Thursday, February 15, 2007

Restaurant Review: Gourmet Restaurant Stenhus, Tallinn

The people behind the Estonian Gastronomy Award, SilverSpoon, have named Stenhus the Best Gourmet Restaurant in Estonia for three years in a row now (2004, 2005, 2006). And I can see why. It's a charming venue with wonderful atmosphere and gorgeous food. I was definitely sold the moment I stepped down those medieval stairs, and when I saw that they had have a Menu Estonie, I knew it was my kind of place. A bit pricey, granted, but well worth the money.

K. took me there last July, when I was still an expat-Estonian, so a special 'Estonian menu' at an upmarket restaurant was instantly appealing. I love Estonian food - especially our way with mushrooms, our humble grain porridges and fluffy mousses, hearty soups, and the simple desserts consisting of wild berries. But in the fancy world of haute cuisine and über-creative foodblogging, Estonian food tends to remain the poor old country relative.. Not in Stenhus, though. The Chef Tõnis Siigur (still in his early 30s) is obviously very talented and rather creative. He's taken some of our humblest ingredients and simplest dishes and re-invented them. I loved every single morsel I was served, and left the restaurant a bit giddy and full of ideas of re-inventing some 'culinary oldies' myself.

I apologise for the lack of pictures. It was my first meal with K. since our trip to Paris, so I just wanted to enjoy the meal and the company. By the end of the meal I felt brave enough to take one sneak shot, however (see above). I blame a certain bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape for that moment of courage...
Menu Estonie
705.00 EEK / 45.05 €

Beignets of Baltic Herring with Yoghurt and Morena Roe Sauce, Fresh Cucumber Salad with Coriander
I really enjoyed this one, though I had only realised few days earlier at a wedding in Stockholm that I actually quite like (some) fish roe after all. The fish was moist and flavoursome, the coriander & cucumber salad refreshing.

Spiced Potato with Lingonberries and Croutons, Parsley Salad
A truly delicious course, based on the local peasant classic, mulgipuder. It's such a simple dish consisting of mashed potatoes and cooked pearl barley, topped with some fried lardons. Yet, the Chef had done wonders to it. There was a small mashed potato/barley disc on the plate, topped with tiniest of bacon morsels, and surrounded by small puddles of lingonberry coulis. Surprisingly elegant and light.

Estonian Pork Confit with Turnips and Sweet Onions
This was the richest of the offerings, which is not surprising for the main course. I didn't finish all the pork, but the confit was gutsy and flavoursome. The caramelised turnip was an interesting addition, and there was not a potato on sight (a rarity in Estonia, believe me).

Green Apple Jelly with Black Bread Cream and Oatflake Cookie
Yet another revelation. Rye bread soup (leivasupp) is a very old Estonian dessert, which I quite happen to love, when well-made. Tõnis Siigur had turned it into an ice cream, which was brave and definitely a successful move. Very nicely balanced by the tart apple jelly and caramelised oatflake cookie.

The Menu Estonie has four courses, but I had a lovely extra dessert that night. As K. had ordered the 5-course Menu Degustation/Assorted Specialities of the Chef (950.00 EEK / 60.70 €), then the restaurant brought me an extra dessert, too.

Tomato and Strawberry Gazpacho with Basil Ice Cream
(above) was a perfect choice for a hot and long July evening. It was exactly what it promised - a sweet red gazpacho and herby sorbet (you can see a wonderful rendition of the latter over at Bea's blog). Come next summer and I'll be turning my mum's first strawberries into a dessert gazpacho for sure.

I cannot wait to go back. The roaring fireplaces must be even more enchanting during long and dark winter nights...

Restoran Stenhus
Pühavaimu 13/15
Telephone: +372-6997780
Chef: Tõnis Siigur


Kinna Jonsson said...

I could kill for a recipe of the basil icecream. As I tried a horse raddish icecream with cold meat it just did not turn out the way I expected it to. The meal sounds just lovely!

Freya said...

I love the idea of the Strawberry and Tomato Gazpacho - I adore 'normal' Gazpacho but this looks so pretty too!

Pille said...

Kinna- try Bea's post. Hers isn't as smooth as the one I had, but looks wonderful. Horseraddish sorbet sounds like a fun idea, too:)

Freya - it was a really refreshing dessert indeed - I'm definitely planning to recreate it this summer!