Kristjan Peäske
Kristjan Peäske

Expert of the week

Kristjan Peäske

A seasoned sommelier and restaurateur, shaping Tallinn’s dining scene for over 20 years, founding acclaimed restaurants like Lore Bistro, UMA, and Lee.

Updated on Jun 24, 2024 | World of Mouth team

Kristjan Peäske, a trained sommelier, began his career as a maître d’ at Pädaste Manor on the secluded island of Muhu. He has worked in various five-star hotels across Estonia and won several sommelier competitions before becoming a restaurateur. He now runs some of Estonia's most exciting restaurants and has been a force in developing Tallinn’s restaurant scene.

Kristjan, please introduce yourself to our members.

My name is Kristjan Peäske. I'm a restaurant professional based in Tallinn, Estonia, with over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. I've had the pleasure of founding several restaurants, including Lore Bistro, UMA Restaurant, and Lee Restaurant. My journey in this industry began as a sommelier, and over the years, I have grown into the role of a restaurateur. I am driven by a love for connecting people through exceptional dining experiences and a commitment to sustainability in hospitality.

Tell us about your current project.

Currently, I am still actively involved with Lore Bistro and Lee Restaurant, both of which continue to thrive and uphold their standards. However, this spring, we took on the exciting challenge of opening two new venues: UMA Restaurant and Lessner Bar.

UMA, which stands for Unorthodox Modern Asia, represents a new chapter in our culinary journey. At UMA, we don't stick to the traditional boundaries of any single Asian cuisine. Instead, we take inspiration from all over Asia and reimagine those flavors through the creative lenses of our chefs. It's a bold and exciting project that allows us to explore and innovate, bringing something truly unique to the dining scene in Tallinn.

Lessner is all about relaxation and quality. I wanted to create a place where people can unwind with top-notch drinks in a casual, no-fuss atmosphere. We've teamed up with Christoph Stephan, who was the head bartender at Two Schmucks – one of the top 50 bars in the world. Christoph is helping us bring a blend of simplicity and sophistication to our cocktail menu, focusing on the essence of each drink without the unnecessary frills. It's been an exciting journey to see Lessner come to life and offer a new kind of experience to our guests.

Tell us about the restaurant scene in Tallinn.

Tallinn’s restaurant scene is incredibly dynamic and diverse, blending rich history with modern innovation. We are thrilled that Tallinn has been recognized as a Michelin city, featuring both one and two-star restaurants. Notably, 180° by Matthias Diether and NOA Chef’s Hall both stand out with their Michelin stars.

The casual dining scene in Tallinn is equally cool. For instance, Rado is a unique spot where the Slovenian chef goes to the market every day to craft the menu, ensuring fresh and vibrant dishes. Another gem is Barbarea, which brings a bit of Copenhagen's charm to Tallinn. Run by the talented Kenneth Karjane, Barbarea offers a cozy atmosphere and excellent natural wines, making it a favorite among locals.

What are your favorite restaurants in Tallinn and why?

  1. Barbarea is a standout for its bold and creative approach to cuisine. The kitchen focuses on minimally processed and boldly combined ingredients, often incorporating fermentation. This style is reminiscent of the innovative dining scene in Copenhagen. Barbarea also emphasizes the use of local organic ingredients, making it one of the few restaurants in Tallinn that can match the quality and sustainability standards of top European dining spots.
  2. Since its opening, Fotografiska Restoran has been committed to sustainability. Led by Peeter Pihel, an alumnus of Fäviken, the restaurant focuses on enhancing natural flavors and utilizing diverse textures, resulting in meals that are both delicious and visually stunning. Fotografiska sets an example for sustainable dining practices, aiming to inspire other restaurants to follow suit.
  3. Põhjala Tap Room is part of Põhjala Brewery, which is listed among the top 100 breweries in the world. The Tap Room is run by the talented Michael Jiro Holman, who creates some of the best comfort food in town. Visitors can watch the brewing process through windows in the dining area, adding a unique experience to their visit. Põhjala has significantly enriched Estonia's beer culture with its diverse and high-quality offerings. The Tap Room extends this excellence to food, offering Texas-style dishes that complement their exceptional beers.

What’s a new restaurant or hidden gem in Tallinn that you think is doing great things?

One hidden gem in Tallinn that I highly recommend is The Kurze. This unique restaurant specializes in Dagestani cuisine, authentically prepared by native Dagestani people. Located in a rather dodgy area of town, visiting The Kurze adds an element of adventure to your dining experience.

The restaurant’s name, "Kurze," refers to the Dagestani version of pelmeni (dumplings), but with a playful twist: if you call them pelmeni, you might end up paying double. This fun rule reflects the lively and welcoming character of the place. Besides their delicious kurze, The Kurze also incorporates some classic dishes from Georgian cuisine. Their khachapuri, a traditional Georgian cheese bread, is a must-try and perfectly complements their menu.

The eclectic interior and unique menu make The Kurze a real standout spot.

What’s your favorite kind of restaurant and why?

I usually gravitate towards easy-going, soulful places that serve simple yet great food. These types of restaurants often have a warm and welcoming atmosphere, making them perfect for relaxed dining experiences. I appreciate venues where the focus is on quality ingredients and honest cooking, allowing the flavors to shine through without unnecessary complexity. This approach not only makes for a comforting meal but also highlights the chef's skill in bringing out the best in each ingredient. For me, it's about enjoying food that is thoughtfully prepared and shared in a relaxed setting.

"I appreciate venues where the focus is on quality ingredients and honest cooking, allowing the flavors to shine through without unnecessary complexity. This approach not only makes for a comforting meal but also highlights the chef's skill in bringing out the best in each ingredient."

What are your favorite food cities and your favorite restaurants in those cities?

Copenhagen

1. Slurp Ramen, a cozy, vibrant ramen shop located on Nansensgade in central Copenhagen. The noodles are made from scratch using wheat and rye from Bornholm, and the broths are meticulously crafted to provide deep, rich flavors. The menu features a limited but exquisite selection of ramen, including miso-based, shio, and vegan options, along with sides like homemade kimchi and Korean fried chicken.

2. Goldfinch is the brainchild of acclaimed chef Will King-Smith, former assistant head chef at Geranium. Goldfinch is Will's take on Cantonese food, a cuisine he has a personal connection with since childhood. The restaurant provides a dynamic tour of high-quality, ethically sourced Chinese food in a comfortable and cool setting. All dishes are designed for sharing, with recommendations to have three or four dishes per person. Additionally, the wine selection is curated exceptionally well, complementing the diverse menu.

3. Jatak blends local Nordic ingredients with global culinary influences, creating a unique and memorable dining experience. The atmosphere is casual yet refined, and the staff is very knowledgeable and really friendly.

Barcelona

1. Bar Brutal is a lively tapas bar located in the heart of Barcelona. It's known for its extensive natural wine list and creative tapas. The bar has a rustic, vibrant atmosphere, making it a perfect spot to enjoy the bustling evening. The dishes are prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and the menu changes frequently to reflect seasonal availability.

2. El Xampanyet is a historic tapas bar in Barcelona, famous for its traditional Catalan dishes and homemade cava. The ambiance is bustling and authentic, providing a genuine taste of the local tapas culture. The bar is always packed with locals and tourists alike, all eager to savor the delicious small plates and house-made sparkling wine. Be aware that their wine list is actually hiding some really cool treasures.

3. El Quim de la Boqueria located inside the iconic La Boqueria market, El Quim de la Boqueria offers a true Barcelona experience. This family-run bar serves up some of the best tapas in the city, using fresh ingredients sourced directly from the market. The atmosphere is vibrant and busy, with diners enjoying dishes like fried eggs with baby squid, grilled seafood, and seasonal vegetables.

4. Two Schmucks though not a restaurant, Two Schmucks is my favorite bar in Barcelona. It stands out for its relaxed vibe, innovative cocktails, and outstanding service. The bar has a playful, unpretentious atmosphere, making it a great place to unwind and enjoy expertly crafted drinks with friends.

Lisbon

1. Taberna da Rua das Flores charming and intimate restaurant located in the heart of Lisbon. Known for its traditional Portuguese cuisine with a modern twist, this small venue offers a cozy and authentic dining experience. The menu changes daily, reflecting the freshest ingredients available, and includes a variety of petiscos (Portuguese tapas) that are perfect for sharing. The ambiance is warm and inviting, with rustic decor that adds to the overall charm of the place. The restaurant does not take reservations, so it's best to arrive early to secure a spot.

2. Sála de João Sá sophisticated dining destination in Lisbon, headed by renowned chef João Sá. The restaurant focuses on contemporary Portuguese cuisine, blending traditional flavors with innovative techniques. The interior is sleek and modern, with an open kitchen that allows diners to watch the culinary team at work. The restaurant also boasts an impressive wine list.

3. Prado emphasizes sustainability and locally sourced ingredients. The name "Prado" means "meadow" in Portuguese, reflecting the restaurant's commitment to using fresh, seasonal produce. The menu is designed to be shared, with dishes that showcase the natural flavors of the ingredients. The interior is minimalist and stylish, with large windows that let in plenty of natural light. Prado is also known for its extensive selection of natural wines.

What is your favorite dish and where is your favorite restaurant to have it?

Eleven Madison Park’s famous crispy duck was unforgettable and still makes my mouth water. Unfortunately, since transitioning to a vegetarian menu, this dish is no longer available.

The Tortilla de Patatas y Chorizo at El Xampanyet in Barcelona is simple yet incredibly delicious. It's a perfect example of how basic ingredients can be transformed into something extraordinary.

Eating a whole leg of deer prepared by Dario Cecchini in Tuscany, with 11 different meals made from various cuts of the within the leg, was an exceptional experience. His precision in understanding how to treat different meats and his love for the animal during preparation was truly out of this world.

Who is an up-and-coming chef you are keeping an eye on?

I'm keeping an eye on Kenneth Karjane. He runs Barbarea, a great spot known for its natural wines and minimal processing approach. Recently, he opened Bar Rara, which offers delicious pintxos and natural wines. Kenneth's innovative style and commitment to local ingredients make his places stand out. He’s also expressed interest in diving back into fine dining someday, which I’m sure will bring even more exciting culinary adventures.

Who is a food expert whose restaurant recommendations you’d like to see?

WoM has far exceeded my expectations and dreams. Every trip I take is accompanied by the WOM app, which has become an essential part of my culinary explorations. The app’s collection of recommendations from a diverse group of food experts is truly impressive. I deeply appreciate the insights and discoveries it has brought to my travels. I am very happy with all the talented people who are part of this community. Keep up the great work and continue growing!

Find Kristjan Peäske on Instagram: @kristjanpeaske

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