I am very lucky that part of my job includes restaurant reviews, so I have tasted my fair share of meals at restaurants throughout Estonia. Many of my relatives and friends have asked me where to eat while in Tallinn for the Song Festival. Tallinn, and Estonia have become a gastronomic destination, even though ex-pats, including myself, moan and groan about the food we miss from back home (wherever that may be).
Here is my list of places to try in Tallinn, as well as around Estonia. The list is in no particular order, but reflects some of the restaurants where I have had some of my favourite meals while living here, as well as some places to try just because I think they are interesting. Click on the restaurant names for links to their websites.
While in Tallinn be sure to try:
Leib – Located in the Scottish Club on the outskirts of the Old Town, Leib is a garden oasis in the city centre. If you can get a table and if the weather is nice, sit outside. In summer, part of the kitchen moves outside and you can enjoy a short grill menu (I recommend the beef liver), as well as their regular menu that focuses on seasonal Estonian ingredients. The wine list is very well put together by one of the top sommeliers in Estonia and one of the owners of the restaurant. They also have a great selection of whiskey.
Tigu – My Swedish friend swears by this place for breakfast. In fact you can find him there most mornings typing away furiously on his computer and enjoying a croissant and coffee. And come back for dinner too. The menu is mediterranean, focusing on seafood. Please don’t be fooled by its cellar location, because the large windows on the back wall let in plenty of light.
Moon – Closed for summer vacation at the moment, but if you are back in August, it’s worth a visit.
Kaks Kokka – I have only been once, but it was truly a pleasant surprise. The service had started off slow, but once it started it was spot on. And oh yeah, the food – try the roasted Atlantic cod with ash baked potatoes, spring onion and smoky butter sauce. It’s one of those interesting dishes that stays in my mind as something that just worked. Very simple, but very good.
Salt – Also on vacation until the end of July, but worth coming back for. If I opened a restaurant I would open something like this – a tiny bistro, where the menu changes daily.
Tchaikovsky – Named the top restaurant in Tallinn last year, Tchaikovsky’s menu is a mix of classical French and Russian cuisine. If the weather improves over the next little while, then book a table outside in their courtyard. It’s one of the nicest in the Old Town.
Pegasus – Pegasus is located in the former Fish & Wine restaurant, which before that was restaurant Pegasus (est. 1962). It was just reopened and besides its great wall of windows stretching three storeys overlooking the park across the road, the menu promises something very interesting. Dill ice cream anyone….well I’m not so sure about that, haven’t actually tried it, but I’ve tried some dishes from the savoury side and they were just fabulous.
Georgian Tavern Tbilisi – A few years ago I visited Georgia and absolutely fell in love with their cuisine. This is the closest you will find in Tallinn, and I mean that as a compliment. Try the hatchapuri (a stuffed and fried dough filled with meat or cheese), hinkali (steamed dumplings filled with meat, or cheese, or mushrooms, or lamb), and any of their šašlõkk.
Gladiatori – The best pizza in Tallinn.
Gotsu – Also on vacation, but only until 20 July. This is the place to come for Korean food in Tallinn and the place to find superb kimchi.
Momo – For the second summer in a row, the owners of the Momo Japanese food store have taken over the kitchen at the Rooftop Cinema above Viru Keskus. Wait times can be a little long, but the food is worth it. And if the weather is nice, you can enjoy the sunshine on the roof.
No 99 – You have exactly six days (closes 6 July) to try this place before it goes on vacation until August. Located inside the theatre of the same name, you don’t have to go to go see a show to enjoy the food here. No99 has an excellent price/quality ratio, and the portions are generous so order wisely.
Rataskaevu 16 – This became one of my favourite lunch spots this winter, and it seems, everyone else’s as well. They offer a daily lunch special for around €4-€5, which tends to be potato heavy, but the rest of the menu is different. My favourite dishes: lentil and beetroot salad, roasted duck salad, crispy chicken.
Gourmet Coffee – The best coffee in Tallinn.
Umami – Brought to by the owners of Leib Resto ja Aed, Umami markets themselves as a diner on Facebook. It would be considered a pretty fancy diner by North American standards. Umami is built into an old house and has an open kitchen on the main floor, with plenty of seating both inside and out. Their garden is enormous. I have only visited once for lunch, but plan to go back and try some other dishes.
NOA – Brought to you by the same people that brought you OKO in Kaberneeme, this is the latest addition to Viimsi’s seaside dining scene. Worth the trip for the view alone (it overlooks Tallinn on the opposite side of the bay), the menu has interesting dishes with even more creative plating.
Outside of Tallinn:
Alexander – I must have been one of the last people to go and try Alexander, after having heard about it for years. It was chosen the best restaurant in Estonia last year among Estonia’s 50 Best Restaurants and is worth the splurge for the tasting menu. Its previous chef Peeter Pihel has now moved to Fäviken in Sweden, but the Nordic Islands’ menu remains.
OKO – On a sunny day, most of Tallinn seems to flock here for a great meal next to the sea. I experienced OKO for the first time a few years ago in the early spring, when the water was still frozen and snow still on the ground, and I tasted the best apple pie I had ever had. The apple pie is long gone, but the children’s menu does offer house made candy floss, in which there is no shame in ordering as an adult.
MerMer – This is what’s known as a “kodu restoran”, or home restaurant. Two people, Merrit and Jaan, passionate about food, decided to open their home up to people wanting a different kind of dining experience. It’s like going over to someone’s house for a dinner party. When you book, Merrit asks you, meat or fish, and the rest of the menu is a surprise. Their home is also located by the sea, so in addition to a great home cooked meal, you can also enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Kala ja Sibula Restoran – If you are planning a trip around Lake Peipsi and Southern Estonia, do not miss the chance to try the cuisine of the Old Believers in Kolkja. The menu focuses mainly on fish and onions (onions are what is mainly grown around this area), as the name may suggest, and will certainly be one of the most unique meals you will have in Estonia.
And what about Tartu, you ask? I do not travel to Tartu very often and have not had the chance to fully explore its culinary scene, but following link from Flavours of Estonia will point you in the right direction: