Stockholm/Tallinn/Helsinki report (LONG)
There were a couple knockout meals during our 12 days away but starting out sick the first couple days didn't help. Stockholm was the first four nites and dinner at Glenfiddich (Västerlångatan 68, Gamla Stan) started us off and we enjoyed it. Split great elk carpaccio to start and I had reindeer in a berry sauce with good potatoes for themain, A. had the elk entree with a different side of good potatoes. They had a wide choice of beers, I had a small lager but beer is beer to me and I drank it cuz it was easy. Had more during this trip than I usually do in a year. Ate at the bar and the bartender was nice but I think he steered us wrong re: tipping and we ended up leaving more than we should have thru most of the trip. Plus that was our priciest meal with entrees about 275 and 315 SEK. The next nite we grabbed a pizza at a little neighborhood place on Roslagsgatan by Odenplan and after feeling crappy all day, it really hit the spot. Parma ham, onions on a large, thin crust pizza for about 65 SEK just made us happy. Our original destination was closed Sun. nite so we ended up at Charles Dickens on Folkungagatan in Södermalm and the beef in green pepper sauce turned out to be more of a giant Swedish meatball in a cream sauce. But it was very tasty and the side of au gratin style potatoes was yummy too (plus a nice bread basket and tapenade spread). A. had fried pike perch but lots of bones to deal with, and a great side of potato w/ bacon, about 115-135SEK. Sweet service and the added attraction of a scraggly customer trying to sell me cheap jewelry. Last full meal was at Garlic & Shots also on Folkungagatan which I'd been told was a place where the rockers hang out. Since we just missed good music happening before and after we left, we went there and were rewarded by the band The Hellacopters showing up and me getting a picture (I'm sure they loved that). Food wasn't so good, side of fries was tasty but the shrimp "enchiladas" were really cold tacos and not great. Fairly cheap tho. The best meal was probably lunch at Bakfickan by the Opera House. We split their famous Swedish meatballs just cuz it felt like the thing to do, but too similar to my Dickens meal of the nite before. But great, a huge portion and a nice side of mashed plus wonderful bread. The standout was the app. Of crayfish toast, that could have been the whole meal. Nice langostinos on toasted bruschetta, very very good at about 95 SEK.
Quick hits: hot dog carts everywhere, cheap and decent for the most part. Should have tried the French style but stuck with plain. Great raspberry crumble at Robert's Café on Drottninggatan. And had a nice cocktail at Gondolen overlooking the city. They have a drink menu a mile long if you're into that kind of thing.
I'm not sure people care much about the Helsinki/Tallinn dining scenes if the lack of responses to my earlier question is any indication. I do thank Jen for her posts here and email comments re: Tallinn. Our first meal was the soup buffet at our hotel, the Reval Express just 5 min outside the old town. It was rainy and cool and that hit the spot. They had about 8 different soups, I esp. enjoyed the cabbage & sausage and fish soups. Only 55 EEK with some nice breads. The next nite was Turg, a cute little downstairs place on Mündi 3 in the old city (many places are located downstairs in Tallinn). Had a good chicken wrapped in bacon dish that was a tad dry but helped by the nice creamy mushroom sauce. A. had pork in bacon with more of a red wine sauce. I started with a small plate from their antipasto table and got a little beef (too tough), salmon (nice), chicken (similar to my entree) and some salad but you could get as much as you wanted to pile on whatever sized place including a nice looking cheesecake. The small plate was 39EEK, entrees reasonable, service good but they charged us for ice water most everywhere in that city. Our nice dinner out was at Cathedral at Lossiplats across from the beautiful Russian Orthodox church. Not a soul besides us was there between 7:45-9:30 on a Thurs. nite which was strange. The hostess was on her laptop the whole time but it's a pretty room with the church right outside the window. Started off well a nice amuse bouche (forget it now), decent bread but my kangaroo was woefully overcooked. Great side of potato croquette tho. A's lamb was a little less overdone but not much. We split blini w/ sour cream and honey which were decent, good coffee. Even tho this was the nicer meal, my portion only came to about $25 with a glass of white wine. Last meal after much wandering around was at Fellini in Raekoja Plats, a little nicer than we expected when we got seated. They had a piano player who was thankfully unobtrusive but prices were fairly reasonable to make up for the personality-deprived waitress. I had spaghetti carbonera that wasn't quite perfect, a little too saucy but tasty, around 115 SEK. A. had a seafood pasta dish with head on shrimp and a few others, came wrapped in foil shaped like a fish or swan or something.
Quick hits: Loved the Kehrwider Café on Saiakang, a favorite hang out spot in the afternoon. Great latte, decent blackberry tarte, huge pieces of tiramisu. A little pricier than the others but that underground cuteness was hard to resist. Also stopped by Café Wecken Gang next door but their choc. covered baked good wasn't as good. Enjoyed Reval Café on Vene with big comfy couches downstairs and a little upstairs section (seemed to be where the smokers went). Had a good capuccinio and egg & bacon sandwich there but that black bread overpowers other flavors sometimes.
We had one cold but sunny day in Helsinki, plus one cloudy day and two pretty rainy days so not prime visiting weather. First dinner was something easy around the corner from the Scandic Marski, Mandarin Court where I felt the need for vegetables. The dish was spicy enough but the veggies were the most basic bamboo shoots and peppers, so not too exciting. A's beef in red curry was a little better, 10€ for my dish but I could have kissed the guy for bringing us a whole pitcher of ice water to quaff down. Very old fashioned Chinese looking place with lots of red and gold. The sunny day brought us to Suomanlinnan Island and since I just missed the ferry back, got lunch at the brew pub Panimo. They had a lunch buffet with a kind of scalloped potato/ham dish and a salad w/ cucumbers and shrimp for 8€ with a bunch of bread. The best deal there and hit the spot while wasting time. That nite we resorted to Hessburger and since I'd eaten some junk during the day, just had a fair side of fries and their Big Mac equivalent looked pretty typical. I was on my own for what ended up being the nicest dinner in Helsinki, Sasso on Pohjoisesplanadi which was in some 50 Best Restaurants in Finland book (I discovered while eating there). I have to say, they don't really know about bar dining in these cities and I walked around looking for that but not having luck. Vespa had been packed on Sat. but no one was there on a Mon., liked the looks of a French place by Stockman's where mussels and frites sounded good (if overpriced) but even tho they had two bars, no one was eating there and there weren't even bartenders at the bars. I thought Sasso would be different but it's just the waiters coming to the bar mixing/pouring their own drinks, so I was odd man out. Plus there was some zany performance dance going on, maybe a Halloween thing. But the place had a hip feel to it and the menu had an Italian influence. I went with a grilled red rish entrée with an anchovie potato kick, some foam (have never been into the foam phenomenon), calamari and a little veggie (a relative bargain at 19.95€) with a glass of nice white wine. The last nite we went to Baker's a couple doors down from the hotel where I got a lamb burger, which was basically lamb cutlets on a nicely grilled bun with goat cheese and aioli, okay fries, 14€. A. had a basic burger that he thought was fine (I avoid burgers in other countries, never seem to be as good). They had a bread station too if you wanted and some much fancier entrees. A nice place that's open til 3AM even on the weekdays, something we're sure not used to in Boston.
Quick hits: Had a nice snack and cap. in the midst of downpours at Café Esplanade, weird overly cardamom tasting sweet at Café Lotsplotsa on Mannerheimintie, and good cap. at Café Java also on Mann. Liked Bar Loose on Fredrikinkatu for a rock scene. Hard to deal with all the smoke after living in a non smoking city for so long.
Our hotels were in great locations, the Scandic Continental in Stockholm by the train station, Reval Express in Tallinn just outside old city and only 52€ a nite and Scandic Marski on the main drag in Helsinki. The Cont. had a huge array of things for breakfast, esp. liked the crepes on the weekend. Reval was okay, not great although you could certainly fill up. And the Marski had great berries with their cold cereal, good mini croissants and the usual spread of meats, cheeses, eggs, etc. Actually lost a pound so that's good.
Tipping is not required in Sweden (like percentages used in the US). you can leave a tip if you are content with service etc., which I usually do unless it's been gastly service and lousy food.
We usually leave an even amount, say 300, if the bill is 260 kr but you decide that for yourself. I feel sort of cheap if I don't leave a tip, even if it is just a small amount, especially at night. For lunches I usually don't leave any tip.
Don't know if you were in Helsinki long enough to forage at the grill kiosks, but would love to know: do they still serve the wonderful launantai makkara grill sandwiches with pineapple and mustard? Lived there years ago, and would like to return in the next couple of years.
Just reading your post me hungry - what a great Baltic food trip!
I spent a couple of days in Tallinn a few years back and had lunch at one very good restaurant: Toomkooli. This restaurant is in what looks to be an old house on top of the highest hill in the old town - quite a hike. If you're out of shape, take a taxi :-)
I don't remember anymore what I had, but I do remember that the food was absolutely amazing. This would also be a good restaurant to take business clients, etc.
Not sure, as my stay was so short, but this could easily be the best restaurant in the city.