Monday, October 15, 2007
Celebrating a year of living in Estonia with a gourmet meal at Restaurant Stenhus, Tallinn
Exactly one year ago today I moved back home to Estonia after seven eventful years in Scotland. I still remember arriving at the Tallinn airport shortly after midnight to discover four of my best girlfriends singing a children's song about home* in the middle of the arrivals hall, holding an enormous poster with 'Tere, kodu' (Welcome, home!) in their hands, with K. smiling amusedly on the background. I was utterly bemused, to say the least! On the very same day I also moved in with K, so today is the anniversary of my return to Estonia as well as moving in with him. I know that 'cohabitation anniversary' doesn't sound as grand as engagement anniversary or wedding anniversary, but it's been a beautiful and delicious year and we wanted to celebrate it in style. As K. is somewhere in the Netherlands on business today (you see, dear Ximena, you're not the only one celebrating the actual annviersaries on her own), then we celebrated the anniversary last Friday, when K. took me to one of the best restaurants in Tallinn - Stenhus. I've mentioned Stenhus before - it's the restaurant where K. took me over a year ago as well for our first proper meal together in Estonia. There was no Menu Estonie this time, and the prices were higher than I remembered, but we had the most exquisite meal that neither one of us could find any fault with. The flavours were bold, the dishes creative, the plates were beautifully executed, the food delicious - Stenhus fully deserves its title as the Best Gourmet Restaurant in Estonia that it has won for the three previous years. Sitting under the vaulted ceiling of a 13th century building makes you feel million dollars (well, at least kroons:). It's head chef, Tõnis Siigur, is a talented chef, and he certainly managed to surprise and please us with every single course of the Degustation Menu. Siigur is still in his early 30s, so I'm sure there's plenty more to look forward to - and I'm definitely already looking forward to our next visit there. I just need to find an excuse :)
Here's a short recap of our anniversary meal. In addition to an a la carte menu, the restaurant offers three different degustation menus - a 4-course menu (850 EEK), a 6-course menu (1100 EEK) and 9-course menu (1450 EEK, excl. drinks). We opted for the 6-course feast, allowing our extremely friendly waiter Robert to suggest suitable drinks. (Note that we used non-flash photography, which explains why the photos are somewhat dark.)
If you are in Tallinn, and keen to splash out on one special gourmet meal, then I wholeheartedly recommend Stenhus.
We started with a glass of sparkling wine, Cremant de Loire Brut, Langlois Chateau, while nibbling on the bread from the in-house bakery. The black sesame seed bread, dark rye bread with raisins, and parsley bread were all delicious, with a nice crust and soft, with a good bite, inside.
Then we were poured a glass of Vina Montes Sauvignon Blanc (2006), and given a small greeting from the Chef, consisting of crostini with cold smoked salmon & salmon roe; crostini with marinated anchovy fillet, and a small portion of roasted organic & free range beef fillet Qualite de Charolais, which was simply delicious - spicy, but so tender and smooth. You could sense the meat was from a happy cow indeed :)
Next up, the first actual course of our 6-course tasting menu, Fruit de Mer soup. The bisque was very spicy, and I'm sure it usually comes with lobsters, but as I had specified 'fish is ok, but no shellfish', our soup had a large piece of seabass, eel and salmon each, as well as couple of poached quail's eggs and some crunchy shredded celeriac and carrot. Very flavoursome, very nice.
This was followed by this neat number - a creamy pumpkin soup with Parmesan espuma and tiny profiteroles. Again, K's version came with roasted scallops, mine with tiny cubes of fried pumpkin and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil. Considering that we recreated the soup & espuma at home last night, you may understand how much we enjoyed this particular creation:
The waiter filled our glasses with a 2005 Sauternes, and that was a clear giveaway about what the next dish would be. The third item on the degustation menu was a large piece of fried foie gras, served with a tomato confit mini tartlet and shards of Valhrona chocolate and some rocket leaves. This was my first time to try Sauternes wine, and I was absolutely taken by its floral and peculiar aroma - loved it! Also, the foie gras was excellent - perfectly fried, with a creamy texture and not unnecessarily cloying at all.
Again a new wine, this time Marques de Coiseres Crianza 2003 Rioja. Our fourth plate was roasted wild pigeon with a liquorice sauce and celeriac, served with a pigeon leg confit. I was a bit worried about this one, as I dislike liquorice. Or at least I thought I do. The wild pigeon was perfectly roasted - still with a hint of pink inside and extremely tender, and went very well with the subtle liquorice sauce. This was - together with the creamy pumpkin soup with Parmesan espuma - my favourite dish in the menu:
Next up, another meat course - lamb rack with aubergine/eggplant stuffed small red peppers, garlic & Kalamata olive puree, green beans. By now I was getting full and began wondering whether we should have opted for the 4-course degustation menu :) Still, a very well executed dish, with delightfully gutsy roasted Kalamata olive sprinkles:
For the dessert we got a Hot-pot au gratin with fresh berries and Muscovado sugar. We could identify red currants, blackberries and raspberries in the pudding.
We had a cup of tea, which was served with a nice selection of petit fours; and K. finished his meal with a Pomme Prisonniere Calvados Pays d'Auge (Calvados being his favourite after-dinner drink).
* 'Kus on kodu, mis on kodu, kus on kodukoht' from a popular Estonian children's movie Nukitsamees.