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.


K and S said...

Happy Anniversaries! with many more to celebrate!

Shaun said...

Pille & K. - Happy anniversary!! I'm so glad that you treated yourselves to something lovely and special. I am especially impressed with the roasted wild pigeon and licorice sauce (unlike you, Pille, I have had a huge weakness for licorice and anything the tastes even remotely like it since childhood). How exquisite. Should Eric and I make our way there in the near future, we will definitely go to Stenhus. Once again, happy anniversary.

jen said...

Happy anniversary and thank you for letting us tag along to dinner with you both!

Chris said...

Happy anniversary! It was wonderful of you to share your special evening. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary to you both. What an elegant dinner. How do you remember it all? Or do you take notes along the way? :)

David T. Macknet said...

Happy anniversary!

lobstersquad said...

congratulations, Pille, on the aniversary and the meal. I sympathize with you on not having Kristjan there on the actual day, but let me tell you, José took me out for hot dogs as a celebtration, so I´m thinking you´re still one up!

Katie Zeller said...

Happy Anniversary!
I'm coming to visit so I can eat at that restaurant. The foie gras looks divine...And the pigeon!! and the Lamb!!!!
Be still my heart!!!!

Anonymous said...

hi pille happy anniversary
the degustation sounds perfect
the menu is just fab!!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Happy anniversary! What an amazing meal for a celebration -- I hope to eat there some day.

Tea said...

I know I'm overly tired these days, but I started crying at the description of your friends in the airport waiting for you--how lovely!

The meal, of course, is splendid as well. Happy anniversary!

Jeanne said...

Happy "Cohabitaion Day"! ;-) And may you have many more.

Thaty menu sounds fabulous - I would LOVE to try the parmesan espuma. And I'm deeply impressed that you even attempted to recreate it at home!

Pille said...

Shaun – you’d love Finland then – lakritsa (liquorice) is very popular there! May K. and I join you if you ever go to Stenhus? :)

Jen – you’re very welcome!

Maryann – thank you! I took a sneak photo of the menu while at the restaurant :)

Lobstersquad – well, Jose & you have been together for much longer. Maybe K. will take me to McDonalds on our third anniversary, too, who knows. (I hope not:)

Katie – yes, everything we had was really delicious, so I can heartily recommend the place..

Tea – I was too jetlagged to cry then and there (after all, I threw a farewell party in Edinburgh on the last night, so I hadn’t slept), but yes, this has brought tears of joy into my eyes on many occasions. And of course I’ve kept the poster!

Jeanne – not only did we attempt to recreate the parmesan espuma at home, we actually succeeded. Stay tuned!

K&S, Jen, Chris, DaviMack, Shalimar, Lydia – thank you!