Saturday, January 16, 2010

Food for Thought Awards

The 2009/10 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 2009/2010.

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 Rucola in Mustamäe.

“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, try Kohvik Moon, a great new brasserie-like joint with good ambience, great food, and good prices.

Passepartout Best Ethnic Restaurant Award
One big hurrah for Chakra. Finally, fans of Indian food have been rescued from the bland. Chakra’s chef and part-owner is Indian, and the other partners also lay legitimate claim to authentic Indian food. Enthusiastic, pleasant waitstaff, too.

Sweaty Edgar Best Hole-in-the-Wall Restaurant Award
Argo is a great Georgian hole in the wall on the corner of Vilmsi and Faehlmanni in the neighborhood fast becoming Tallinn’s gastronomic district, Kadriorg. Like any real hole in the wall, Argo has no website, though Mingus (see comments section) kindly directed us to its Facebook page.

Holly Golightly Best Café Award
Three cheers for Anni Arro and Komeet for a good gastronomic reason to visit the Solaris Center. Solaris is the Teenage Death Star, its aura driven by white-kid-in-da-hood clothing shops, but Arro’s venue is welcoming to adults. Her menu approaches soul food, but her real winner is the bakery. Also of note in the Solaris Center is Cha, the teashop. Authentic Indian tea and a lot more to help you get rid of the shakes induced by shopping in the Teenage Death Star.

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. Kaheksa is where Jacques Clouseau meets John “Die Hard” McClane, dirty rotten scoundrels speak Italian, Megan Fox smokes a stogie, and Bond is back.

Oliver Twist Best Gruel (Worst Restaurant) Award
Since we can’t give this award to Paat every year (we hear it’s improved, but we’re afraid to verify it), this year the award goes to Senso in the Olümpia hotel, otherwise known by its Occidental name, Oliver Twist's Gruel Canteen. And while Kaerajaan isn’t the worst restaurant in town, we can’t help but mention what is surely Tallinn’s worst dish: Kaerajaan’s Baltic Herring Lasagne with Chive pesto, a train wreck of modern Estonian cuisine. (Website addresses withheld as a public service.)

Kalev Meedia Most Ridiculous Business Concept Award
Combine American-style steaks with below average Estonian service, put your restaurant far enough from the Old Town that nobody would possibly bother to walk there, and you get the Goodwin Steak House. We wish them well, but as betting men can only give them six months. Hopefully, there’s a steak-eating oligarch who’ll prop them up until the economy improves. On Tartu Road in the building which appears to have been splashed with mud by a passing carriage.

Full disclosure: I am one of eleven on the Shaw committee which elects the winners. As a rule, in order to vote in a category, a jury member must have eaten at least three times at every nominee-restaurant in the category (visits are unannounced and anonymous). If there are fewer than five judges able to vote in a category, the category is dropped. I therefore had to recuse myself from many votes--I just don't get out like I used to.