Seasonal, hip and boldly weird is a fitting definition for the Baltic cuisine re-imagined by Lithuania’s best chefs. Walking around downtown Vilnius, travellers will find the kind of cuisines that are common to all big cities – from Ukrainian dumplings to Jewish bagels, from Sichuan stews to Peruvian pastries.
However, in the diversity of cultures and tastes visitors will find in Lithuania, the restaurants that stand out are those that create great food out of the simplest products growing in people’s gardens. The best restaurants the country has to offer have one uniting feature – they are seeking to re-imagine and revolutionise 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 about.
To give travellers a taste of what Lithuanian chefs have to offer, here is 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 changes 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 and 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 third-place position in this year’s list – translates to charms or spells, a reference to the country’s Pagan heritage. Emphasising cosiness as its core value, the restaurant is located in Klaipėda, the country’s only port town, and 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 (main photo), which means “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.