Bordering Poland, Latvia and Belarus, Lithuania is uniquely placed as an alternative destination for tourists and foodies alike. The capital Vilnius features some of the most impressive architecture in the region including Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. The country has been progressing as a foodie capital, with chefs re-imagining Baltic cuisine. Distancing themselves from the obvious, chefs are creating dishes from the simplest of produce, like those growing in people’s back yards.
In this year’s 30 Lithuania’s best restaurants list, we see restaurants implementing their own twist on Lithuanian cuisine and here are the top five restaurants voted for by the Good Food Academy.
Claiming the number 1 spot for two years in a row, Džiaugsmas Restaurant (means joy in Lithuanian), certainly lives up to its name. Their ethos is to ‘bring positive vibes to the heart of every foodie’. Džiaugsmas focusses on the simplicity of its dishes whilst experimenting with ingredients – from cheese baskets with snails to ice-cream with boletus mushrooms.
“My goal with this restaurant is simple – to present dishes that are made from the best quality Lithuanian-grown and raised products. I waited for this opportunity for a long time and it was my dream. Now it is my daily joy,” says Chef Martynas about Džiaugsmas.
Located in the Old Town of the capital Vilnius, Nineteen18 is under the helm of Chef Matas Paulinas who is keen to lay the groundwork for progressive Lithuanian cuisine. Most of the ingredients are sourced from the restaurant’s own farm and foraged from surrounding forests and in its delivery, Nineteen18 ‘makes every leaf count’.
In third place is Monai which roughly translates to charms or spells, giving a nod to the country’s Pagan heritage. Monai is located in Klaipėda, the country’s only port town, a place famous for its fresh fish and exquisite desserts. Expect a warm and intimate experience here.
“We don’t want to be the best. We want to be the most loved. And why should we be loved? For our warmth and consistency,” says owner and chef, Vytautas Samavičius
In fourth place is Sweet Root, located in bohemian Užupis, known for its decorative streets and artisan culture. This 30-seater restaurant offers a bold tasting menu that combines rhubarb and tarragon, eel and nettle and carp and kohlrabi. Rather than import ingredients, Sweet Root aims to nurture local Lithuanian produce and use throughout its menu.
Lastly, boutique restaurant Vila Komoda based in the seaside resort of Palanga takes fifth place. Its focus takes inspiration from the changing of the seasons, with a menu change to match seasonal ingredients. Chef Martynas Meidus previously launched a successful Nordic fine dining restaurant and now aims to further champion true Baltic flavours.
Written by Ian Cole for Client Voyage