad overall.

- Salad - giant and the largest we had during the trip (maybe ever) with loads of chunky feta;
- Tave kosi (yoghurt casserole with lamb) 900lek - I tried hard to find this dish anywhere and failed. It is more a dish that is served at homes or more inland toward Tirana. In Ksamil I asked our Airbnb host and he didn't know anywhere to find it. Luck would have it this final place would allow me a national dish before leaving. It was like a tender lamb quiche with a tangy sour yoghurt flavour. I liked it;
- Fried squid 1100 lek - quite good. Bit chewy. Bit of salt.

Considering the location along the beach, the meal was great value overall. I left full, exchanged my remaining lek for € at a good rate at a random travel agent, and boarded the ferry which was actually (reasonably) on time.

Thanks Albania.

Guvat, Ksamil 09-2019

For the final dinner of the lovely week in Albania, we wanted a slightly more special one. The choice was between Apollonia (walked past on first evening with welcoming wait staff and a nice menu) or Guvat (which was on my list for Ksamil). After a bit of internal deliberation, we ended up at Guvat including getting the best seats in the house (which has a reserved sign until we arrived) to watch the sunset.

The sky had beautiful colours with which to enjoy some cocktails (pina colada and banana daiquiri with fresh fruit). Some average bread, somewhat plain tzatziki and pretty decent olive oil started off the food too.

- Fried hard cheese (kackavall) 500lek - I had difficulty finding this cheese fried on local Albanian menus, and finally took the opportunity. The cheese was thick, firm, squeaky, salty, delicious - it was perfect. It did cool quickly though;
- Black cuttlefish ink & cuttlefish risotto 1200lek - cooked al dente with lots of cuttlefish, red peppercorns and grated cheese;
- Linguine "Xha Aliu" with seafood, tomato, cognac, red pepper, garlic 900lek - pasta was slightly al dente. The seafood was one prawn, and bits of octopus and squid. The sauce was really tasty like a spiced chilli tomato base. It was exceptionally good in flavour.

A beautiful setting in the September twilight, without pesky insects, and a gentle not-too-cold breeze. A lovely environment with excellent food. Would definitely go back for the cheese and linguine if I'm ever in Ksamil again.

Hello Creperie, Ksamil 09-2019

My partner was craving crepes - an odd choice in the middle of Albania. But luck would have it that as I searched out some breakfast burek, I walked past a creperie. What are the odds.

After seafood dining at Ftelea (and being pretty full), the idea was to go for a light crepe to finish the day. One can always have plans but those went out the window pretty soon, we realised. It probably would have helped to see the monstrous creations.

They are only open from 1800-2400 which made it perfect for the last deal of the day. And they also have a fun quote "Waffles are just crepes with abs".

- Dried fruits waffle (ice cream, chocolate, walnuts, almonds, raisins, hazelnuts) 500lek - this was the world's largest consumer waffle, huge and thick but still cooked well. There were lots of crushed nuts, whole walnuts and topped with vanilla icecream. There's no way we could finish that;
- Pineapple sweet crepe (white chocolate, coconut, pineapple, cinnamon) 300lek - the crepe was large and thick, not so much the thin delicate French type. The white chocolate made it a too sweet (not a fan of it generally). The warm pineapple was delicious though.

The waffle certainly didn't help my abs at all.

Ftelea Fishop & Grill, Ksamil 09-2019

I was trying really hard to find a local fishmonger to buy some things to cook at home. It proved surprisingly difficult with the only one coming up on a Google search being at the beach area opposite The Mussel House. I never made it there.

I asked the owner of Zace Studios (our accommodation) and he recommended nearby Ftelea which he said you can buy fresh to cook home, or pay them an extra 100lek or so to cook for you takeaway. That would have been much cheaper than eating there, but when on holiday why not enjoy the conveniences of an atmospheric eating place. I had actually mentally noted the place while walking home from the main beach area as a seafood place that smelled good and was full of people into the evening, when most other restaurants centrally were very empty in the off-season.

- Arugula salad 400lek - bitter rocket and parmesan;
- Prawns 1000lek for 300g - flavoursome, cooked well with a little chew. A marked difference in 300g compared to the terrible Genti;
- Grilled squid 800lek for 300g - unseasoned but well grilled squid and excellent once salted lightly;
- Gilthead 650lek for 300g - panfried well with crisp skin and soft flesh.

An excellent meal overall. I'm disappointed we didn't have enough meals left to go back.


The Mussel House, Ksamil 09-2019

The Mussel House has a good reputation for - you guessed it - mussels from the local waters. I think it is the opposite side to Lake Butrint proper, but I'm sure the water is roughly the same. It's a steepdrive up/down off a mainroad, so I would be surprised if accidents didn't occasionally happen there. But none this time at least.

Along the offroad, there doesn't seem anything else there other than The Mussel House. And there's certainly lots of people coming to eat happily, including some Italians who were praising the food and pasta.

What I remember is several wasps that wouldn't leave us alone. It just meant careful moving and eating so as not to agitate (or swallow) any of them. Also the waters around were teeming with tiny little fish that seemed to detect you looking at them and move away. They would come up to the surface and make tiny little breaks in the water

- Mussels saganaki 550lek - deshelled in tomato and feta sauce. Quite good, although it did seem like a small serve and not the best way to taste the mussels for themselves. It really wasn't what I was expecting; from the waiter's description I thought it would be shelled mussels steamed in a light salsa with chopped tomatoes;
- Butrint Lake Eel 750lek for 300g - very nice grilled, with thin bones, soft flesh and little heads to chew on.

Overall a nice place to have some local seafood. Would go for the normal mussels next time.

The Blue Eye, Albania 09-2019

One of the essential daytrips in the Sarande area is the Blue Eye. Although we drove from Dhermi, we basically passed through the outskirts of Sarande to get there, firstly along highway, then dirt road, and then slow moving rocks, sand and gravel. Luckily everyone else was in the same boat, either grinding their rental cars through or parking higher and walking down while dust rose around them. The weather forecast for the day was a little ominous for rain and cloud, but to our luck none of that ever surfaced.

The Blue Eye is a stunning place. There is an area you can dive into the freezing water, which I would recommend just to see the clearest of waters disappearing below.

From a food point of view, the restaurant is surrounded by peaceful water (away from the jumping hole), greenery and mountains. A grill ensures you can smell what they are cooking there, and for a touristy middle-of-nowhere spot, the prices are not much above usual.

- Grilled goat 900lek for 500g - heavily grilled and tasty, although with a lot of salt;
- Grilled trout 800lek - grilled until the top was a bit too burnt and that flavour dominated the skin;
- Country salad 400lek - standard with lots of raw onions and a large slab of feta.

The food was far from the best we had but adequate enough. I would eat there again if I visited. I think I would prefer that to bringing my own food.

Bar Taverna Hibraj, Llogara National Park 09-2019

We took a daytip to Llogara National Park. We left quite late and the windy roads went all the way up until the mist covered the pass and the view unfortunately. Still there were people there and locals selling fruit. Llogara NP has quite a few restaurants, an unusual amount of highly rated ones actually, but it's easy to see why in that setting and if they all make similar food based on charcoal meats.

After a 2.5h walk just in the local loop, it was time for lunch. Under the beautiful sun, it was interesting to find quite a few restaurants closed, particularly the one I wanted to go to - the farm Dukan (from memory the name isn't quite correct on Google, it's slightly different). Uji i Panijes was another on my list, but in the end I watched past and selected Hibraj because it was the only place which had a glorious spit visible.

We were the only 2 eating at the unusual time of 3pm and they had just taken the spit down and chopped it up. Luckily there was enough still to order, although only lamb in the off season, not goat which I wanted. Some average bread but livened up with some butter and dried herbs.

- Fergese (tomatoes, cottage cheese, peppers, onion) 250lek - a tasty creamy homemade dip that wen well on the bread;
- Roasted lamb 600lek for 300g - small but delicious portion of lamb, salty, crisp skin, tender meat;
- Grilled beef steak 1000lek for 300g - although cooked a little heavier than I wanted, a beautiful salty and spiced char coated the beautiful meat.

A wonderful meal in an exceptional setting in the perfect September weather.

Barba Niko Bakery, Dhermi 09-2019

After picking up our first ever hitchhiker, a young Chinese girl who was travelling for a year and was currently hitchhiking her way through Albania (respect), we dropped her off and went to the bakery. Barba Niko is located up the top of the hill along the main road and was a pitstop for some small supplies before the steep drive down toward the hotel and the beach.

It has some ok byrek and some very good flat bread rolls. These were perfect with cheese and smoked ham. They also have some good dessert. Tre leche (3 milks) was like a sponge soaked in milk with jelly. Baklava was quite sweet with some crunch and pistachios.

They are also open 24h a day and have some basics like milk and yoghurt.

Genti, Dhermi 09-2019

I was looking for a nice restaurant with good food and a fancy sunset view. The choices I found on Google were between Fevan and Genti. In the end I chose Genti because a picture of prawns looked good and I thought it might be more Albanian, whereas Fevan was Greek. After eating a lot of meat generally, it was nice to see seafood featuring on the grill menu.

In the end it was a terrible mistake. The sunset was fiery and beautiful, but unfortunately on their balcony they have a very large curtain shade that blocks most of the view. We asked them to raise it and they said they would but didn't.

It seems like primarily a sports bar. A football/soccer game was showing and as a result there were lots of men sitting around watching, and almost wondering why two tourists were there. Maybe because they knew the food wasn't good and would never eat it themselves.

- Big shrimp 1200lek for 300g - these were tiny prawns with ok texture and decent flavour, but I can't imagine how they can be big. There's no way 9 of those could be 300g either;
- Octopus 1000lek for 300g - seriously terrible. Not crisp not tender and flavourless. They were the ends of leftover skinny tentacles;
- Grilled vegetables 400lek - very good with eggplant, light zucchini and peppers;
- Village salad 300lek - standard and fine. Lots of onions, some feta and olives.

Maybe the meat grills would be better. I'd probably prefer to avoid the place altogether actually.

For a comparison of what 300g of prawns should be, look at Ftelea in Ksamil (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/ftelea-fishop-and-grill-ksamil-09-2019)

Taverna Lefteri, Himare 09-2019

After arriving in Albania from the Corfu ferry, we hired a car (from a slightly dodgy operation) but safely drove off. After a little while, we passed through Himare in perfect time to eat lunch. Actually it was early for lunch because I didn't realise Albania is 1h behind Greece.

I actually wanted to eat at Merluc, but they weren't open. In hindsight maybe it was because it was too early, or maybe it was simply because peak season had ended and so a lot of places had shut up shop. Given the past few days in Corfu, I wanted to eat more Albanian than Greek food, but it seemed alright to go Greek just once more.

As the first guests to Lefteri, the staff were almost shocked to see us there. In fact it took a bit more time for them to finish their lunch, realise they should be doing something work-related, and get us menus. After this it was all pleasant and decent service.

A trio of starters to eat with some decent grilled crusty bread kicked things off.

- Sardines marinated 430lek - really delicious with salt and olive oil;
- Mousaka 580lek - a very good size and tasted rich with vegetables and some meat;
- Okra with meat 480lek - I wanted hochpotch with meat (whatever that is) but they didn't have it. Instead I settled for this one. Although the veal was not that tender, the okra was soft and a bit slimy in a good way, and the sauce was rich with flavour and tomato spices.

The meal was excellent. I would happily come back here.