For Estonians, newly reopened Tuljak is more than just a restaurant, it symbolizes the best of architecture and restaurant culture from the 1960s. The historic building is landmarked and was recently carefully renovated, preserving all original details, down to the interior design which is altogether period too. What makes this legendary restaurant special, in addition to its esthetics and the general nostalgia of it all, is its seaside location right by the Song Festival Grounds. During summer, guests can dine al fresco with a view of beautiful Tallinn Bay. Tuljak carries on the traditions of a classic restaurant; as a sign of respect to its dignified past, the menu includes the once popular club sandwich and a wide selection of mixed drinks. The cocktail culture was blooming already in the old Tuljak-days, under its new ownership it has reached next-level perfection. There’s a great array of old, original tipples, a fair selection of wines, as well as ciders and craft beer brewed exclusively for Tuljak. The food is as rich in details as the dining room is ‘60s sleek, presented in a lovely manner, technically thorough and balanced, it manages to surprise again and again. The bbq lamb is particularly tasty. Even the good old tiramisu takes an unprecedented and especially beautiful form. Tuljak’s signature dish is a sinful dessert with an unimaginative name: “Tubes” of chocolate and toffee spiked with cognac and Vana Tallinn liqueur. Thanks to its storied past, Tuljak is a very democratic eatery, guests include locals of course, as well as wistful older folks, international businesspeople, and families with children. Its dining room is always abuzz with that special Tuljak-sound––echoing laughter, conversation and clinking glasses, which proves its popularity as this buzz can only be created when the place is full, people feel good, and the service provides a sense of security. We’ve heard that beekeepers can tell whether a colony is healthy by listening to the bees’ buzzing. Based on this buzz, Tuljak is in great shape.
There is a man in Hardanger with a theory about the origins of the Basque apple tradition. It came from here, he would say, if you were to visit him in his apple garden in the innermost part of the fjord. “It was the Vikings who brought cider to the coast of the Basque country, after all the drinking and their anger towards the authorities forced them south.” Perhaps the Vikings also had something to do with the strange Basque habit of throwing everything on the floor. Txotx marks a closed circle. They are back, the old traditions of spontaneous fermentation and highly volatile cider, along with pieces of bread stuffed with dried cod, along with pimientos and anchovies, and pieces of octopus on a wooden stick. The long and narrow bar is a well suited for gatherings of friends and colleges out for a meal and drinks on a Friday night. A tartare of hand-cut beef, ceps and grated foie gras is more or less the epitome of umami. The mushrooms cooked in a jus of sherry and garlic topped with cheese is as delicious as it is drinkable. And the octopus in a spicy and acidic sauce would be a great dish after a wild on the town night, a pick-me-up for the clubbers and bar crawlers. Hestebeteak is Basque for cured meats, and we devour a plate of these delicacies as soon as the plate hits the table. Txoxt is true to its origins and to its inspiration, the white bread is the same high-density type that you find on the streets of San Sebastian. The drink menu has gems from the region like the young green wine txakoli, along with a great selection of ciders, and a quite respectable wine list that showcases the new wines of Spain.
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.