You have two choices here: raucous gastro-pub vibes and majestic views of St. Peter’s Church or formal dining in a more muted atmosphere: The former is on the ground floor, the latter on the first, both serve the same food, both are located in Riga’s new, ambitious Redstone Boutique Hotel. St. Petrus’ young chef, Maksims Cekots, has considerable experience from restaurant kitchens abroad. Perhaps this explains his distinct culinary style and use of local ingredients. Lightly salted sturgeon, marinated pumpkin, and mushrooms form a delightful, hearty combo, much like the cream of mushroom soup with blackberries and lentils. If you prefer meat there’s a lovely selection of cuts that get fired up in the Josper grill, all are served with various sides and sauces. This restaurant-newcomer stands out with its bold experimentation and prejudice-free attitude toward food and drink. St. Petrus is like a young wine with good potential, it might just benefit from some maturing in the cellar
We’re pretty sure, no actually we’re totally convinced that there is no other restaurant like this on the face of this earth. Sure, the world is big ,things keep repeating themselves; imitations beget copies. But, we are still persuaded we’re right. Nothing rivals the whacko-playful interiors and the top-notch cuisine at Tai Boh. Come and see for yourself! The first impulse that strikes you when entering the classic wooden building is to turn around and leave. There’s no way this staircase could possibly lead to a restaurant, it looks like the entrance to bohemian artist’s studio. It might take time to warm up to, and perhaps a minute to settle down and relax in this eccentric milieu, yet we know you’ll be coming back for more very soon again. Tai Boh’s cross-over Asian food has a calming effect from the first bite of the first dish. Those extremely spicy notes that Thai and Indian cooking are famous for have been adjusted to appeal to Nordic palates, they’re dialed down to reflect the chillier surroundings, but rest assured, they’re not dumbed down. Start off with one of the house signature cocktails, they’re wonders of balanced flavors and contrast marvelously with the psychedelic décor. Continue with some gyoza or a beef tataki, then move on to a Thai green- or panang chicken curry, and finish off with a pineapple carpaccio. Or, if the choices are too daunting, opt for one of the tasting menus. There is also a vegetarian menu if you’d rather go that route. Just please don’t miss this fun-house.
The one-man restaurant Tammuri is slowly but surely changing the notions and behaviour of Estonians. About two or three years ago, many chose not to visit the farm because it was unheard of for a farm restaurant not to patiently wait for its patrons all day long with a pot of porridge ready on the fire.
People were cautious of the fact that one man prepares all the dishes primarily from what he grows or picks from the forest himself. But Erki did it. There are no more random visitors in Tammuri.
Tammuri is a place for the most interesting culinary tales in Estonia, as the chef is intimately familiar with every crumb, flake, and sprout on the plate. Even the drinks to accompany the food are chosen or made by Erki himself.
“Homemade, well made,” says an old Estonian proverb. Nowadays, it is not always the case, but when it comes to food, it definitely is.
The atmosphere is fun, the crowd is cheerful and the oysters are fresh. The interior is playful yet stylish with plenty of amusing details. Popular restaurants have been located at this address for over 50 years and restaurateurs Ville Relander and Richard McCormick have been running the business since 2015. The menu contains worldwide influences and its fair share of crowd-pleasers. Beef tartare is served with egg yolk and frisée salad, and seasoned with dried horseradish – a simple presentation with rich flavours. A classic, perfectly cooked steak-frites needs some more seasoning, but it is accompanied by a delicious béarnaise sauce with fresh acidity and coarsely chopped tarragon. Innovative and classic cocktails are available at the bar along with a focused selection of wines. The tasty food is on an even keel, but the main attraction is the ambiance and the restaurant’s distinctive personality.
Until recently, Tallinn did not have much in the way of Asian restaurants, but then TOA came along and changed everything. The repurposed old warehouse seems the ideal location for a restaurant keen to experiment. TOA doesn’t claim to offer authentic Asian food, but rather their own interpretation of it. Don’t mistake that for caution, though: the kitchen is not afraid to use chilli, and dishes like the crispy cod or Vietnamese-style chicken wings are bursting with flavour. The beef tartare, though beautifully presented, is a bit unbalanced both in terms of flavour and textures, but the coconut curry (which comes with a choice of meat or fish) packs a nice chilli punch. The open kitchen allows you to watch a line of cooks in sleek black outfits prepare and endless array of colourful dishes. TOA’s cocktail list, including the currently fashionable extensive selection of G&Ts, is worth lingering over.
This is a nice place to visit throughout the year. The restaurant opened a couple of years ago in this old but renovated and colorful house located in the farm town of Selfoss, which has a long and remarkable history. It is nice to sit down beside the salmon-filled Ölfusá River after an hour’s drive from the capital. You relax right away. The service is friendly and you feel right at home. The langoustine bisque is a typical dish for this area, even though it is not close to the sea. It’s served neatly on a vintage-looking plate, and it’s hot and nice. The slow-cooked pork with pear and crispy prosciutto is a well-balanced dish. The main dishes, a vegetable dish with cabbage and carrots and slow-cooked wild salmon from the river nearby, are nice and natural. Tryggvaskáli is a good choice to stop for lunch, dinner or even just a cup of coffee or a beer on the terrace, which is open in the summer. It’s also a perfect place for large groups of people as they also have several different dining rooms.
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.
The white villa sits majestically in an old apple orchard. Inside, the house is buzzing with energy. Friendly servers hurry you to your table while balancing drink trays. The semi-open kitchen is brimming with activity; gurgling pots, hissing pans, and aromas that waft through the dining room, prompting you to exclaim “I’ll have that”. Umami doesn’t try or even pretend to be an Asian-style restaurant. The chefs just like to experiment with bold and daring flavors. Hints of coriander, soy, ginger, wakame can be found in many of dishes, complementing salads or delicate pieces of marinated fish. But, it would be unfair to say that Umami’s cuisine stops at Asian. Latin accents turn up unexpectedly in dishes like green peas with guasacaca or ramson chimichurri. The drinks list is equally daring, with many local beers as well as interesting Old- and New World wines, selected by the restaurant’s sommelier co-owner Kristjan Peäske. This child-friendly restaurant doesn’t eliminate the possibility for a romantic evening either as there are numerous, intimate tables for two.
Restaurant and wine bar Umb Roht was a hit from the moment it opened. The staff’s incredible enthusiasm, coupled with the innovative food and drink contribute to making this quite a scene. The menu (five starters, five mains and five desserts) changes often enough to lure the regulars back again and again; creamy celeriac soup with Roman cauliflower, carrot oil and buckwheat crisp; pork belly with enoki mushrooms, white truffle, white asparagus and rhubarb broth; birch jelly with redcurrant, gooseberry, birch leaves and chickpea meringue. All paired with an excellent wine selection, which is kept semi-secret as it’s never published on Umb Roht’s website, making each visit an exciting blind date with the (Coravin preserved) drink. And if wine isn’t the order of the day, then the cocktail menu is sure to do the trick, co-owner Karl Astok is one of Estonia’s top mixologists. Umb Roht is a thief of time, people often pop in for one glass of wine and end up getting another, and yet another, staying longer than anticipated. Be sure to order your dishes the same way, one by one. Even starters are so generous that you might not want a second course. The unique and cozy courtyard is Tartu’s most popular place for al fresco dining during the summer season.
Villa Wesset was once a private home, occupied by the owner of Progress, a confectionary factory established at the beginning of the 20th century. The solid brick building underwent massive renovations ten years ago when it was turned into a hotel, its spacious terrace a beacon of sorts that can almost be spotted from the other side of Pärnu. Progress is a spot-on word to describe the food currently served in the hotel’s restaurant. Young Chef Mart Kukk has found a fresh and surprising approach to reinventing traditional Estonian dishes, picking them apart and piecing them back together in ingenious ways. The trusty staple of pea soup is here called Smoked Rib and Pea, it’s disassembled into single ingredients, and presented with some new and surprising details. Tableside, the smoked rib broth is joined by semi-dried tomato and peanuts, making for an entirely new mélange. The classic pork with sauerkraut has also undergone some changes, morphing into a novelty with slow-cooked ribs, pickled cabbage, corn and wine sauce. There is only a soupçon of the old there to give you a hint of where the chef found his ideas. Villa Wesset’s restaurant gives you a glimpse of where new Estonian cuisine is going. The Progress confectionary was nationalized in the 1940s and subsequently fell into oblivion, Chef Kukk is bringing back its sweet legacy with panache.
It’s not rocket science. All you need is a great ambiance and cheap wine. That’s why Vina Studija is perpetually crowded, cozy and noisy, it’s the living room you always wanted, a social gathering place where you can hang out with your friends over a glass or three, and even if you loitered here every day you’d still discover new things. The wine selection is varied enough that you can go from white to red, to rosé and back again, all during one meal. That’s if you’re even here for the food. There are small, sharable plates like tuna tartare with avocado and lemon sauce, goose liver pâté and moules marinières, the menu is created to complement the wine, not vice versa, and there’s a separate a wine shop, with very decent prices.
Wöse is the latest addition to the restaurants that are popping up around the country’s small ports and welcoming seafaring visitors with increasingly more delicious fare. Hungry travelers would do well to disembark in Kaberneeme, Dirhami or Võsu where they’ll find fine examples of what Estonia is cooking up right now. Upon taking a seat at Wöse in Võsu, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re still somewhere out on the Baltic ocean as the restaurant is surrounded by water. Mart Klaas, who made Tallinn’s Art Priori one of the country’s best restaurants, helms the kitchen, using locally sourced ingredients. He offers a simple summer menu, and amps things up in the wintertime when the restaurant is open only during weekends, making it extra worthwhile to drive here from the city. If you notice roe deer on the menu, be sure to try it. The entire animal carcass is brought to the restaurant and cooked in its entirety, from nose to tail. The fish dishes don’t disappoint either.
It’s not easy to find Ööbiku Gastronomy Farm in the Rapla County forests, but it certainly deserves the nearly hour-long drive from Tallinn. It’s a pleasant journey through bucolic pastures, affording a glimpse of authentic Estonian country life. When Chef Ants Uustalu bought the farm in Kuimetsa village he intended to use it as a summer residence. That plan changed rather suddenly as he discovered the immense bounty of quality ingredients growing all around him––most of it destined for personal consumption, with some “leftovers” quickly finding their way into Uustalu’s kitchen. And thus a true farm-to-table restaurant was born, with sustainability on the agenda, still utilizing the “cultivated rejects” that the farmers themselves don’t want. It took a mere couple of years for Uustalu’s life to change significantly; people are now coming to him, instead of the other way around, what used to be a summer restaurant is a year-round venture that also arranges events and seminars. Ööbiku offers a five-course tasting dinner Mondays through Saturdays, and ditto brunch on Sundays. The guests don’t find out what is on the menu until they are seated at the table. Suffice to know that it’s going to be organic, local and made with country charm.
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.