Restaurant Tchaikovsky: A Symphony of Russian Cuisine in Tallinn, Estonia

October 08, 2015

Not all of Old Town's culinary offerings are medieval - on our last night in Tallinn, Henry and I enjoyed a sumptuous meal inspired by Tsarist Russia in a luxurious restaurant laden with contemporary accolades.


Making a song and dance of dinner: Restaurant Tchaikovsky at Hotel Telegraaf, Tallinn

“…Rich melodies, well orchestrated..the adagio was particularly captivating. It was built on the Russian character; hearing of Russian motif, you feel your heart warm…” a critic gushed of Tchaikovsky First symphony at an 1867 performance in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This evocative description no doubt inspired Hotel Telegraaf Tallinn's flagship restaurant, Tchaikovsky, who strive to "present a symphony of Russian cuisine". You may have seen the marriage of French-Russian cuisine in my review of Palkin, a historical restaurant in Saint Petersburg. The same exquisite fusion of delicate balance of flavour and flair - brought to Russia by France’s best chefs at the end of the 18th century - is reproduced at Tchaikovsky and infused with the modern vision of Chef de Cuisine Vladislav Djatšuk, a 2009 finalist in world's top gastronomy contest Bocuse d'Or Europe. It’s a recipe that works judging by their awards: in 2013, Flavours of Estonia announced The 50 Best Restaurants in Estonia - Restaurant Tchaikovsky made the 1st choice in Tallinn and the 2nd best in Estonia. Other accomplishments also include the 2013 Silverspoon Awards (no, not Angie’s blog but there's an idea). 


The restaurant decor is right up my gold-paved street: my favourite mashup of classical and contemporary style, a contrast of dark, dramatic colours (those grey walls! swoon) with soaring skylights, and collections of eclectic objects adorning the walls - coronets in bell jars, oil portraits in ornate frames, clusters of religious iconography, mid-century chairs upholstered in damask and jacquard...I could wax lyrical, all day long, on Restaurant Tchaikovsky's gilded, moody interiors - anyone who knows me well would walk into the gothic-glam restaurant and exclaim: "That's so Jasiminne!"





Spot Odile the Black Swan.

More than just the decor, the ambience was lovely and the service was flawless. The sweet strains of live classical music by Salon Trio - cello, piano, and violin - filled the air with a gentle warmth well appreciated by the well-heeled clientele of both locals and international globetrotters, refined and elegantly dressed in pearls, suits, and heels. And the service, exceptional! Our waiter was an absolute delight; humorous and suave, attentive yet discreet, and swelling with pride for his work - as it seems to be with most of the Estonians Henry and I met in Tallinn. Another reason to love this wonderful Baltic country.

And what of the food? 
Well, I’m happy to report that Tchaikovsky’s menu lived up to the high expectations set by the restaurant’s service and ambience.


Henry and I tickled our palate with a complimentary selection of seeded bread - the thin, crispy sort that breaks away with a satisfying snap.


Compliments of the chef - an amuse bouche of frothy scallop. When Henry politely declined his amuse bouche, explaining to our waiter that he is vegetarian, our waiter very smoothly whisked the bowl away without missing a beat and winked conspiratorially, before returning in a blink of an eye with a vegetarian version. Brilliant!

Picky eaters and restricted dieters need not fret - the menu is helpfully labelled with symbols next to the dishes indicating gluten free, lactose free, and vegetarian. Very thoughtful.


For starters, Henry the vegetarian had the wild mushroom pelmeni and cheese gratin with potatoes espuma. I know it's not the most photogenic of dishes (am I imagining things or those that dish look like a scary deep-sea fish? You know the sort: blind, lives in the shadows, terrifying sucker-like mouth...) but I take Henry's word (and ecstatic expression with each mouthful) that it was delicious, hearty (all that cheese and potato!) and satisfyingly cheesy.


This committed carnivore loved her venison tartare with mustard, marinated onion and rye bread croutons. The croutons were so much more than just those crunchy chunks of bread you toss into a salad as an afterthought (and consolation prize for eating leaves for dinner...) - oozing from the rye bread was a sort of cheesy spread. It was quite a treat, finding tiny cheese sandwiches in my tartare! The venison was of course, beautifully season and just the right kind of fiery (courtesy of the mustard and onion) - so flavourful that this cucumber-hater actually welcomed the thinly-shaved slices to cool down each mouthful of spiced meat. Balance, baby, balance.


The licked-clean plates were whisked away and replaced with our palate cleanser - an extremely refreshing sorbet of eyebrow-raisingly-tart lime accompanied with pearls of lime jelly. I think I detected a taste of lemongrass, too.

Once our taste buds were successfully restored to default factory settings, the main courses arrived.


This time it was Henry's turn to have the pretty and Instagram-friendly dish. The globe artichoke with goat cheese cream and black truffle was every bit as flavourful as the it was gorgeous. Despite what looked to be fashionably-sparse portions (the fine-dining style that the French make so fashionable...) the dish was surprisingly filling - even a big man like Henry was bested and had no room for pudding after! 


My dish - salmon ballotine with lobster, cucumber and horseradish cream - is not as photogenic as Henry's but no matter, it was transcendent. Again, the addition of cucumber (my most hated vegetable) was a surprisingly welcome addition to the dish, balancing the warmth of the horseradish cream so as not to overpower the delicate flavour and fragrance of the lobster.


I've never been one to dessert my desserts, and pavlova is certainly no palava for me.

So the Pavlova à la Tchaikovsky it had to be.



Chunks of pavlova scattered like pebbles among a garden of fresh fruit...popping candy crackling...swirling mist rising from the plate in a manner most mystical...and a raspberry sorbet that struck the right balance between sweet and sour. It was the perfect high note to end this symphony of Russian cuisine...


...together with a warming and refreshing mint tea, to brace myself for the walk back home in the crisp Estonian air.

I had a brilliant time at Restaurant Tchaikovksy, can you tell? It was a nice change from all the medieval loveliness of Tallinn - as much as I'm game for a rustic tavern serving up hearty Middle-Aged-themed game, you know I need my fix of luxury. And luxury is exactly what Restaurant Tchaikovsky serves up: from its dramatic, glamorous decor to the exquisite service and refined, exciting culinary offerings. It's definitely a place to take a date if you want to impress, and expect to be impressed by the dining experience! 

What do you think of Restaurant Tchaikovsky? Are you Team Medieval or Theme Classical Glamour? x

Restaurant Tchaikovsky, Hotel TelegraafVene 910123 Tallinn, Estonia

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