Tasting local dishes is an important part of travelling. I had a few ups and downs in the restaurants of Vilnius, the beautiful capital of Lithuania.
Very rarely I write about restaurants where I have dined or had a pint of beer during my travels. I don’t think I have done even one restaurant review or recommendation. Neither do I post or take fancy food pictures climbing on a chair, a ladder or a fence to catch the perfect angle and the most admirable light.
I don’t in general travel for food, and I don’t usually ask for restaurant tips for my journey. I rather play it by feel and eat wherever and whatever I fancy at the very moment I get hungry. Sometimes I have to get disappointed, and sometimes I get extremely positively surprised.
Sometimes, however, I can’t find words, or even thoughts after dining at a restaurant. And believe me, if something is leaving me speechless, it’s not always a good thing.
But it’s still an experience. And it’s an important part of travelling.
Don’t get me wrong. I do have a couple of principles regarding dining during my travels. When travelling to a new destination, I always want to try at least a few local specialities I have never tasted before, and I never eat twice at the same restaurant – unless the food is seriously so delicious that I can’t stay away.
What comes to my posting habits, this time I will make a small exception. I just spent a weekend in Vilnius, the beautiful capital of Lithuania. Together with Daniel, we had four emotive restaurant experiences that I wanted to tell you about.
We had beer from a tap of our own, we had an indoor dinner under a tree, we tasted some dubious but traditional Lithuanian dishes, and I lost my heart to something I found on…
Hmm, let’s not finish that sentence quite yet.
There’s something I want to note before we start. I didn’t climb anywhere for any of the pictures, and the light wasn’t too admirable in any of these restaurants (neither were my photographing skills). Sorry about that.
1. Nature on a plate – a Forest worth a dish
On our very first evening in Lithuania, we stumbled upon to a restaurant called Forest. It was only after our dinner that we found out the restaurant is highly recommended in all guidebooks and reviews, and they’ve really earned their merits.
The food was absolutely delicious, and the intriguing atmosphere definitely gained some additional points. When entering the restaurant, we nearly changed our minds and headed back out because the extraordinary decoration and funny ambience made us doubt if it was our kind of restaurant after all. But we decided to take a chance and went straight in.
The first thing to draw our attention was the huge tree standing in the middle of the dining room. It seemed like at every table diners were sipping a green drink, not necessarily a cocktail. Even though in Forest the actual forest and nature are present on a plate as well as in the decor, the menu consists of both, exciting local Lithuanian dishes and traditional grill food finalised with a modern touch.
Last but not least, the prices on the menu were very affordable from the aspect of a Finn.
Our order consisted of assorted bruschettas and beetroot soup with a spare rib for starters (doesn’t the soup sound exciting, right?) and Chef’s burger and a delicious juicy duck breast with two large beers for main; for 28 euros in total. (In Finland, you pay that for the duck only.)
Forest is located right next to old town, and it’s very easy to reach by foot.
2. A night with our own beer tap in a microbrewery
Vilnius has several brewery pubs. When wandering along the streets of the old town, we found ourselves standing in front of a microbrewery called Leičių Bravoras.
Why did we end up in a microbrewery, you might wonder? Well, we had been walking for the whole day, and we just wanted to sit down and enjoy a cold pint of local beer. Once we found a cosy-looking pub, we glanced at the menu that said the customers could pour their beers by themselves from the tap placed on each table.
You just have to go in when you see that, right?
So, we stepped inside and had absolutely no idea what to do next. We couldn’t see any staff, and the locals entering the pub seemed to walk directly to a shelf full of different kinds of beer glasses and pints. After following them for a while and confirming by asking, we took our glasses and sat down next to our tap.
I’m a bit picky with beer, so instead of the yeasty wheat beer coming from the tap, the waitress was kind enough to bring me a few small glasses of different variations to try out. Despite my special beer glasses, I offered to help Daniel with the tap. I used to be a waitress as well, you know.
For a while, we were wondering how this kind of pub night will be charged, once we noticed the digital meters on the walls next to each table. Although we couldn’t figure out how they worked; the numbers weren’t increasing no matter how often we poured more beer into Daniel’s pint.
Either or, the beer was cheap and there sure was enough of it. Make sure to visit at least one microbrewery when exploring the restaurants of Vilnius.
3. Traditional Lithuanian specialities in the atmospheric Forto Dvaras
On the second and also the last night of our little weekend getaway, we wanted to taste some very traditional Lithuanian dishes. For this purpose, we had a peek of Vilnius in your pocket guidebook, just enough to get an idea of the restaurants serving such flavours.
We chose a restaurant called Forto Dvaras located along the busiest street of the old town of Vilnius. It seemed like the best place with an authentic atmosphere, plus I remembered seeing the restaurant the night before and noting how cute and medieval it looked.
The atmosphere at the restaurant was spot on, Forto Dvaras absolutely nailed it. Based on the recommendations of the waitress, we decided to share three best local dishes.
Cepelinai, better known as Zeppelin, is the national dish of Lithuania. It’s a big potato dumpling, normally filled with meat and enjoyed with some sour cream, as most Lithuanian specialities are. I love sour cream, so it wasn’t an issue for me. The Zeppelins instead… they were.
Want an honest opinion? Yyyyh… Not to my taste, not at all. The outside layer seemed slimy and icky, and I left it on the side of my plate after all. The meat filling and sour cream tasted lovely though.
The second dish was an oven-baked portion made of potato mash and chicken bits, again served with sour cream. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one either.
I’ve heard Lithuanian food is considered the best of the Baltics, but I find it very difficult to agree. As we all know, there’s no accounting for taste, so in case you like starchy potato dishes, it might be the cuisine for you. For me not.
Our dish number three? Even if I thought sausage with sauerkraut and horseradish is German rather than a Baltic dish, it was recommended to us as a local speciality. Again, the accompanied potato mash was cooked too starchy to my taste.
As a restaurant, Forto Dvaras was very lovely, as was the atmosphere. I genuinely believe they cooked all dishes to perfection; I just had to discover that I’m not a fan of traditional Lithuanian food, that’s all. But it was still an experience, and it’s an essential part of travelling.
Hey, at least I tried!
4. And the damn thing stealing my heart…
In case you follow me on Instagram, you might already know what I’m going to blame for the crime of stealing my heart. I have loved cheese—all kinds of cheese—as long as I can remember. What I can’t remember is a day I didn’t enjoy any of this luxurious and yet so ordinary treat.
But there was something I didn’t know. No one ever told me that one tiny little addition could send me directly to heaven. Fig jam, you little devil kept in secret!
There’s no going back. The sweet combination of fig jam and cheese is something I can’t forget or get over with.
We had the cheese plate on the terrace of La Cave, a fancy restaurant right next to the cathedral of Vilnius. The price was 6 euros, so it’s a little bit more expensive than an average restaurant in Vilnius, but I guarantee it was worth every damn cent.
Have you ever tasted Lithuanian food or explored the restaurants of Vilnius? How was your culinary experience? Please share your thoughts on comments below!
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