Tallinn, day 2
After the walking tour, I was ready for some fuel, so of course, I had to visit one of the top-rated restaurants in Tallinn. Rataskaevu 16 was recommended by friends who’ve visited Tallinn and Karin, my lovely local friend. It’s in Old Town, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good or expensive!
At first when I walked up, the host was turning away a couple whom I recognized on the walking tour. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but from what I overheard, the lady complained that it would be too cold to sit at an outdoor table even with a blanket. They left, and I tried my luck. I asked how long the wait would be for one person, and immediately was told there were no tables, which didn’t answer my question. I asked again, and he turned to check with the front desk. I was told if I waited ten minutes, I could get a table. They made it sound like it was a long wait, but I don’t think they’ve ever been to San Francisco.
Andra, my waitress, asked her usual questions in a friendly manner. Where are you from? Is this your first visit to Tallinn? What brings you to Estonia? She really liked my answers, so we continued to chat whenever she came by my table, especially about local sweets and where to find them. But first, she helped me decide between a couple of dishes, asked in what order I preferred them to come out, and rushed off to place my order. The housemade bread and butter with black salt and chili pepper was so airy on the inside and had a lightly crispy crust. The amuse bouche was also interesting but unidentifiable.
I saved one slice of bread to mop up my first course, the pumpkin soup (€3.90). What a nice way to warm up after walking around outside in chilly weather for two hours! The mozzarella tasted fresh and bounced under my teeth. Then the salad with dried elk (€7.20) quickly followed. The wispy strings of elk jerky were crunchy and contrasted with the tender greens. Make sure to mix this up thoroughly since all the dressing is at the bottom. Andra told me that both her father and her grandfather are licensed hunters, so they often eat elk meat.
For dessert, I got their famous frozen bleu cheese cheesecake (€4.90) with a shot of Vana Tallinn (€4.00), which is a rum-based liqueur developed by an Estonian company in the 1960s. It was strong (~40% ABV) and sweet, so it’s not my favorite thing in the world. But when in Rome…
In case you’re curious, the little orange berries are sea buckthorn (astelpaju in Estonian). They are very tart, but I enjoyed them very much, and they pack a large vitamin C punch. Andra drew the city wall on my receipt as a thank you. She’s the best!
In the evening, I went to Ukskoik Bar for the weekly Couchsurfing meetup in Tallinn. I learned that “ukskoik” means “whatever”, hence the appearance of the English translation in much of the art adorning the walls.
There’s an Estonian-specific drink menu, which is a bonus! The bartenderess recommended the Saku Hele since I didn’t feel like drinking a heavy, strong beer. I asked about the beers on tap, and she said they are the shittiest beers available: mostly water. This bottle of beer set me back all of €2.55, including a 15% discount for being a Couchsurfing meeting attendee.
I got to meet Simon from Denmark who hitchhiked from Riga, Peter from Holland who has lived in Tallin for one year, Sanjeev from India who is visiting for about a week, Magdalena from a town in Serbia whom I am to hit up for recommendations, Arno from just outside of Paris who is in Tallin for a five-month internship, and many others from Chile, Pakistan, Australia, and Hungary. I stayed for two hours before walking back towards my flat before the sun set after 10pm.
On the way home, I swung by the Rimi Supermarket in Norde Centrum since it is open till 11pm, and I was starting to feel a bit peckish. (That’s a dangerous time to go to the grocery store.) The hot bar discounts everything by 50% starting at 9pm, so I pointed at a cauliflower, carrot, and chicken concoction (€0.99 after discount) that was still warm when I got back to my studio. I also found some sliced Estonian cheese (€1.69) and Estonian dark chocolate (€1.55).
I had a hard time finding Kohuke, which is one of the local sweets that Andra, my waitress at Rataskaevu 16 recommended. It wasn’t till I’d waited in the checkout line that I was able to ask a cashier about it. She was good enough to show me to the milk section where they were stashed. A whole array of flavors was available, so she left me to my own devices to pick from the selection. I ended up with cheesecake, blueberry, and cranberry (€0.34 each).
At checkout, I ended up with an elderly Estonian woman who spoke almost no English. She was extremely rude to a couple of travelers ahead of me even though she couldn’t communicate with them. One of the other customers who speaks Estonian let the confused travelers know that alcohol cannot be purchased after 10pm, so they put things back. When it was my turn, she outright rejected the shopping bag that I brought instead of just moving it to the opposite side of the register. Then she insisted that I write my passport number on the merchant copy of the receipt for a transaction that was less than €6.00. I can’t help but feel like maybe there was some racist undertones happening, but then again, she could just be a crotchety old woman who has seen better days.