Ö Restaurant, Tallinn

Second evening in Tallinn and second restaurant. I’ve been told that Tallinn’s gastronomic scene is quite creative, so after having done something quite traditional with Balthasar, I’m going into modern cuisine with Ö.

The concept

Starting from the heritage of their Viking ancestors, the idea of the creators of Ô is the exploration with a strong anchoring in the local culture unpredictable seasons, a cold sea, a pure air and a “black” ground, a hunters and fishermen population, the revival of forgotten methods… All this with a dose of island humor because if Ö is Swedish, the founders come from an Estonian island where their desire to explore and mix flavors comes from.

This is the very poetic promise of the property as he tells it very well itself. I want to believe it, but let’s see what it looks like at the table.

The setting

The restaurant is right outside the old town without being a problem: from the Telegraaf where I was staying it was no more than a 15 minute walk.

It looks like old stores or warehouses rehabilitated.

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If the place follows the fashion of the streamlined designs and the “like at home” or almost feeling, which also puts the natural materials in front (logical in the region), it is bright and you see what you have in your plate, which is not always obvious nowadays.

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Photos taken at the end of the evening after the departure of the customers, reassure you there were people.

The menu

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All this looks very nice but it doesn’t help to choose! But the choice will be simple: there are only two possible menus and no à la carte choices. I’m fine with that.

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Let’s be crazy, I don’t go to Tallinn every day, so I’ll take the “Taste Exploration” menu with the wine pairing.

The dishes

One starts by bringing me some chips to make me wait.

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The accompanying sauce is both tasty and fresh, light, almost airy. I should have noted its composition, I know it had agar agar and…shallots?

Le premier plat, les “Nibbles”, ou assiette de grignotage.

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On the program: local potato chips (Muhu Island) and traditional Estonian marinade. Smoked cod mousse, fermented wild mushrooms. Crispy potato dumplings, whitefish roe (a local freshwater fish), tarragon. Black pudding, hay smoked cream. Pumpkin infusion and pickled pumpkin.

The cod mousse is really smoky, maybe too much so, which takes away some of its finesse. But it is very light. The pumpkin infusion is surprising, to say the least, but has the merit of calming the game down before moving on…and passing the smoke taste.

The serious stuff starts with roach, sour milk and rye bread.

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Surprisingly, it will be served with a beer. Decidedly here they like dried fish. Anyway, the roach and the broth go together impeccably and it gives an interesting roach consommé.

Anyway, the roach and the broth go together impeccably and it results in an interesting roach consommé. Let’s wait for the continuation.

It will be celery, caramelized butter, whey

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Celery root has long been cooked in its own juice under a crust of sea salt. Celeriac purée, caramelized butter, whey and dill oil produce a surprising result.

The 3rd course arrives. I am too busy chatting with my table neighbors, a German couple living in Palma de Mallorca and on vacation in the area. For the record, they were supposed to be in Helsinki but found the city so sad that they cancelled their reservation to finish their vacation in Tallinn. Anyway, I forget to take pictures.

It was elk (a large deer like elk) in a kind of garlic marinade. It was accompanied by smoked eggs and herb mayonnaise.

Another dish with a lot of taste, maybe a little drier than the previous ones all the same.

Small break with homemade breads and their butters to spread. In detail: traditional Estonian black bread, gluten-free buckwheat bread and flax seed bread chips. The butters are a homemade butter with crispy buckwheat, a butter whipped with whey and a last one made from sunflower seeds and garlic.

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A light and tasty break before going on the last stretch.

The next course will be pikeperch with potatoes in wine and salted fat.

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Again, it’s very fine. The fish was cooked in a smoker and covered with a thin layer of salty fat smoked in the sauna (according to the waitress). But in the end it is either a lot of smoke or too much smoke, your choice. Even me, who is very fond of this type of taste (and in particular in whiskies), I think that I know a certain number of people (and one in particular) who would perhaps start to find that it starts to be too much.

The dish is served with a Cotes de Gascogne wine that balances the smoke a bit but still.

One continues with eels, a cream of Jerusalem artichokes with poppy and, I was told, a touch of seaweed.

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What to say? Again very good but I will refrain from saying fine because it starts to be really too smoky.

Come on, we’re almost done!

The last course before dessert will be quail, smoked of course, with a caramelized sauerkraut and a creamy sauce, also smoked.

The quail as it is brought to the table:

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Then prepared:

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Yes, once again smoked but…it is so good and melting that I forgive everything! I have rarely tasted a quail so well cooked and prepared.

Come on it’s good, let’s start the sweet. I’m done with the smoked dishes (just kidding…although I think for some people it might have been too much I recognize that the whole thing was top notch and also part of the local culinary traditions).

So it’s a cream flavored with juniper berries accompanied, I confess, by a lot of things I can’t remember…

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And finally…. beer and caramel ice cream.

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A great Estonian classic as I’ve heard!

The service

It was perfect. On a multi-course menu, the notion of rhythm is essential: neither too fast to give the customer time to savor and breathe between each course, nor too slow so that it does not last all night!

Special thanks to the waitress who was more than friendly and whom I bothered all evening to explain me all the dishes (even if I didn’t remember everything) and with whom we had during the coffee a long discussion about the Estonian cuisine, the traditional dishes and the new culinary scene.

The atmosphere

At times I found the music to be a bit loud without it being prohibitive. The restaurant was not full, I don’t know how loud it can get when it is because nothing about the design of the place seems to absorb the noise, quite the contrary.

I liked the not too dark atmosphere of the place, contrary to what we see more and more in “modern” and trendy places.

Bottom line

Really an excellent discovery. It is interesting to see how to revisit traditional dishes from a region that does what it can with its own raw materials and climate without getting lost in things that are too convoluted.

One can always say that it was too much smoked… after it is also a trademark of these regions.

For such a long menu, the quantities were just perfect: when I left, my stomach wasn’t on the verge of exploding…but I wasn’t hungry anymore either!

The price with wine pairing was quite high but worth it when you see what restaurants far from being as good charge in Paris. But I might recommend now that I’ve done it once to start with the menu without wine and then take wine by the glass according to the desire because the worry of the wine pairing is that often you finish the glass in a hurry to follow the speed of the service of the dishes, and it is perhaps what is most problematic;

In short, an experience that I recommend without any hesitation.

To know to impress people

As curious as it may seem, the name of this restaurant with a claimed Estonian identity comes from Sweden where Ö means an island. But as the founders come from an Estonian island and it sounds good….

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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