Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Food for Thought

Does anyone dine out anymore? I don't do it enough to write a restaurant review, but obviously someone does: the following was sent to me as a press release this morning. I'm pleased that people in Estonia are dining out and that they haven't lost their sense of humor. Given what the Social Minister said to the BBC yesterday (15% unemployment on the way--it's currently around seven), I hope we're all lucky enough to find something to laugh about.

The 2008 George Bernard Shaw Food for Thought Gastronomy Awards

“He was never more serious than when he was joking.”
–said of Mr. Shaw

After much deliberation, the George Bernard Shaw Society of Estonia proudly announces its Food for Thought Gastronomy Award winners for 2008.

Hermann Simm Best Kept Secret Award
There’s no such thing as a secret, though some information does take longer to become public. In the spirit of secrets that shouldn’t remain so, we’re proud to celebrate Riis, the secretive cellar restaurant run by three charming young women who refuse to use anything but fresh vegetables. Pärnu mnt. 62A.

“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” Best Gourmet Restaurant Award
In the oblivious spirit of “Let them eat cake,” this award honors the places we’d all like to dine in more often, if only our pocket books would allow. This year’s honor goes to Horisont at Swissotel. Not only a spectacular view but, considering the economy, an altogether fine place for a last meal.

Luciano Pavarotti Six Chickens for Dinner Best Soul Food Award
When you want to stuff yourself in a comfortable restaurant surrounded by staff who seem to actually want you to be there, Contravento is the place to go. Contravento has held its own for years now as the Tallinn institution of Italian food. Vene 12.

Passepartout Best Ethnic Restaurant Award
Named for Phileas Fogg’s manservant, this award honors courageous purveyors of the spicy and exotic. Given the quick expiration of restaurants in the republic, Estonian food now classifies as exotic and ethnic, and so the award goes to Eesti Maja with its good food and service at a fair price. Lauteri 1.

Tree Huggers’ Haven Award
Where to go after a long day of spiking trees? Exhausted from ramming that whaling vessel? There’s no place better than Nop to relax with an organic pastry, big dill pickle, or beetroot and sauerkraut. Carnivores welcome, too. Nop is one of the jury’s absolute favorites. Köleri tn 1 in Kadriorg.

Sweaty Edgar Best Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurant Award
This is the place you creep off to when the wife is out of town. Its hygienic standards are questionable, but you don’t really care—the food is good, and it doesn’t matter how you dress, because you won’t see anybody you know. Torn between two fine grungy spaces, the jury chose to give the award to both. Ironically, both feature names of jury members’ ex-wives. Try Karmen at Paldiski mnt 72A and Diana at Tammsaare 87. Can’t go wrong.

Holly Golightly Best Café Award
Stylish and flighty, it’s the best place to get the food Tiffany’s never served. You may have avoided Museum, since its appearance from outside makes you think it might be filled with Russian thugs and plenty of blonde bimbos. But that’s its charm, my friend, and if you don’t see Holly there, you can be reasonably certain she’s arriving soon. Vana-Viru 14.

Rick Blaine Best Bar Award
No bar has ever measured up to Rick’s Café Americain, but there’s always hope. A sophisticated place where rogues, spies, les femmes fatales, and bon vivants gather to swap lies. If you’re after shady, then Lady Shadow on Suur-Karja won’t disappoint. With any luck you’ll find yourself seated next to Mata Hari while being eyed by George Smiley through the swaying belly dancer.

Bob Dylan Fat Black Pussycat Dive Bar Award
You might find Dylan seated in a dark corner composing “Blowing in the Wind,” but you sure as hell won’t meet any Eurovision candidates here. We’re happy to give the nod to Valli baar, which sadly seems to be losing a bit of its charm with all the hen parties paying it a visit. But we have faith that Valli baar will always have a seat for a drunk, as long as he’s able to maintain an upright posture. Müürivahe 16.

Oliver Twist Best Gruel (Worst Restaurant) Award
For the second year in a row this award goes to the restaurant Paat in Viimsi. It’s a Mecca for diners who love frozen vegetables. True, the view is hard to beat, but plenty a customer has gone in as a teenager and come out as a pensioner. It’s, in a word, slow. Address withheld as a merciful public service to diners.

Kalev Meedia Most Ridiculous Business Concept Award
Something like a 150 semi-formal seats in a beach restaurant in a location trafficked only three months a year isn’t the mostly likely formula for success. We wish Pärl all the luck, but don’t see it lasting without a lot of serious cash to prop it up. In the Pirita rannahoone.