That Little Bit Extra – Restaurant Trühvel, Tallinn, Estonia

In the heart of Telliskivi Creative City, a little ways from Tallinn’s Old Town, there’s a restaurant that lures you by their attention to detail. With impeccable service and food to salivate for, the whole package is enough to take you that extra mile.

Cold, acidic sorbet lines the palate up for the mains.
Cold, acidic sorbet lines the palate up for the mains

In true Mediterranean style, the menu consists of starters, soups, pasta, risotto, mains and of course desserts. But with a definite Estonian twist. Before anything else happens, we’re presented with an amuse bouche of citrus fruit hiding a creamy mousse, compliments of the kitchen, a perfect awakener with the Jacquart champagne at a mere €7,50/glass. My starter of Vitello Tonnato has the usual pink veal with smooth tuna sauce but it’s the roasted nuts and big capers that steps up to the plate. The crusty toast adds crunch to this delicious dish. My partner’s seafood risotto is just as it should be with flakes of Grana Padano cheese to top it off. But before we can go on, we of course need a palate cleanser of green apple sorbet doused in fresh Prosecco. This again is on the house.

Vitello Tonnato as it should be
Vitello Tonnato as it should be

The wine list is vast and you can find everything from Margaux to our less pricey Valdivieso Cabernet Franc from Chile which vies for attention with my veal cheek and crispy sweetbreads resting nicely on sweet potatoes with a red wine sauce slightly spiked with cinnamon. It could do with a bit more acidity and turns out slightly bland for my taste but then it would be hard to do better than my starter. The duck confit however, is a mouthful of perfection and couldn’t disappoint even the fussiest of gourmands.

Veal cheek with sweetbreads
Veal cheek with sweetbreads

We’re too eloquently satisfied to order dessert but they bring us home made truffle chocolates anyway and the bill puts a smile on your face.

Ambience: Colourful, clean style

Food: Italian with Estonian inspiration

Prices: Starters around €8,50, mains approx. €16

Service: Attentive, warm

Wines: Excellent, wide selection including champagne by the glass

My rating: 8+/10

Link:

Restaurant Trühvel

FARM – Serious Farmhouse Style

Tones of earthy beige, scenes of stuffed warthogs feasting with foxes and beavers, chandeliers that add a touch of class and overstuffed shelves with classic farmhouse staples is what greets you when you enter this restaurant in Tallinn’s Old Town. It’s big, just like a farmhouse kitchen, and there’s an open range where the chefs cook and cavort but all of this is so stylish and so well done creating that cosy, warm feeling of belonging.

Feast with wild abandon - taxidermy at Farm Restaurant
Feast with wild abandon – taxidermy at Farm Restaurant

Attention to detail is evident. Menus look handwritten and are tied together with string. The rabbit liver paté I order comes in a small jam jar and is scooped out with a spoon on to the crisp toast. The combination of creamy, nutty, elegant paste is complemented by chokeberry onion marmalade with a hint of sweetness, a hint of sour. The texture of this dish is balanced and the flavours are just remarkable. The Paul Mas Chardonnay from Languedoc works but it’s the Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir that really does the trick with this dish with its light, juiciness and overtones of pepper.

Your typical farmhouse shelf adds to the ambience
Your typical farmhouse shelf adds to the ambience

The waiter is attentive, shows sincere concerns on whether you like this and asks his colleague if he forgets the name of a certain ingredient. They’ve obviously been trained well, not too much, not too little.

Rabbit liver paté in a jar
Rabbit liver paté in a jar

The red deer from Saaremaa is perfectly pink and rests on a bed of wild mushroom orsoto, a type of risotto with kernels slightly larger reminiscent of bulgur. I take a bite of gooseberry, bitter and sour and not at all to my liking. But then I mix it with a bit of the creamy orsoto and top it with a slice of red deer and it’s exactly what you need for that lift of acidity that transforms bland to bloody good. Red deer is similar to what we commonly know as roe deer. The meat is lean and the flavour is mild compared to elk but its taste is unique in its refinement. The juniper wine sauce adds that vital tartness to complete the dish. My choice of wine Raimat Abadia Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo 2013 is heavy enough to carry it through to a satisfying wholeness of flavours.

Succulent Red Deer from Saaremaa Island, Estonia
Succulent Red Deer from Saaremaa Island, Estonia

The wine list, by the glass anyway, is disappointing. If you offer me a glass of Zonin Prosecco one more time instead of a decent champagne or cava as an aperitif, you might find yourself with one less customer. Why, when small bottles of champagne are readily available?

The exclusive use of local ingredients is really pleasing and it shows in the freshness of the flavours. The price is so worthy of a mention too. The entire meal, and I forgot to mention the homemade bread with home made butter, including a gin and tonic for starters, cost €44.

Ambience: Light, cosy, stylish

Food: Local Estonian ingredients, game, wholesome

Prices: Dead reasonable for top quality

Service: Attentive, warm

Wines: Disappointing selection by the glass

Drinks: Non-alcoholic homemade lemonade

My rating: 8/10

Links:

Farm Restaurant

Kolm Sibulat – Three Onions in Tallinn, Estonia

‘Fusion confusion’ is how the chefs at this trendy restaurant in not-so-trendy Telliskivi describe their food.

They change the menu as the mood suits them, every month or so and of course depending on the popularity of the dishes. I’m glad to hear this since I would go back time after time for both the starter and main course I had there.

The interior is chic, cosy and child-friendly
The interior is chic, cosy and child-friendly

The noodle dish is a cross between Ramen and Pho soup, their own version of herbs, seafood or meat and homemade noodles in a broth that complements the ingredients perfectly. My pork belly version (€8) has a smokey, earthy taste to it while my companion’s prawn one (€8) is light and fresh. They ask us whether we want coriander, we reply ‘of course!’ with furrowed brows. Who wouldn’t want it? Both are brimming with taste and the portions are in ample supply.

Pork belly noodle soup with  a poached egg and home made noodles
Pork belly noodle soup with a poached egg and home made noodles
Firm prawns with plenty of greens and noodles in a light broth
Firm prawns with plenty of greens and noodles in a light broth

I am somewhat satiated after that but it doesn’t stop me from ordering a second course ‘just to try, you know.’ And I’m glad I did. The marinated seafood (€12) consisting of prawns, mussels and octopus is warm and full of flavour and the bed of salad with basil vinaigrette is so crispy and good it pops off the plate. A’s duck (€13) is done to perfection, a rosé colour with a slight sweetness from the oriental plum sauce and the parsnip purée it’s served on.

Marinated seafood salad, hot and cold with plenty of crunch
Marinated seafood salad, hot and cold with plenty of crunch
Perfect rosé duck with oriental plum sauce
Perfect rosé duck with oriental plum sauce

My choice of Oraison Côtes-du-Rhône goes down smoothly and comes at great value, €22.

The two head chefs, Igor and Roman, have a history of fine dining and it shows. Kolm Sibulat is the baby brother of their first successful venture Moon, also in an off-the-beaten-track location. In their own words, “It’s easier to raise the second child and so we decided to go ahead and broaden our horizons since even the most talented artist gets bored painting the sea over and over again.”

Ambience: Homely, child-friendly

Décor: chic and clever

Food: 9/10

Wine list: 7/10 (I would have preferred more of a sparkling wine collection)

Service: 10/10

Recommendation: When in Tallinn, go!

Reservations: A must

Links:

Kolm Sibulat

Kohvik Moon

Noa – Tallinn Restaurants

I was so looking forward to it, had heard so much about it, hopped on Bus 1A at the Viru Centre and set off for Noa, a good 10 km from Tallinn centre right on the shoreline. The boys and I were upbeat and positive. This was going to be something special.

Rekku and I
Yours truly and Rekku toasting the night.

And it was. A lovely milieu in an even lovelier setting overlooking the bay and the lights of the city. The drinks are served with a care and a smile My coupe of Deutz is a delight and the price is reasonable at €11. I’m not hungry enough for a starter but my companions dig in to cabbage with nuts, garlic and sesame sauce and potato-herring mix with tiramisu cream. The cabbage turns out to be the best choice with plenty of crunch and flavouring to awaken your appetite. The herring, although beautiful on a wooden platter, is salty, fishy (yeah, yeah I know it’s fish!) and misses the actual flavour of the fish.

Cabbage starter
Cabbage with cucumber, nuts, algae, garlic and sesame sauce

The Pinot Noir from Maison Louis Jadot, Burgundy, is however perfect for the fish and with its peppery notes works well with my main, Black Piglet with fermented cucumber. Unfortunately the piglet has seen the inside of the stove for too long and turns out to be dry, lacking taste. Rekku’s prawns in chilli sauce are floury and not firm enough to be counted as fresh and my son’s fried white fish is ok, nothing more.

Starter
Herring-potato starter

Go for the setting and service but don’t count on the food.

Ambience: Buzzy, relaxed, smiley

Food: Modern Estonian

Prices: Reasonable, perhaps slightly upmarket for Tallinn

Service: Professional, caring

Wines: Small wine list but well chosen

Drinks: Noa beer is hoppy and comes highly recommended

Links:

Noa – http://www.noaresto.ee/en

Tallinn restaurants: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g274958-Tallinn_Harju_County.html

Indian in Tallinn – Estonian restaurants

The filigree rickety spiral staircase takes you to the first floor where this spacious restaurant unfolds. You get it, the minute you step in, there’s something quite different about this place and when you read the story on the menu, the full picture emerges. The jazzman in the picture looks you right in the eye and grimaces. The music you hear is probably not played by the band you imagine and the walls and floors are ‘ecologically clean’. The waiting staff actually talk to you, they don’t only smile at you.

2014-11-02 17.50.01

Elevant is Calcutta street food cum North Indian homemade dishes cum ayurveda medicine. I’m not so hungry after the elk soup at lunchtime (see below) and I settle for a Sabzi Pakora, vegetables in crunchy chickpea batter while my cohort digs in to Gosht Saag, lamb and spinach curry. The naan that comes with it is fluffy and buttery. He washes it down with an Icelandic beer called Einstök while my housewife of Spanish Verdejo is perfect for my needs and wants.

 2014-11-02 16.59.40

When the waiter arrives with the bill, it’s neatly encased in a little box, something I’ve noticed several times in Tallinn. Estonians have a knack for detail, turning what could be a mess hall into a homey dining hall, adding just that appropriate decoration for that spot, enchanting you with their creativity. Elevant is just such a place.

 2014-11-02 17.44.01

 

 

Elk Soup Viking Style – Culinary Delights in Tallinn, Estonia

You’ve stepped into a time machine when you’ve finally beaten the queue at Draakon, a hole in the wall of the imposing Town Hall on the square in the Old Town of Tallinn. It’s dark inside, really dark, so dark that your eyes need to adjust and re-adjust to see the difference between a €5 note and a tenner. The ladies behind the counter are well, you’d like to call them buxom but that they’re definitely not, only with the attitude that goes with buxomness! They’re smiley enough but they do insist on you cleaning up your own mess by depositing your bowls in the designated basket after your meal.

2014-11-02 12.21.02

There’s elk soup and pastries filled with apple, cabbage, elk, mushrooms, spinach and probably carrot as well. There’s mulled wine, there may even be beer but this is pretty much the sum total of what you might find on the menu. When I asked for a spoon, the raucous laughter shut me up and made me dive into a dark corner to slurp my soup in silence! And delicious it was only to be matched by the crispy, freshly-baked pastries in their wood-burning oven. I declined the gherkins which were complimentary and could be speared with a stick from a barrel. A decent bowl of mulled wine finished it all off nicely and made my tummy so full that I felt like burping which probably wouldn’t have been out of place. Even my purse was still quite full since the cost amounted to a royal €10 for a big soup, 2 pastries and the wine. This is Viking Estonia at its best.

2014-11-02 12.20.06