Situated on the cusp of the old town Eesti Maja serves traditional Estonian dishes in a series of cellar rooms such as the Mirror Nook, Bar Nook, History Corner - perfect for couples or a small groups - and the Main Hall which is big enough to seat larger parties or tour groups.
We sat in history corner which had a display of military artefacts – tankards, flags, maps posters and photographs - as well as an upright piano, hat stand, strange chicken torso objet d’art and a stuffed doll, the latter being a theme in many of the rooms. If it all sounds a little weird then maybe, though I’d prefer to describe it as eclectic, but please don’t be put off as the atmosphere is both inviting and relaxing, the service friendly and the food good.
The menu has an extensive selection of appetizers, meat and fish dishes plus a small selection of vegetarian options supplemented by omelettes with your choice of filling. Under the section entitled National Dishes are such things as Blood Sausage, Potato Porridge with Bacon and Jellied pork while the menu also includes the wonderfully named “Gossips Fate” (tongue with horseradish) and “Piggy Under the Clouds”. The latter was too much for my meat loving husband who put his thoughts of “Babe; The Sheep Pig” aside and immediately ordered it! It turned about to be a fried pork fillet covered with a towering blanket of garlic meringue, very tasty, really unusual and a paradox for the senses. Your eyes and brain were telling you to expect “sweet” whereas once on your tongue your taste buds were saying “savoury”.
Favorite Dish: Our starters – Herrings Sour Cream and Onion plus some Baltic Sprats with Egg- were light, tasty and delicious, especially the sprats, while my main course, Salmon with Cream and Dill Sauce, was lovely, the salmon crunchy on top while flaky and moist underneath. Both our mains were complimented by pan fried and garlic potatoes. Dessert provided another surprise with Steve choosing Kama – three milled cereals in buttermilk – another traditional Estonian dish. Presented in a cup and saucer it looked like cold porridge but tasted more like a tastier version of a yoghurt and oat smoothie, sweet, refreshing and highly addictive! My pancakes with honey were lovely and stodgy - in the best way! - delicious but not quite as unusual and therefore special, for us, as the Kama.
Three courses each, a beer, coke and 2 Estonian vodkas was 650 eek (about £31.00) including a tip – very good value for an excellent meal and, in Steve’s case, really interesting to try three dishes – sprats, the garlic meringue and kama - that he had never experience before and he (and me when I had a mouthful or two!) really enjoyed sampling
Eesti Maja is the place to go if you want to try traditional Estonian dishes. Estonian food for the most part is a mix of German with some Nordic and Russian influences. Most of the times that I have been to Eesti Maja I have focused mainly on the smaller dishes and the desserts (Estonian pancakes are hard to beat!) The selection is pretty good and there should be something for most tastes as well as a few dishes for the more daring. It has a good mix of popular items as well all for reasonable prices . If you are in the mood to try more traditional, but hard to find Estonian cuisine head to Eesti Maja.
Favorite Dish: I am a big fan of herring with boiled potatoes and sour cream but it isn't a taste for everyone.
Estonian garlic bread is always a good option, although if you are going on to Tartu a few places there do it better in my opinion.
For a truly Estonian dessert try their Kama drink, its hard to explain but its basically the national grain of Estonia mixed with Kefiir.
I would also go for any dessert that is made with kohupiim.
The restaurant gives you the feeling that you really are eating in the local environment. The waiting on staff are dressed in traditional Estonian costume and the restaurant itself has traditional Estonian items on display.
If you're not sure whether you will like the food, head for the lunctime menu which is a buffet. That way you can try a little of everything and you won't feel as guilty leaving a small amount of anything you dislike as you would if you had ordered a whole plateful.
The buffet also has a small dessert after the soup and main courses. It is excellent value for money and I have rated this tip based on the lunch menu as opposed to the more expensive evening option.
Favorite Dish: Mulgi kapsad (sealihaga) - a pork sauerkraut stew - really tasty.
Beetroot salad - I love beetroot and the salad with mayonnaise was fantastic.
Blood sausage (black pudding in the UK) - I tried it, not liking the English version, and also found this had far too much fat in it for my liking.