This is a "thank you" post to my parents, who generously sponsored my birthday dinner in Tallinn, Estonia, last weekend.
Not wanting to squander the opportunity to wander off our normal travel budget, I did some digging around before picking Restaurant Ö, based on a recommendation by Estonian food blog Nami-Nami.
Restaurant Ö is an up and coming establishment cheffed by Roman Zastserinski, who is dedicated to bold and beautiful experiments based on what's local and seasonal in Estonia and among its Nordic neighbours. The experiments are evidently successful -- he and the restaurant have been picking up accolades like the locals pick up mushrooms this time of year.
We open with a Poltsamaa martini -- an apple martini with an orange rind twist. I'm liking this place already.
A bread basket comes around, along with a dollop of lovely herby soft cheese.
A little pre-starter from the house: White-fish caviar with cauliflower cream; and beetroot broth. The briny fish eggs were a brilliant splash against the (in this case appropriately) bland cauliflower canvas.
Starters: Scallops with beetroot and fried cheese; amazing king crab with quail eggs (with diabolically soft boiled yolks!) and rhubarb batons.
Intermission: A little palette cleanser from the house -- green apple and pine shoot sorbet. We throw a little local Viiru Valge vodka into the mix.
Absolutely superb. A spa treatment in a saucer. I was tempted to plop some of the sorbet into the vodka, just for kicks (I love a boozy slushy) ... but out of respect decided to leave tonight's experimentations to the chef.
The mains: Rabbit in little fillets, and mixed in with apple and poppyseeds in a tart, with chanterelle sauce.
Pigeon and piglet confit. Perhaps an unusual observation, but given how geogeously luxe the pigeon and pork belly were, what really jumped out was the cabbage, which was pretty much uninterfered with. It was a wonderful counter-balance. Given the central placement of the cabbage on the platter, is it waxing too lyrical to suppose that the pigeon and pork were actually a reverse-psychology backdrop to showcase the humble cabbage -- a staple everywhere in Eastern Europe -- as the true centrepiece?
Dessert: Chocolate fondant, with sea-buckthorn ice-cream. I ordered it mostly because I had absolutely no idea what sea-buckthorn was.
Turns out it's a tart, citrussy berry jam-packed with vitamin C. I went back through my archives and realised I had taken a photo of sea-buckthorn berries at the Central Market in Riga, Latvia, not having any idea what they were (see photo below). So this turned out to be a lovely Estonian take on the traditional combination of chocolate and orange.
All in all, a terribly tasty way to turn 31 in Tallinn.