Vladimir Iljin, Chef de Cuisine at Mix, is one of those rare toques who is able to create something completely new by trusting himself. His menu fuses countries and continents, but does so through a personal taste-prism that exposes a soupçon of traditional Russian cuisine. The beverage selection complements the chef’s vision better every year, providing opportunities for excellent flavor- and texture combinations. Organic beet carpaccio with goat cheese cream and cashew nuts proves that point. Mix is one of Tallinn’s most rapidly developing restaurants. Years ago, as a newcomer, it had lots of ambition yet not enough ability to deliver. By now, there’s less bravado and the cooking is more mature. Take for instance the Saaremaa style baked wild boar with juniper berry sauce, a brilliant mix of deft cuisine and innovation. The current location, in the basement of a hotel is a bit too down-to-earth for the team’s creative spirit––it’s comfortable, functional, and in its modest way, even cozy, but doesn’t add anything to the experience. The service, however, has the kind of finesse you would never expect in this seemingly modest restaurant.
Chef Steffen Villadsen has been responsible for carrying on the proud traditions of Molskroen (Mols Inn) since the beginning of 2016. Lest there be any doubt, let us begin by saying that his high gastronomic ambitions have been realised to the fullest. With a style based on classic French cuisine, Villadsen innovatively combines ingredients in richly detailed and interesting new twists. The first course features Limfjord oysters, quickly fried to intensify the taste of the sea. Savoy cabbage, Høost cheese and toasted wheat berries add deep flavourful notes, while pickled green strawberries add a freshness that plays well against the exotic fruits of a Slovenian orange wine. The wine’s fine acidity and minerality stand up well to the lightly metallic flavour of the oysters. It’s an excellent and creative wine pairing from Restaurant Manager Karina Kannegaard, who came to Molskroen from S’vinbar in Aarhus, bringing with her a number of interesting bottles from the big city. Our waiter playfully “warns” us about the somewhat “nerdy” bottles, but we enjoy the personality, soul and strong storytelling behind the wines, as the small niche winemakers are nicely integrated into the overall composition of the wine menu. Coenobium, the monastery wine from Lazio, is fruity with slightly earthy mushroom notes, making it an excellent match with the next serving’s duxelles of mushrooms and onion. Underneath the duxelles is a piece of perfectly cooked line-caught cod with pickled gooseberries and intensely spiced, paper-thin, crispy slices of ventrèche. A marvellous fumet of smoked fish bones rounds out the excellent flavour of this dish. The service is razor sharp in its choreography where the food is paraded proudly to the table on high-raised platters by a small brigade of chefs. The professionalism shines through, but the chefs also bring the presentation down to earth with personal stories about everything from animal welfare to apprenticeship anecdotes. Exclusivity is evident in the decor, with golden copper lamps, light wooden floors and black wooden furniture with cognac leather. And although the service is often reminiscent of a fine French restaurant, the warm smiles of the wait staff remind us that we are still in Jutland after all. The main course is a cut of succulent rabbit saddle with fried foie gras, crisp pickled Nashi pear and a piquant Madagascar pepper glaze that provides a sharp contrast to the sweet pear and deliciously rich foie gras. Slightly bitter walnuts and fresh celery ensure that the dish touches on the full spectrum of tastes, resulting in perfect harmony. A visit to Molskroen is a consummate dining experience that expertly combines classic virtues with contemporary trends. Delicious flavours and French cuisine remain the solid foundation of the inn, even as refreshing new ideas from near and far wash in from Ebeltoft Bay.
In the midst of Mols Bjerge National Park lies the Friland eco-village, home to the vegetarian gourmet restaurant Moment since 2016. With new Head Chef René Warn, whose past experience includes a stint at Kommandanten in Copenhagen, the menu is light-years from simple salads. The flavours are full throttle, as techniques such as pickling, fermentation and smoking transform familiar vegetarian ingredients into intense new culinary experiences with depth and complexity. Slow-braised green cabbage has a caramelised, sweet depth, as juice from fermented cabbage gives the dish more power and balanced acidity. Le Sacre from Ebeltoft Bryghus, a fine and vinous beer from the drinks menu, does a good job of capturing both the fermented and fresh notes, but struggles a bit with the sweetness of the cabbage. The host couple, Morten and Rikke Storm Overgaard, are working the floor this evening. They share their expertise on ingredients, preparation and the wines in our glasses, while providing warm and welcoming hospitality. The restaurant is bright, with modern Nordic decor and a view of the somewhat futuristic greenhouse, where many of the kitchen’s ingredients are grown during the summer. The dessert nicely concludes a well-composed meal with a taste of sunny summer: pickled wild blueberries and a refreshing granité of aronia berries with crystallised white chocolate, caramel and rich, creamy sheep’s milk yoghurt topped with dried rosehip petals that give the dish a lightly perfumed and floral summer aroma. A meal at Restaurant Moment is a tour de force in vegetarian diversity with sustainable principles underlying the delicious cuisine on every plate.
People who leave Estonia to work in other European countries often complain upon returning that there are practically no restaurants in Estonia that serve traditional European cuisine prepared with care, and with basic yet excellent ingredients. Mon Ami, French for My Friend, located in Pärnu’s Frost Boutique Hotel is here to prove them wrong. The menu flaunts some of the classics of European cuisine, from quiche lorraine to moules marinières. Thursdays to Sundays this dear buddy shucks fresh oysters and serves them with champagne. Naturellement! It’s one of Pärnu’s only two eateries that indulge in that ultra-un-Estonian habit. Truth be told, you’d do good to have a little one night stand with Mon Ami, he’s best enjoyed while spending a night at the hotel, it ensures a truly unique Pärnu experience.
Mon Repos, located in a delightful old villa from 1870, is not one, but two restaurants; upstairs a chef’s table tasting menu-affair, downstairs a lively bistro where Chef Vladislav Djatšuk conjures the flavors of Kadriorg’s golden age while utilizing contemporary cooking techniques and exciting discoveries from kitchens near and far. In the summer, the restaurant offers al fresco dining at the edge of Kadriorg Park, though the environs merit a visit year round.
Mon Repos, a duo of dining options in a pristine, old wooden villa, has an illustrious past. Back in roaring 1921-22 it was a decadent restaurant with a renowned chef who trained at St. Petersburg’s Imperial Court and a bartender plucked from London’s Savoy Hotel. Mon Repos, French for My Rest, was a den of vices, offering repose from humdrum daily life with a lively cabaret scene and a casino too. Sadly, the cops put an end to this gaiety in 1922 when a raid exposed moonshine and gambling. Quel domage! The homonymous eateries occupying the same locale since October 2016 are just a bit more serious. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The building from 1870 has been respectfully renovated, preserving its original integrity; it blends beautifully with the neighboring historical Kadriorg Park, which, incidentally, is great for a post-prandial walk. The golden age of Kadriorg has obviously been a source of inspiration for the ground floor bistro where the menu matches the old-world exterior. The first floor, on the other hand, is completely modern, with minimalist décor and fashion photographer Toomas Volkmann’s dynamic images on the walls; an austerity that perfectly spotlights Chef Vladislav Djatšuk’s artful cuisine. He’s known both for working at Tchaikovsky, one of the country’s top restaurants, and for representing Estonia in the 2009 Bocuse d’Or finale. Choose between the four- or the six-course menus and let the sommelier suggest appropriate wine pairings, if you wish to conjure some of yesteryear’s excess. It’s a rare treat to taste cooking contest dishes; wild Scottish salmon is the dish Djatšuk prepared for the Bocuse d’Or in Stavanger. Anchoring the highly imaginative cooking, the wine pairings lean toward the traditional.
One of the friendliest restaurants in Lithuania––the staff at Monai greets every guest as if they were family––is also one of the most fast paced dining experiences in the country, serving up a three course meal, bookended by an aperitif and an after dinner drink, in less than an hour. The three waiters work at a dizzying speed, appearing to constantly be in two places at the same time, darting from table to kitchen where the pace is equally frenzied. Guests come and go at a frantic rate, bringing to mind some lesser establishments that cater to fast food fiends. Don’t let them stress you, Monai deserves to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The tuna tartar is a house specialty, uniquely flavored with herbs and accompanied by marinated radishes, the halibut is a frequently recommend main course; crispy on the outside, with a melting interior, served with zucchini, potatoes, and butter sauce. It’s very homey, yet all dishes exhibit intense flavors. Don’t miss Monai’s own strawberry jam tea, it’s straight up jam in hot water, the taste, however, stays with you until breakfast the next day.
What a difference a year makes. 365 little days. Last time we dined at Monte Pacis, it was memorable enough, the restaurant, housed in a functioning monastery complex, and left a solid, serious impression, just like a monastery should. The food was tasty, though the service was a little distant. Vowing to try it again we returned a year later to find it just as we remembered, the same monastery, with the same atmosphere. Yet when the waiter brought the menu and placed a basket of irresistibly fragrant, freshly baked bread on the table we noticed the first big change: ebullience and an eagerness to communicate with the guests. All distance gone, the waiter recommended cocktails and chatted up the drinks menu, which features a few rare monastery wines and some more familiar monastery brews; local berry wines, and craft beers. At night, the restaurant now offers a three- or nine-course surprise menu. “Surprise” meaning that the guests won’t know what is served until the food lands on the table. During the day, however, there is a prix fix menu with three- or four courses as well as a short à la carte selection. The restaurant has clearly taken a very long step forward in the past year. Perhaps even a leap! A dish modestly named Mushroom consists of boletus, chanterelle and marinated mushroom purée. You can order it as an appetizer, or you can add mushroom broth and the solid starter turns into a soup. This playful element is entertaining enough, the real leap though, is in the flavors. Bread and Carrots is an inventive dessert with a starter dough cream, carrot sorbet and foam, and apples; note that pastry chefs are not common in this country. The establishment’s previous sous chef, Rokas Vasiliauskas, has graduated to head toque, bringing about noticeable change. Monte Pacis’ beverage pairings have also bounced forward. The top-notch prosecco from Cartizze mountain grapes harmonizes perfectly with the dessert’s caramel notes. It’s presented in a goblet! If you’re lucky, the sommelier will regal you with an apple ice wine from Lithuanian wine master Gintaras Sinas. In 1968, the American athlete Robert Beamon shook the world by jumping 55 centimeters beyond the previous world record. As a restaurant, Monte Pacis has achieved something similar compared to our previous experiences here. Impressive!
Two of Estonia’s best chefs, cooking traditional Russian cuisine, side by side in a family restaurant that is so much more than just another eatery, it’s a home, offering not only hearty food and drink but also well-being. While Moon’s kitchen is helmed by Roman Zaštšerinski and Igor Andrejev, the front of house is run by Jana Zaštšerinski, who makes everyone feel like family. The first half of Moon’s menu––starters, snacks and soups––is classic; buckwheat blinis with caviar, dumplings, herring tartar, borscht and uhhaa fish soup. It’s in the main courses that Zaštšerinski and Andrejev show their real creativity, tweaking time-honored dishes in exciting ways; Chicken à la Kiev comes with a kohlrabi-spinach salad and hazelnut dressing, roast duck is brightened by Dijon mustard, carrot puree and ginger sauce, a lamb patty is dressed up with Israeli couscous, tzatziki, eggplant puree and minty wine sauce. The desserts are also inspired by old recipes but as with the mains, Moon manages to conjure new, clean and deep flavors from rather common ingredients. Pastry Chef Ljuda Sarnavskaya’s pies are by now legendary and there’s an excellent pavlova with passionfruit and sea buckthorn ice cream, also giving a nod to the Russian theme. The beverage list supports the dishes well, with suggestions for every taste; ecological, biodynamic and kosher drinks, craft beers and ciders. The non-alcoholic selection is also wide; from spruce sprout-, apple-, orange and sea buckthorn juices, to kombucha.
Morten Nielsen is celebrating 20 years as a restaurateur in Aalborg; and from the very first popping of inaugural corks, his ambition has been to position the restaurant at the upper echelon of the city’s gastronomic establishments. Extensive elbow grease has gone into creating a cosmopolitan milieu that stands out from Aalborg’s other restaurants. Cream-coloured leather, purple neon, an Uncle Scrooge painting and lounge versions of such classics as the Temptations’ “My Girl” are just a taste of the sensory input in the dimly lit, cave-like restaurant – a David Lynchian hybrid of dream and reality. With precision, credibility and a well-measured formal distance, Morten himself orchestrates the evening’s meal. Surprisingly, the oeuvre of snacks, bubbles and bread receives a taciturn presentation amounting only to a quick mention that the bread is “warm” and nary a word about the champagne. We move on to the evening’s menu, where the best dish is a cut of perfectly fried wolf-fish fillet garnished with creamy saffron barley risotto, perfectly acidic sauce nage and al dente cabbage; the pairing of an oily, floral viognier fits the cabbage like a glove and brings us to a state of bliss. A luxurious serving of poached cockerel, sauce suprême of crème fraîche, goose liver and cognac with shaved winter truffle is just as classic as a Mercedes 350SL cabriolet and evokes sentimentality for Larousse Gastronomique and a bygone era. The richness could have been broken up by something crisp, but the balance and completeness are fortunately consolidated by a cool, acidic pinot from Santa Barbara. The old-school style continues with a veal fillet flambé, carved at our table. The accompaniments of creamy potato purée, glossy veal demi-glace and a thick basil sauce are flawless and seamlessly intertwine with the bacony and peppery California shiraz from Coppola; although the portion is more than generous, this overly safe dish lacks a few innovative and enthralling elements. This issue is obliterated by the myriad inventive and affable options on the cocktail menu, which you absolutely must dabble in before calling for the bill.
Mosaiik, in Kuressaare on Saaremaa Island, is a multi-faceted restaurant that offers delicious refreshments for breakfast as well as relaxing late night cocktails. The menu is long and interesting enough to warrant frequent visits. Flavors are authentic, traditional and ingredients are locally sourced. Some dishes come with little tricks or surprises, others offer classic combinations. Together, they make up a mosaic of different textures, tastes and aromas. Goat cheese with beet hummus, roasted carrot and green salad; Saaremaa pork belly with slow cooked cabbage, fried onion aioli and parsnip cream. The kitchen works hard on plating and makes an effort to create a pleasant atmosphere. Great food and refreshing drinks have a way of making guests linger for a long time, yet as soon as one party leaves the next one rolls in and takes its place. Mosaiik is always busy, it keeps twisting and turning itself in a mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic fashion.
Golf is a peculiar game. An old game with new clubs and top-notch equipment acquired every year. Immediately after opening at the Otepää Golf Club, Mr Jakob saw to it that it was titled the best golf restaurant in Estonia, without needing anyone to actually give the title. And the restaurant is nowhere near surrendering it to somebody else.
The restaurant is located in an ultramodern golf building and invites visitors to reminisce about historical values, as well as to keep them in mind. At first glance, the antiquities placed almost randomly here and there in the interior raise questions, which are then answered when the food arrives. Mr Jakob’s dishes are rustic and in the modern interior of the restaurant, act as an old Shepherd’s crook next to the latest golf club.
People who are better acquainted with golf equipment know what they are talking about when they say that these old wooden sticks are surprisingly not far behind top technological clubs in simulator comparison. The men of Mr Jakob know what they are doing.
If you continue along the quay, so far that the indistinct signage makes you think you made a wrong turn, you will soon find yourself at the epicentre of Finland’s wild flavours. It’s a rather unexpected location for such an extraordinary restaurant experience, a stone’s throw from the moored cruise liners with their giant smorgasbords. At Nokka they make it clear early on that the kitchen adheres exactly to seasonal variations and is dependent on what they receive from small-scale suppliers, both in terms of animals and vegetables. This sets the tone for the two set menus, one of which is vegan. The first courses look confusingly similar. The omnivore’s dish, smoked pike with its roe, has a strangely delicious saltiness under pickled radishes, brightened up by a bowl of tarragon-laced cucumber salad as ice cold as the ocean outside. On the vegan dish the fish has been replaced by pieces of porcini. The pairing of a six-year-old, oak-barrel-aged, cognac-scented and white grenache from Montsant is more interesting than good. But the non-alcoholic pairing is perfectly on point: a lightly spiced sparkling beverage made of black currant leaves meets a small caramelized onion with browned butter and crispy “muesli”. At Nokka they are proud to have their own fisherman, who has provided the pike for the main course, which has been pan-fried with honour and comes with vegetable “cannelloni” and a potato croquette to suck up the creamy and tart sauce. The passion-fruit-flavoured sauvignon blanc from New Zealand is a fresh exception to the wine list that is primarily dominated by the Old World. Though the food is finely nuanced it’s never pretentious in this former warehouse on the harbour. It’s warm and inviting here, between the brick walls, with a full view of the kitchen where the happy cooks have eschewed knitted hats in favour of baseball caps. The staff are in a really good mood when the dining room is filled with tourists from far away, often from Japan and the United States, sitting side by side with jubilant large family gatherings. Over elderflower granite served in the restaurant’s obligatory carved wooden box we discuss how rare it is at a restaurant of this calibre to find the kind of generosity they exhibit in switching out dishes on the fixed menus. The food odyssey is rounded off with riches from “the land of a thousand lakes” in the form of a milk chocolate with gooseberries.
Muusu is in a snug, typical two-story building on Skarnu street, just steps away from the Musicians of Bremen-monument and St. Peter’s Church, it’s one of the capital’s most unique restaurants. Tranquil and elegant interiors emphasize the kitchen’s gastronomic aims; impeccably sharp flavors and a remarkable respect for ingredients are top priorities. Dishes marked with an «m» are highly recommended as they’re prepared with local ingredients. Perfectly al-dente black ravioli with eel is one that’s definitely worth trying. Goose liver velouté, Jerusalem artichoke mousse and coal-oven roasted eel are also great choices if you’d like to get acquainted with Chef Kaspars Jansons and his carefully sourced products. Another well-executed starter is the smoke-cured river trout, here served with tomato tartare, ricotta, capers flowes, and a 64-degree egg. Main courses are meat-heavy, from leg of lamb with roasted beets, to duck breast, simmered in red wine, and served with a parade of wheat berries, plum, cloudberry, sea buckthorn, carrots and salsify. Fish lovers would do well to opt for Latvian sturgeon or catfish. Good to know: Muusu’s popular business lunch is served from 12.00 to 4 pm, there’s an abbreviated menu until 6 pm, after which they roll out the full à la carte arsenal.
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.