The summer cottage is nestled with an unequivocally impressive front row view, high above the Baltic Sea on Bornholm’s southern coast. The decor is simple and kept in light tones; there are no tablecloths on the tables and the sound system plays subdued soft jazz throughout the evening. The relatively young wait staff are thoroughly professional in a pleasant and relaxed way throughout the 13-course menu. After a handful of small dishes featuring such delights as oysters, cabbage and mussels, the bread arrives as a serving on its own: warm flatbread with fermented corn juice, which is also mixed into the butter. It tastes good, but after a few bites we are ready to move on. We would prefer the more traditional serving, with the bread at our side throughout the meal, so we could also use it to soak up the delicious sauces. We move on from here to a dish with a wide array of elements, including raw scallops resting in a sauce of horseradish with golden beet and hemp, top shoots of Norway spruce, and grated dried roe on top. The flavour notes of the various elements of sea, forest and meadow, as well as their textures, come together in symbiotic unity. The juice menu’s pairing of gooseberries and horseradish both mirrors and complements the dish exquisitely. A slice of pickled and baked pumpkin topped with a sprinkling of Bornholm forest ants –purported to be the most scrumptious in Denmark – and petals from the invasive beach rose is accompanied by a sauce of white asparagus with a nice acidity. It is an incredibly well-balanced and delectable dish, as the pumpkin’s sweetness, the sauce and the acidity of the ants suit one another beautifully. Especially entertaining is when you bite directly into a ant, releasing a powerful explosion of citrusy sourness on the tongue. A skewer with tender lamb neck and folded slices of veal tongue are marinated in a strong BBQ marinade and served with cabbage and an intense jus. The dish is full of deep flavour, but unfortunately doesn’t meet much resistance from the somewhat too light Beaujolais, Côte du Py 2015 from Jean Foillard, which also fails to impress on its own, despite the waiter’s assurance that this is one of the two best vignerons in the appellation. However, the tables are turned by the wine served with the two desserts. Keller’s wonderful auslese, Westhofener Kirchspiel 2015, has a deep body with notes of honey, pear and a touch of limestone, and still has quite a bit of fresh young acidity. Both of the desserts are refreshingly light. First, a long roll of crisp apple with caramel, served in a clear cold soup with the flavours of sweet cicely, buckler leaf sorrel and rhubarb root. This is followed by a compote of diverse berries from the restaurant’s own garden, seasoned with walnut aquavit and homemade sour cream. In both of these dishes, the sweet flavour elements take a backseat to the more acidic, which we appreciate greatly after the myriad preceding dishes. However, sweetness is centre stage in the Auslese, and it is a perfect pairing. Kadeau Bornholm understands how to playfully utilise the island’s fantastic ingredients at an innovative and masterful gastronomic level.
Arriving at building 10B on a cobblestone street, we ring the bell and immediately feel like invited guests. The door opens and we are guided through Kadeau’s heart – the kitchen – and escorted to soft furniture with a cup of warm bouillon. The mirage of a visit with friends would be complete if someone sat down and enjoyed the delicious drink with us, but the chefs in the open kitchen are busy. They are likely chopping and slicing, given that virtually every dish this evening is comprised of countless tiny elements – perhaps too many, in fact, as many of the dishes seem to lack leading roles and links to bring together the diversity of details. Kadeau’s renowned boyish spontaneity seems replaced by a more controlled style, but there remains no doubt that the majestic isle of Bornholm is the common thread. No dish reflects this as clearly as a crisp biscuit filled with a cornucopia of small pickled leaves and flowers, including cypress, chamomile, seaweed, rhubarb, elderflower capers, dried rose hips and morsels of poached mahogany clam. The dish is a delicate, edible business card, a reduction of the fields and sandy beach meadows of Chef Nicolai Nørregaard and Restaurant Manager Magnus Høegh Kofoed’s native island. The owners are not here themselves, but a sharp corps of waiters and chefs adroitly serves us with a relaxed charm. Kadeau has an international vibe; one feels transmogrified into a Kinfolk magazine, sitting in the elegant dining room with its shades of turquoise, wood and gold, and drinking biodynamic wines and sumptuous juices with the menu. The wines stay on the safe side of the modern wine spectrum and the juices are fresh, aromatic and well paired. The best “juice” is a blend of fermented white tea and pickling brine with a lovely aroma. It nicely accompanies a light-hearted dish of lumpfish with tiny pickled bits of Bornholm’s summertime bounty. Pickles are a recurring theme in Nørregaard’s kitchen, but the characteristic acidity underlying Kadeau’s reputation has been turned down a notch. We discover this in the beautiful signature dish with a thousand layers of preserved vegetables: this evening it includes cabbage, beets, salted plums and dashi made of dried trout. It is undoubtedly beautiful, but it tastes a bit bland. On the other hand, the flavours are turned up to full-blast with the skin-fermented vermentino from Italy’s Massa Vecchia that accompanies a dish of langoustine under lavender and shaved walnuts. The slightly bitter and perfumed notes of the orange wine prove a good match for the dish. Like so much else this evening, the langoustine is cut into small pieces, which causes its flavour to drown in the other dominant elements. By now we are longing for something to really chew on. Our wish is granted with a large fillet of aged pork, perfectly prepared with good flavour, that is surprisingly simple and robust compared to the menu’s other dishes. After a handful of desserts, petits fours and aromatic filtered coffee, we step out into the Christianshavn night with the memory of an intellectual Borholmian meal that seems more firmly rooted in the world of art than food.
Intimate restaurant Kaheksa jalga, or Eight Legs (there is an octopus-shaped chandelier in the ceiling alluding to its name), is located in the small Kõue Manor, exactly 50 kilometers from the center of Tallinn. A short drive for a very big culinary experience that should of course be combined with an overnight stay at this cozy manor hotel, once belonging to the explorer Otto von Kotzebue. The current owners have restored it in their own original way, it is without a doubt Estonia’s most whimsical accommodation, with the restaurant giving it added flair. Chef Ellery Powell’s menu is perhaps the country’s shortest, consisting of three appetizers, three main courses, and three desserts, from wild boar and pistachio terrine to quince, granola and goat cheese ice cream. Those change quite frequently though, so returning guests need not fear eating the same dish twice. Compared to the hotel’s idiosyncratic décor, Ellery’s cooking is more modest and restrained. It’s paired with exclusive wines that are stored in a striking cellar dating back to the 13th century. A meander through the manor ‘s gardens and its environs will give you a very good picture of where the food on your plate comes from.
You could use your GPS to find Kaja on Tallinn’s Õle Street, or you could just search for the crowd that is usually milling about outside one specific house on an otherwise deserted street. They’re pacing back and forth, seemingly waiting for something. That something being pizza. Most of them have had it before, so they know it’s worth waiting for. Kaja’s dedicated pizzaioli churn out pies with great expertise and equal amounts of passion. It might not be rocket science, but it’s definitely an exact science for these cooks. Confident and smiling, they go about their work to the tunes of roaring rock music, preparing a finite amount of dough each day and shutting shop when they run out, which is most often a mere couple of hours after the midday opening. The Chef-Owner Andrei Lesment used to run a successful fine dining restaurant in London, he has brought the same philosophy and methods to this small suburban pizza joint that delivers a unique experience every time. Try the creative pizza of the day and Kaja’s homemade lime- and elderflower drink.
That old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” could not be further from the truth at Kaks Kokka, which not only has two chefs (like the name suggests), but also shares a kitchen with its “big sister” Ö. The modern, Scandinavian-inspired decor is inviting, with large jars of pickled vegetables and preserved berries placed on tall shelves in a sort of culinary laboratory esthetic. The best tables are, in fact, the ones behind those shelves as they offer views of the bar and a glimpse of the kitchen. The menu is a blend of Asian and Scandinavian-inspired dishes. Locally cured elk or sauna-smoked ham can be chased by ramen or steamed buns. Simple combinations and delicate flavors are skillfully executed, yet the Kaks Kokka chefs are certainly not afraid of bold experiments. Some of the more exciting dishes have more obscure descriptions––caramelized cauliflower with aged rennet cheese, or roasted leg of lamb with ramson béchamel. The dining room balances that same high-low notion with a casual atmosphere of fun and indulgence. A short drinks list complements the menu, starting with seasonal specialty cocktails and continuing with expertly paired wines by the glass (or bottle) to match any palate or budget.
Even though it’s been open for over a year, Grünerløkka’s Kamai still feels like a hidden gem in the jungle that is Oslo’s dining scene. In taking inspiration from South America and placing it inside the frames of the Japanese “kaiseki” meal, Kamai have created one of the most fun dining experiences in the capital as far as flavours go. Choose between a four and seven-course menu of well varied, unpredictable and exciting combinations of tastes and textures. A yoghurt-marinated skrei, tainted with turmeric and garnished with deep-fried shrimp shells and cucumber bends the concept of ceviche a bit out of context, but it tastes excellent. Refreshing, tart and meaty. You can also expect such combinations as tectonic plates of crisp chicken skin, Jerusalem artichoke and miso foam that leave a lasting impression. Also memorable is a tortilla made of corn and blue potatoes filled with avocado cream and goat, and a dish featuring strips of beef heart with kimchi and chimichurri. The food is a stark contrast to the predictability of the Queen, Katrina & The Waves and Billy Joel tunes polluting the ambience, but dining at Kamai never gets boring. It’s a casual setting (to the point that the diners are almost exclusively more formally dressed than the waiters) and the thoughtful menus and electrifying flavour combinations make you love Kamai more and more each visit.
The end of the world isn’t far away, it’s located right here in Latvia, in a place called Annas that also features a ten-room design hotel, Spa Vannas, and a restaurant, Kannas. All of them are cozied-up in one little house. Annas turns into the end of the world at summer’s close, when there’s been constant rain or snow for a few days. Follow your navigation device closely when driving here, and don’t under any circumstances turn back, even when the road narrows and you start doubting the GPS, wondering if it hasn’t taken you for a ride in the wrong direction. You’ll get there, it’s just not the most obvious place to find. But it’s worth the effort as Kannas easily rivals some of Riga’s best restaurants. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Dzintars Kristovskis, a new recruit and bearded man with striking tattoos (is that an oxymoron?) who didn’t end up here by chance while losing his way. He’s not exactly a man of many words, but he speaks the language of flavors. Every one of the ten dishes on his short à la carte menu, including the roasted mutton, is made with ingredients from this Red-Riding-Hood region. Of course, the mutton is the most surprising, as all chefs seem to speak in unison about the diminishing availability of local mutton, the meat’s usually of poor quality, coming from unskilled butchers. It’s easy for a small party to try all ten dishes, they’re all winners. Venden mineral water from Gauja National Park is every responsible driver’s drink, but for the non-designated drivers there are local berry wines and beers. And though this might seem like the end of the world, it’s still Europe; the wine list is full of Old World favorites.
The white farmstead is a little hidden away but guests have been finding their way to Karlaby Kro for more than ten years, to enjoy their luxury weekend packages with romantic dinners and swim in the large, heated indoor pool. After a several-year slump during which owners Sophie and Pär Bonér sold the place in order to run a hotel in the U.S., they have now bought back their life’s work and everything is back to normal. In the foyer candlelight spreads a welcoming glow over broken-in leather sofas and, if it is slightly damp outside, the fireplace crackles in the corner. In the equally cosy dining room you sit comfortably on floral upholstered chairs and look out over the hotel garden’s greenery. A new chef has command over the pots and the creative dinner menus are worth a trip even for those who do not stay overnight. Here seasonal ingredients take the lead, which could mean a yummy amuse-bouche of lamb sausage and cheddar cheese cream followed by a perfectly seared foie gras with pumpkin cream, and a mini blood sausage with apple and hazelnut foam. Thyme-braised pointed cabbage and blackened leek might accompany main dishes like venison and wild duck, cod and halibut. Among the desserts you’ll find elderberry mousse with smooth Jerusalem artichoke ice cream and citrus notes from lemon curd that are hard to forget. The selected wines are a thoughtful mix of Old and New World, which means that the dessert wines come from a vineyard on Long Island as well as from a chateaux in southern Bordeaux.
For more than 20 years, Rikke Brockstedt and her consort Kristian Evensen-Smidt have run Restaurant Karoline Amalie in Virklund near Silkeborg. Although a quarter of a century is a long time to maintain a constant level of excellence, the restaurant is still outstanding. Its dishes express rare precision, reflecting the careful handling of ingredients, and the service staff have a Zenlike attentiveness. The hostess provides a warm welcome and later presents every dish in the elegant dining room, which has just four or five tables in a spacious, exclusive and classic setting with crisply ironed tablecloths, silver candlesticks and rococo chairs. The restaurant is currently operating with one set menu, which you should combine with the superb and exclusively Austrian wine pairings, featuring both established stars and exciting, young up-and-coming producers. Standing out in the first salvo of snacks is a deconstruction of the Danish classic “æbleflæsk” (pork belly in applesauce) – a small bird’s nest of puffed pork rind with a tart apple purée as a counterweight to the lard. This is soon followed by an elegant vignette of scallops, freshly harvested and crunchy fresh Jerusalem artichoke, caviar and buerre blanc. Here, the fresh raw food elements and salty caviar perfectly balance the rich and the smooth textures. The palate-cleansing acidity and character of the wines proves a delight throughout the evening. This also applies to a 2001 pinot noir from Graf Hardegg, with structure and acidity that make it a well-chosen pairing with a perfect turbot meunière with shaved truffle and onion in three textures. The light red currant notes of the pinot drown neither the delicate turbot nor the wondrous truffle flavour. You should primarily visit Karoline Amalie for the savoury dishes, because although the deserts are tasty, presentable and prepared with the finest ingredients, we are left with an unmistakable sense of “autopilot” when a chocolate-covered scoop of blackcurrant ice cream arrives as one of the last items on the itinerary. But this is a microscopic bump in an evening during which our gastronomic cup hath runneth over.
Young Chef Erik Mansikka decided that he had seen it all, worked at the best restaurants, won competitions, and gained fame on TV. He was reluctant ever again to leave his home town of Turku. Together with two friends, Topi Pekkanen and Simo Raisio, he set his eyes on a rather shabby old fish restaurant in Turku. They took over the place with its some 20 seats and kept the ascetic interior with its plywood walls. Only a devoted customer would notice the changes over the years. There are still no frills here, but the soundproofing and ventilation have improved. Though only in its fourth year, Kaskis has already become a legend. It is still immensely popular. The kitchen’s philosophy is to keep it simple and local. Often the meal is made of ingredients that an ordinary homeowner with a backyard garden and a fishing rod could produce. There are now more staff. The chefs have a busy time in the kitchen and do not make an effort to socialize with their guests, but our two talkative young waitresses with a brilliant knowledge of wine make up for it. The starter is local whitefish cured with salt and sugar, then scorched to make the skin fantastically crisp while the meat stays almost raw. The sauce consists of crème fraîche sharpened with juice from green tomatoes, jalapeño and, as a sign that summer is around the corner, elderflower. Two cuts from a Mangalitza pig are prepared in two ways, fillet and neck. The pungent sauce gets its aroma from sherry vinegar, as do the pickled shallots. The wine pairing is a South African chenin blanc. Beef comes from the Åland isles in the form of both cheek and flank. Celeriac and red beet are prepared in different ways with an unusual and quite dominating amount of allspice. The dessert consists of the traditional treasure of midwinter, blood oranges. Together with meringue and Crema Catalana, it is a simple but inventive treat served with a sparkling Limoux. The Kaskis team has great plans. Kakola is a dark-sounding name that every Finn recognises, but this former prison on a hill in central Turku will now be used for a different purpose. The Kaskis owners plan to open a big restaurant there in 2018 and experiment with a pop-up in 2017. Friends of Kaskis are happy that the original little restaurant will stay where it is.
Thai-spiced Kiin Kiin is the flagship restaurant of the ever-expanding pan-Asian empire created by gastro-entrepreneur Henrik Yde. Ten years in the game and the place hasn't lost the ambiance of a warm and welcoming exotic adventure land. Although the once so far-from-it-all location on a Nørrebro backstreet has become a bit more gentrified and polished since then. Most importantly: Chef Dak Laddaporn still manages to surprise us. Nowadays Kiin Kiin also offers a shorter theatre menu, but if you choose that your priorities are all wrong as the theatrics provided by the nine-course menu easily rival that of the stage. One of Kiin Kiin's claims to fame is the street-food-inspired snack section. A salty-sweet soy-cashew meringue paired with a potent but fruity wasabi cream is a tantalizing bite, and the miang kam salad, whipped together tableside and served in a spinach leaf, is just as fresh, tangy and hot as it should be. Chicken satay gets a modern twist where the peanut sauce is packaged as an intensely flavoured ice cream atop a crunchy piece of chicken skin. When the crispy pork comes in on its portable barbecue and the cloche over the signature dish of Chiang Mai sausages is opened releasing “street fumes” from Bangkok, the scene is definitely set for the nine courses still to come. Tom yam is another signature dish, and the clear broth doesn't look like much – but it’s the flavour that paints the picture here, deeply satisfying and conveying a distinct seafood and galangal aroma with a hot kick at the end. We get a small syringe with which we fashion our own noodles; though fun, the soup could easily have stood on its own. Sommelier Henrik Yde insists on well thought-out wine pairings (no beer to be seen here) and the grüner veltliner from Zillinger is pitch-perfect in augmenting the lobster aromas. This kitchen loves to play around with the concept of Thai food, but the fun and games never trump flavour. The twisted red curry, for example, is served granita-style. It slowly melts over an asparagus mousse and seared langoustine tail, adding both texture and temperature variation to the dish. One dish arrives under a ball of cotton candy, then they blend a spicy dressing at the table to pour over it and as the cotton candy melts it reveals a perfectly poached piece of cod. The aromatic experience is almost as satisfying as the dish itself with its light herbaceous notes mingling elegantly with the Peter Lauer riesling. The entertaining and utterly charming service staff definitely add to the draw of Kiin Kiin. Most of them are recruited from Thailand (where Yde also has a restaurant) and the pride in and knowledge of the food being served is a pleasure to experience. The “petits fours” are a real achievement in trompe l'oeil: many bowls arrive, one with real chillies alongside their chocolate replicas, and one similarly filled with both mock and real cinnamon sticks. One wrong move and you could easily bite down on a fiery chilli instead of chocolate one. Kiin Kiin truly entertains.
The two remaining musketeers from the Koch empire, Lasse and Michael Koch, haven’t slowed down in the slightest since Jesper Koch went solo with his own projects. Their style remains free of dogma and full of intense flavour, as epitomised by the snacks that begins our meal. Spicy minced pig snout with pickled chilli and tarragon mayo, and a cone filled with aubergine purée, kumquats and braised pig udder are among the first treats. These rather unconventional cuts push us to the limits of our comfort zone, but the familiar flavour of pork quickly makes us feel at ease in the complex culinary world of the Koch brothers. The opening course is like a first rite of spring, with small green shoots of fresh herbs topping an arrangement of cod carpaccio. The thinly sliced cod is beautifully marbled with a gelée of langoustine stock, adding extra depth to the flavour of the fish. A creamy sorbet of champagne and the citrusy freshness of grapefruit and lime complete the dish by ensuring a harmonic balance between the sweet and acidic. In our glasses is a fruity and floral sauvignon blanc with faint grapefruit notes – a good pairing with the early spring dish. Outside the restaurant ships gently bob in the marina; inside, we are serenaded by the crackling fireplace that helps to ensure a relaxing atmosphere in the otherwise neutral decor of the restaurant. The intensity of flavours gradually builds with each subsequent course. Aromatic vapours from a halibut fill our noses from the moment the burning hot plate hits our table. Thin slices of avocado, walnut confit, fresh greens and herbs are layered over the fish – while a healthy portion of oyster tartare lies hidden under the greens to uphold sea-freshness. All of this is topped tableside with hot melted duck fat, which is both surprising and a bit odd, but ultimately the dish is a rich success. As is characteristic of the brothers’ cuisine, it is an intense bombardment of complex flavours that nonetheless results in a well-composed and complete serving. It takes deep professional insight to convey the mad genius of the kitchen, but the service staff presents every detail flawlessly and the wines are accompanied by intriguing and descriptive narratives. With an almost Burgundian character of butter notes and richness, the wine Guru from the Douro Valley escorts a dish containing a scallop marinated in barbeque sauce topped with puffed pork rind. A bold sauce of grilled carrots accompanies the dish, together with a carrot pickled in cumin and orange, which adds intense acidity, a bit of sweetness and spiced notes. As always, creativity is paramount in the Koch kitchen, and their style is without compare. It is free of dogma, boasts an abundance of ostentatious elements from near and far, and never loses sight of absolute delectability as the common thread.
Offering food to strangers in your home in exchange for money is a growing trend all over the world. A level up from that is running a home restaurant, which means constantly welcoming guests in your home. In Estonia, many people have tried that but only one has managed to continue doing so – MerMer, located at Jaaniranna in the village of Kolga-Aabla. It is a place where every day, you are served fish caught by the anglers from the neighbouring village, as well as craft beer brewed about ten kilometres away. At MerMer, a smaller group of people could easily be fed by the goods originating from the near vicinity alone.
In most cases, a home is occupied by a certain group of people, be there two or twenty of them. Thus, a close personal bond is bound to be created between the members of the household and their guests. The bond is so personal, in fact, that people often feel free to pour their hearts out. This happens so often that the residents have started to call the restaurant a place to pour your heart out.
The New World, a district located right outside the heart of Tallinn. The buildings here are smaller; there is more space, as well as greenery. No random citizens lives here. For somebody coming from the Old Town, this might indeed look like a new world.
An essential meeting place of this world is a restaurant called Kohalik. This restaurant does not take pains to attract customers. Most of the dishes have been on the menu since the restaurant was opened. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people that come to eat here without looking for a change.
For example, try their simple chicken liver pâté with onion jam and evergreen syrup and you will be charmed. You will want to go back at any time and eat more and more of that pâté. To create a bit of variety and excitement however, the restaurant has a constantly changing barrel of surprise beer. Make sure to try their homemade chokeberry schnapps.
It is almost as if the New World is not Tallinn. People here keep to themselves. They lead simple yet quality lives!
The sum of this small bistro in the heart of Viljandi’s old town is a lot bigger than its parts. Its interiors are simple but the food is by far the best in town. Although its former chef, who made Fellin one of Estonia’s most interesting dining establishments, left for Tallinn, the restaurant continues to be as great and charming as before. In fact, it has set such a good example that many more eateries have popped up around the ancient city (Harmoonia is a prime example). Fellin deserves praise for using local produce; the closer the ingredients grow, the better the dishes are. Anything made with lamb is a sure bet here, the signature sandwich with roasted lamb, smoked mayo, pickles and onion is particularly good. Another great reason to visit is the excellent and affordable drinks menu; wines by the glass and by the bottle, as well as craft ciders and beers, and artisanal non-alcoholic beverages. As a café-restaurant, Fellin’s staff also understands the importance of top-notch coffee and tea. It is easy to fall in love with its clean flavors and sincere, joyful service.
The Koržets family is Estonia’s foremost fish-authority, famous for knowing everything about the delicacies that come out of the country’s waters, legendary for its humble but charming fish restaurant, housed in a cottage in the middle of Tallinn’s Hirve Park. The patriarch, Vladislav is a TV-host, fisherman and chef, his son Kaarel learned all the tricks of the trade from his father before he helmed the kitchen at Kalambuur where mother and daughter are also involved. Step inside and you’re immediately struck by their friendliness and the coziness of their eatery. They’re passionate about fish, in fact, their aquatic storytelling is as endlessly amusing as their cooking is mouth-watering. Complex cooking techniques don’t belong here, and the food is all the better for it. Pike, be it in the form of quenelles or patties, are the best in town. The Boyar’s blinis with caviar are worthy of their name, and the sturgeon solyanka is by now a classic. Kalambuur makes us think that preserving old knowledge and skills might be even harder than creating new ones.
One glance is all it takes to establish that Retro is worthy of its name. The furniture is mismatched, the tablecloths look like they’ve been stolen from grandma’s house, one yellow wall is dotted with vinyl records, another is equipped with a TV airing old cartoons. Behind the bar made of barrels is a shelf lined with booze bottles, the likes of which have not been in production since the last century. The menu is similarly retro-themed, boasting roasted Baltic herring and marinated Saaremaa lamb. A whole smoked perch is brought to the table with nothing but a knife, leaving you to your own devices to handle the rest. Back in the day, that was how they ate smoked fish in Saaremaa. Those who don’t know must learn. This is particularly tricky for non-local guests. Yet Retro is a magical place, with each visit it becomes more and more like home, and the local customs grow more and more interesting with each passing minute. Naturally, the beverages also have an old-timey bent, featuring Saaremaa Vodka and Saaremaa Tuulik beer.
The first thing almost every diner here does is adjust the ingeniously designed lamp above the table. If it’s raised, they might be talking business; if it’s lowered there may be romance in the air. Neither the lamps nor the venue has aged a bit since Valentine’s Day 2014 when Björn Persson’s Kock & Vin turned into the slightly more playful Koka. In spite of the initial modern impression, the light planks along the walls speak to our collective pastoral memory. To a certain extent the staff do, too, not least Persson himself who enjoys coming out into the dining room to check on the guests. And then there’s the food, which at first glance appears ultramodern. Upon closer examination we see it’s also a tribute to our common roots, like the potato, for example. The first thing to come out of this incredibly affordable tasting menu is a half Amandine potato, perfectly al dente, topped with sour cream that almost tastes like smoked herring, and grated, cured egg yolk on top of that. Raw, chopper oyster, plucked up with diving help from the Klemming brothers in Grebbestad, rests together with an oyster cream under thinly planed and grilled celeriac. The next dish is the same shade of beige – king trumpet mushrooms, looking like they have been passed through a paper shredder. But don’t get us wrong – the slim, blond strips, dusted with dried seaweed set a new standard for how a masterful dish can look – and taste. Another example is the decadent lobster and vinegary fennel in a light bath of clear and assertive lobster broth. Cauliflower, crab and beets form a kind of textural illusion, indistinguishable from one another were it not for their strong colours and flavours. This combination of visual minimalism and articulated flavours can also be found in the vegetarian dish of grilled pointed cabbage with buckwheat, tarragon and tapioca – and it’s just like Persson to reconnect to our cultural history by choosing to call it porridge. By the time we get to the cheese dish we are a little tired of the consistent visual impression (aka., “beautiful heaps”), although goat's cheese from Skattegården is a good match with salty caramel sauce and beautifully bleeding Icelandic red dulse algae crowned by frozen chokeberries. The frozen yogurt is topped with chicory fluff, and the dessert is confidently paired with an almost transparent Fioles Rosées Friandise from Huguenot-Tassin (Champagne’s response to lambrusco). Persson now imports wines from France, and some of what Koka offers is impossible to get elsewhere in Sweden. Though the staff have vigilantly refilled the flatware in the tray throughout the evening, now there is only a small soupspoon resting on the wine-splattered leather. The treat with the coffee, a small bark biscuit topped with juniper cream, neatly wraps up what is currently one of Sweden’s most modern gastronomic experiences.
KOKS explores and experiments with the untapped possibilities inherent in the surrounding Faroese landscape of sea, fjords, fields, meadows, and beaches, while practicing traditional fermentation methods and seeking sublime culinary experiences with respect for vulnerable species and the environment. The restaurant decor features plank flooring, lambskin on the chairs and oak tables free of tablecloths or pressed napkins, with a breathtaking panoramic view to the surroundings outside. All of the dishes are rooted in local traditions and ingredients. Fish, sheep, seaweed (complete with parasites) and herbs are caught, harvested or fermented daily, just a few hundred metres from the kitchen. Live shellfish are kept in the restaurant’s underwater pantry. The menu comprises 19 unforgettably delicate courses, all of which demonstrate extreme Faroese gastronomic savvy, in addition to a wine list stocked with superbly paired top wines from renowned winemakers in strong vintages. Head Chef Poul Andrias Ziska presents the dishes himself, while Head Sommelier Karin Visth selects and presents the drinks, including wines and the incomparable range of non-alcoholic drinks that she brews herself to match the menu’s potpourri of unconventional flavours. Ocean quahog garnished with dried elderflower is served on the shell in a purée of its own meat and mushroom sauce. The taste of sea from the raw clam is counterbalanced by the oily morel notes and elderflower acidity of the sauce. Fried swim bladder of cod with a cream of leek and ramson is decoratively served on cod vertebrae. The swim bladder is crisp and light as a pork rind without the fat, offering the generous pure flavour of cod, while the ramson’s notes of garlic and the leek’s creaminess hold contrasts in taste and texture. Both fish and lamb are traditionally fermented in the Faroe Islands in a so-called hjallur (a wind-blown shed) where they change in structure, aroma and flavour. “Ræstur” is the half-dried stage this meat reaches after three months. A soup of ræst lamb is served with roasted mealworms, crisp slices of kohlrabi, radish, onion and carrot. The aromas in the steam bash through one’s senses with notes of rancid lamb fat, while the strong flavour packs deep umami tones. Garnatálg is the lining surrounding the lamb’s intestines and stomach, fermented for three months in a net of the lamb’s caul fat. It is served as a bright and appetising layer atop the fermented then boiled ræst fish. These delights are eaten on a traditional Faroese biscuit called a góðarað. The flavour is intense, pure cod with the garnatálg serving as an able substitute for butter in both taste and texture. Northern fulmar is a sea bird that breeds on the wind-blown cliffs of the Faroese coastline. When they fly from the nest, the chicks are so fat that they splash into the sea and can then be fished up by boat. As the flapping of wings has not yet toughened the breast, the pink roasted meat is extremely tender, with a coarse fibre structure and distinctive fish flavour, while the fat cap has strong notes of whale oil. These flavours are matched well by boiled, burnt and dried beetroot. Crisp candied stalks of angelica, which grows and thrives on the windy islands, is served as candy under the moniker confiture d’angélique. These so-called "candies" full of vitamin C, aromatically spiced and fresh, yet sweet with notes of fresh quince and candied citrus peel. One is rarely on familiar grounds here, yet a secure feeling of being safely in the hands of a master reigns throughout this culinary voyage.
Kol Restaurant has been one of Reykjavik’s most popular establishments since it opened in 2014. It’s in a great location in postal code 101 – in between different kinds of boutiques, and other restaurants and bars. With a touch of Nordic cuisine, and a bit of France and Asia thrown in, it is known for its hip and cool cocktails like “Donkey” – a blend of vodka, lime, ginger and grapefruit served with mint sprigs in a silver julep cup. The service is a little bit slow but friendly, and the place is hopping. As a starter the slow-cooked duck salad is colorful but the number of ingredients - cashews, pomegranate, romaine and watermelon – makes it feel a bit out of line and overly complex. The seared tuna is tender with a touch of chilli and aioli, and a rather sharp finish. We wait quite a while for the main course of charred salmon, which is good, with a bunch of granola and a green, fennel-dill Hollandaise sauce. The cod loin in red wine vinaigrette with rutabaga, however, is messy and rather flavourless, and the food is almost floating on the plate. Kol has been better than on this visit, and might be in need of a little firming up.
Don’t let the ostentatious emptiness of the two-story building at the corner of Telliskivi and Paldiski maantee mislead you, Kolm Sibulat’s cuisine is indeed a surprise. Roman Zashcherinskiy and Igor Andreev, former chefs at Ö and Tchaikovsky, really know how to cook. Their food is a perfect combination of Asian-Middle Eastern motifs and Estonian love of local products. Ceviche of slightly smoked beets with hummus and parsley aioli; king prawns in chili-flecked tomato sauce; vegetarian curry with broccoli, peas and Muscat pumpkin; there’s something for everyone here. Just do yourself a favor and don’t miss the noodle soup, prepared à la ramen, with beef, duck confit or pork. It’s no surprise that Kolm Sibulat is always packed with locals.
Near the capital’s Freedom Monument, in the middle of Bastion Hill park you’ll spot Kolonade’s huge panoramic glassed-in terrace and the columned, low-slung building that gave the restaurant its name. It’s a Riga-classic, a bit old-fashioned, yet very charming. The views from those generous windows are stunning, spreading from the leafy green park to the Latvian National Opera and the iconic Laima Clock. The atmosphere here is peaceful and the wine list goes on for days. What more could you wish for? Ostrich tartare with Dijon mustard, three kinds of onions and soft-boiled egg; smoked eel with pickled egg and beet crisp; moose carpaccio with Parmesan and truffle oil; all are toothsome starters. Follow one of those with the pike perch filet cooked in white wine, it comes with green buckwheat and vegetables. Kolonade boasts four types of meatballs as well; duck, lamb, moose and beef. There are soups and pizzas too, just in case it wasn’t hard enough to make a choice here. There’s also a special wine-tasting menu, but keep in mind that you need to book that one in advance.
Kolonialen Bislett is only a Thorkildsen/Hattestad javelin throw away from the Bislett sports stadium, but there is not much space for physical performance once inside the tiny and often packed restaurant. We sit shoulder-to-shoulder here, which is cosy, and suits the relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, but it can get a bit problematic when you must stop eating to avoid a close encounter with a passing waiter. The menu options are limited: a selection of six starters meant to share followed by a range of three main courses and a couple of cheeses/desserts. All our three starters arrive at the same time, reducing our free table space to zero. They all look so delicious that our expectations rise at once and are mostly met, especially when it comes to the perfectly textured beef tartare with mustard and pine powder topped with crunchy breadcrumbs – it goes straight onto our tartare top-five list. The low-temperature-dried egg yolk with cauliflower, hazelnuts and coriander is another hit, though it lacks a bit of acidity or resistance. The croquettes with anchovies could have been even more fluffy and the fried cabbage leaves a dry sensation on the palate, but the anchovies and the lovage in the mayo give the dish a nice edge. Our own suggestion of white wine is professionally swopped for a very well-suited bottle of Arbois. The wine list is not overly long but well selected, with a little bit of everything – including a glass of Crozes Hermitage which, as promised, nicely accompanies the pork serving with samphire, glazed onions and horseradish crème. The latter dish scores high on the yumminess scale but the last bites are almost too much and could have used something to freshen it all up. The same goes for the carrot ice cream with crème anglaise, coffee and malt syrup, and tarragon oil, but we surrender to the perfect texture of the ice cream and the integration of all the flavours into a delightful whole. If not a gold medal, the Kolonialen performance is at least worth a place on the winner’s stand.
Kong Hans exudes quality, from the historic setting, inviting decor and ingredients of the finest calibre, to the masterful kitchen of Head Chef Mark Lundgaard, the impressive world-class service from the staff of waiters, and no less than two renowned sommeliers, Peter Pepke and Nina Jensen, the latter of which was recently named Best Nordic Sommelier. The restaurant’s quality is further bolstered by its 40-year history as a Danish pillar of classic gastronomy. Here you can expect to enjoy oysters, foie gras, lobster, pigeon and generous amounts of butter and cream. Indeed, somebody must protect the culinary crown jewels from a bygone era – and that is exactly what Kong Hans is doing, with the talent of Mark Lundgaard notably shaping the interpretations. The foie gras is not as heavy as expected – in fact, quite the contrary. A thick slice served with a pain d’epices sounds like a bomb, but the slightly acidic cherry “vinegar” lifts and lightens the dish, almost causing the taste of the fatty liver to seem fresh. Peter Pepke charts our course for the evening’s wines. The servings are presented with attentiveness, discretion and sincere interest in the pleasure of the guests. They guide us impressively through the wine list, inviting us to explore the whole world of wines, even though the heart of the list is in France. The seasonal appetisers are paired to our delight with a 2006 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne. The classic bubbles open the palate to the flavours of fried quail egg, snail toast, oysters with elderflower and venison consommé, as we consider the extravagant options offered by the à la carte menu. The lobster emerges victorious. How often are you served a whole Danish lobster at the table, prepared à la nage, à la américaine and Thermidor, fulfilling your butter quota for the entire next week, thanks in part to the irresistibly ethereal brioche? The excellent Gillardeau oysters are both inventive and extremely delicate. The acidity of a rosehip compote and zing of horseradish cream are brilliant with the rich and salty taste of the oysters, while kohlrabi adds crunch to the soft flesh. Our delight is complete with a Chassagne-Montrachet, whose elegant balance of acidity and ripe apple pairs perfectly with the oysters. Today’s five-course menu features such dishes as scallop with pickled onion skins and Oscietra caviar, followed by the highlight of the menu: a poached halibut with the old-school touch of a Noilly Prat sauce with whitefish caviar. This is creamy goodness, heartily salted with an acidic and bitter edge. Once again, Lundgaard’s talent manages to lighten the taste of a heavy classic. In the wake of the halibut come veal sweetbreads with morels, as well as a guinea fowl en cocotte with endive and truffle. These are followed by a delightful “ice cream parlour” where the pastry chef offers a wide selection of fresh fruit sorbets and small traditional Danish cookies. We have no choice but to raise the white flag upon arrival at the delicious homemade chocolates: we are fully satiated. Kong Hans is not cheap, but you can suffice with just a few dishes and a glass of wine, while still enjoying a cloud-nine culinary experience.
Dine with a view of Tallinn’s most majestic square, grab a window seat at Konrad and observe the city buzz right at the heart of it all. It’s particularly captivating in the evening, when the surrounding buildings are lit up from within. The restaurant is named after Konrad Mägi, considered to be the most talented Estonian artist of all times, a prolific man who led a turbulent life and died too young in 1925. He had a penchant for landscape painting, but was influenced by every new art movement that came around, thus creating an eclectic oeuvre that spanned many styles. This eatery’s fortune has had a similar trajectory, starting off with Estonian-Russian cuisine, then dabbling with molecular gastronomy, only to end up serving straightforward, authentic Estonian cookery; salted whitefish with dried red onion; lamb tenderloin with juniper berry sauce. Interestingly, such twists and turns have only benefitted the restaurant, located in the Hotel Palace, which is constantly voted the country’s best.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.