Seasonal, hip and boldly weird is a fitting definition for the Baltic cuisine re-imagined by Lithuania’s best chefs.
Walking around downtown Vilnius, you’ll find the kind of cuisines that are common to all big cities – from Ukrainian dumplings to Jewish bagels (born in Vilnius, by the way), from Sichuan stews to Peruvian pastries. But in the mish-mash of cultures and tastes you’ll find in Lithuania, the restaurants that stand out are those that create miracles out of the simplest products growing in people’s back yards. And more than that, the best restaurants the country has to offer have one uniting feature – they are seeking to re-imagine and revolutionize the country’s culinary heritage. With the majority of this year’s 30 Lithuania’s best restaurants serving their own exciting twist on Lithuanian cuisine, the country finally has something for discerning foodies to write home about.
And to give you a taste of what Lithuanian chefs have to offer, here’s a rundown of the top five restaurants voted for by the Good Food Academy.
Number five on the list, Vila Komoda – a boutique restaurant in the largest Lithuanian seaside resort of Palanga – is run on the principle of seasonality. Following the change of seasons, its menu metamorphosizes throughout the year. After successfully launching London’s first Nordic fine dining restaurant, chef Martynas Meidus is ready to help his guests discover true Baltic flavours – from both sea and land – for the first time.
Another restaurant that is reverent of the seasons is Sweet Root, a 30-seat restaurant in Vilnius’s counterpart of Christiania – artsy Užupis. Its tasting menu combines rhubarb and tarragon, eel and nettle, carp and kohlrabi. In the words of the owners, Sweet Root’s mission is to unearth Lithuania’s gastronomic tradition by using the simplest of ingredients like dill, beetroot and honey.
Monai – which takes up the third-place position in this year’s list – translates to charms or spells, a reference to the country’s Pagan heritage. Emphasizing cosiness as its core value, restaurant in Klaipėda – the country’s only port town, is known for two things – its fresh-caught fish and intricate desserts that change every month.
Located in the heart of Vilnius Old Town, Nineteen18 is one of many ambitious local restaurants seeking to lay the groundwork for the future of Lithuanian cuisine. With the majority of its ingredients sourced from the restaurant’s very own farm and foraged from surrounding forests, Nineteen18 makes every leaf count and provides guests with a feast for both their eyes and taste buds.
Good food must, first of all, bring joy, and Vilnius-based Džiaugsmas (joy in Lithuanian) is all about bringing positive vibes to the heart of every foodie. Topping the list two years in a row, Džiaugsmas received acclaim for both the simplicity of its dishes and its ambitious experiments – from cheese baskets with snails to ice-cream with boletus mushrooms.
Lithuania’s size and reasonable prices mean that you can tackle the challenge of dining at all of the 30 Best Restaurants in Lithuania in a week. Something you should definitely bear in mind when planning your next experience-driven holiday. And remember, this is a food revolution that’s truly in its infancy, so as gourmet, you’d definitely be first to the table.