At Francisko you’ll find a menu heavy in seafood and salty meats, traditional Spanish dishes inspired by modernism, and a pricey gin and tonic menu.
Soon after competing in the 2014 season of Albanian MasterChef, Spanish chef Francisko Arriola decided to bring his tapas, paellas, and imported wines to the Kosovo food scene. The service is great and it is apparent from Francisko’s active social media presence (lots of guest selfies!) that the chef is warmly welcomed in Prishtina with what seems to be close to celebrity-chef status.
Francisko’s garden patio is pretty and the bright white exterior covered in potted flowers stands out amongst other restaurants in Qafa’s Kafet e Vogla neighborhood. The interior is cozy and basked in warm, soft lighting, but the details in the décor are plain tacky, not charmingly kitsch. Every Spanish novelty has found its way into the small dining room: laminated placemats with tourist-style postcard photos of Spain, lamps in the shape of flamenco hats, and wallpaper displaying the scenery of a bullfight create a setting more gimmicky than attractive.
The presentation of the food, however, is clean and modern. Here is where the chef’s previous experience with Albania’s MasterChef competition is apparent. Polished white plates hold meticulously arranged portions and artful sauce swooshes. Octopus a la Gallega, our first tapa to arrive, was served in a little cast iron skillet and it set my standards fairly high for the rest of the night. The octopus and potatoes each were perfectly cooked, with plenty of olive oil and Spanish paprika. But the dish was also plenty salty—though salt and oil do come to mind when I think tapas, I wanted a bit more balance and freshness.
Other tapas choices include salami, seafood, Spanish omelets, jamon, and mushrooms stuffed with Albanian suxhuk rather than Spanish chorizo. We tried the pisto manchego, a pile of veggies sautéed in tomato sauce and topped with a sunny-side up egg. The egg-yolk was cooked to perfect consistency (eggs in Prishtina are always overcooked for my taste), but the saltiness of the dish outdid the complexity of the sauce and overpowered the vegetables.
Next came the paella. Francisko offers a Valencian style chicken paella, a vegetarian option, and several seafood varieties. Paellas are priced by the serving and must be shared at least by two people, ranging from 5.50 euros to 9.50 euros per person. We chose the classic seafood option at 7.50 euros per person. The rice was chewy and properly al dente and the crucial crispy layer at the bottom of the pan, socarrat, was not neglected. But the seafood, especially the mussels, just did not taste fresh (I had just returned from a long weekend in Albania, so my standards were perhaps unfairly high). The paella could have been greatly improved by adding in some brightness—maybe thicker lemon wedges and a final seasoning of freshly chopped parsley.
The cocktail menu only offers variations of the gin and tonic, a beloved mixed drink in Spain. The flavor profiles are special for Prishtina, but at a price. The cheapest option is Gordon gin mixed with cucumber, lemon, and lime for 6.50 euros. If you’re willing to dish out 11 euros, you can order a Tanqueray tonic mixed with rosemary, strawberries, and lemon.
Francisko also operates its own small Spanish wine import business, with in-house bottle prices ranging from 8.75 euros to 40 euros. Buy a bottle to uncork at home instead and the prices reduce 50 per cent. The restaurant could use their popular Facebook page to emphasize their wine-shop component in order to bring in customers looking to buy something special for takeaway.
Francisko’s kind and accommodating staff provide a celebratory social environment, and its Spanish menu offers something different in Prishtina. There are yummy options, but plenty of room for improvement, too.
06 July 2016 - 09:52
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