The Fish & Wine Bar (Sakala 20, Tallinn) must have some clout in the online world. If you enter "fish and wine" into Google, even without the quotes, the cafe comes up #2 on the hit list. I tried "fish wine" and it came up number #5. (Jesus doesn't even make the top ten, which seems unfair.)
(I checked back -- Blue, Black and White Alert has not appeared among the top hits for fish and wine yet. Fish and Wine has more clout.)
That's pretty good for an obscure little Slow Food type place on the corner of Tatari and Sakala -- especially when you consider that the damn website doesn't even work!! The plate glass windows survived the April 2007 riots, too, without a scratch, so something is mysterious about the place.
When it opened, it seemed more like a place for a date. I met my friend Bob from New Jersey on the corner once to go out for a pint but I was hungry, a common problem. So we peered inside. There were four couples eating and all of them were men. Bob shot me an odd look and headed off in the direction of the Woodstock bar. I ended up at Mauruse Pubi eating a "Spanish omelet", and Bob could blow smoke in my face and talked about Bukowski.
But even though it was low on romance, at least for us, I was not done with Fish & Wine. It has WiFi (who doesn't?) and sometimes I saw foreigners are drinking coffee there and reading newspapers. I stopped in for a coffee. It was excellent and strong and cost 25 kroons and was served with a pitcher of cream and cookie and packets of natural sugar. I might as well never go to the next-door Reval Cafe, where the coffee is also 25 kroons now -- but it might push the patience of the servers at Fish & Wine if I never ordered fish and wine.
I overheard some people ordering spanakopita and did the same.
Points for attractive presentation: bed of rucola and cucumber with a young green olive oil and yoghurt (not sour cream) and two triangular pies. Pies were good-looking but more of a khachapuri in filo -- practically no spinach at all, just stuffed with white grainy cheese, no trace of lemon, egg or anytning else. It was if the spanako- was on the outside of the -pita.
When the check came, it was for about $12 -- almost twice what I expected and basically Old Town prices for a very light lunch.
I went back a second time and had the rucola and pesto pasta. It was good. It was green. This made up for the spanokopita debacle. Do you know how much rucola and basil cost in the stores? This probably had two bunches in it and it cost 70 kroons. I got to get the name of their supplier.
You may be asking: what about the fish and wine? I have not tried it yet.
But I might soon. Because of the crisis, I have suspended my rule about not eating out during lunch on days that the stock market tanks. I'm eating out more often now.
NOP in Kadriorg (Köleri 1, Tallinn) is still my favourite. (Check out the nice website, new since last post.) Slow food, but this morning I got my banana pancakes in literally the time it took to walk from the register to the table. I hadn't opened my computer. They were heavy on the banana. There were about six silver dollar pancakes around a pile of melon and fruit cubes.
I've had mixed luck with the grocery store that takes up one-half of the establishment, some arborio rice in a designer bag at $6 a pound was rancid -- I didn't even know that was possible. I thought rice was fat-free. What was I doing buying arborio rice at $6 per pound in the middle of a crisis? I know. Serves me right.
But the hot food really is lovingly done. Most recently, a great ginger vegetable soup (60 kroons) with bits of poached salmon, every ingredient perfectly lightly cooked, the broth delicious with just a hint of nam pla (fish sauce). And -- all the premises-baked bread you can eat.
These aren't great prices, but they're pretty good for Estonia. I just popped into Pegasus the other day -- I remembered it as a semi-affordable place for breakfast, and before that, a place for alternative youth to gather. What happened? The pastas for lunch started at 170 kroons... That, I suppose is the "boo!" in Bhoola, the renowned chef who runs the joint. That's sticker shock. Even if you soak your free-range egg noodles in truffle oil, ain't got no business being $15. That just wrong.