The quaint medieval old town of Vilnius with boutique hotels and quality cozy restaurants makes a delightful weekend getaway or a stop on longer itinerary through the Baltics.
This slick contemporary hotel housed in a 15th century building in the heart of old town is easy walking distance to Cathedral Square, Town Hall Square, Vilnius University and Uzupis.
The upscale rooms are more business style than arty, with traditional furnishings but modern twists, such as automatic lights in the bathroom. Although it is convenient not to have to search for the light switch in the middle of the night it is a little annoying to have to wait 2 minutes for the light to go out again. Room amenities include coffee and tea service, safe and the usual bathroom goodies. There is not much storage or closet space for personal belongings on longer stays.
The breakfast buffet is one of the best we’ve seen yet with tasty selections of cured fish, cold cuts and cheese, pickled salads, fresh breads, a few pastries, cake bites, fruit salad, cereal and yogurt with numerous seed topping options. Hot selections include scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. Hard boiled and fried eggs are cooked to order. Good coffee is available from a self-service machine.
The Artagonist’s restaurant is rated on Tripadvisor as the best in Vilnuis. Tuesday through Saturday they do a 4 course tasting menu in the main dining room downstairs in the cave, a contemporary low ceilinged space with painted white walls and street art type murals. Leather director chairs, rabbit lamps and large hanging baskets of flowers complete the look.
On Monday evenings they serve a 3 course option in the main floor dining room, an understated space furnished with dusty blue upholstered chairs and dark woods. The room has a library meets wine cellar vibe with shelves full of books and various sizes of wine bottles. A la carte options include 5 starters, 2 mains, and 4 desserts.
Our visit to the restaurant on a Monday evening started with an amuse bouche – tiny carrot sandwiches comprised of carrot flavored wafers filled with a cream cheese, a melt in the mouth beginning. Their soft rolls and whipped salted butter were also scrumptious.
For starters we chose the tortellini with a smoked fish filling in a creamy carrot sauce and the tuna ceviche with Wakame (a type of seaweed) and cactus. While the tortellini lacked flavor, both the filling and sauce were dull, the tuna ceviche, served room temperature, was bright and full of flavor.
For mains both the fish of the day, a pike perch (zander), and the duck were well executed. The pike perch was served on top of smashed potatoes and topped with sliced cucumber in a light wine sauce. The duck was served on a parsnip cream with barely cooked vegetables, chanterelles, lingonberry sauce and a confetti of flavor morsels.
Dessert was a plum ice cream topped with a meringue and grated caramelized carrot.
This hip seafood restaurant has a night club vibe with dark walls and ceiling, and mirrors and lights for a shot of bling. The somewhat limited menu offers an array of seafood choices, including fresh oysters. Starters include both cold and hot selections.
We started with the tuna tartar, a super fresh and generous portion of chopped tuna flavored with sesame oil, Japanese seaweed and a dollop of beet root mayonnaise – a flavorful combination.
For mains we tried the Provençal seafood stew with mussels, fish, shrimp, potatoes and carrots – everything was perfectly cooked and served in a well-seasoned seafood gravy – and the octopus with carrots and potatoes served on mashed potatoes and plated with a generous pool of squid ink sauce – a great combination, the octopus tender, the squid ink sauce fresh from the sea and the carrots sweet.
For dessert, the ice cream with cucumber and charcoal meringue was the least successful dish of the evening. While we liked the charcoal meringue, the subtlety of the cucumber element was overwhelmed by the overly sweet ice cream. Service is very friendly efficient and speaks great English.
The warm traditional restaurant has a cozy atmosphere that feels a bit like your grandmother’s dining room, with dated mismatched dining room tables, brick and rough plastered walls and just a tad too bright lighting. The food, bright, well-seasoned combinations, however, resembles nothing of this stodginess.
The discerning menu is heavy on meat, with just a fish choice or two. We started with the green salad with whipped goat cheese, pickled beets, raspberries and caramelized nuts – everything perfect and well balanced – and the marinated herring placed on dollops of apple and mustard mousse and garnished with black bread crumbs – equally divine.
For mains we chose the quail stuffed with chicken liver, pistachios and dried cranberries plated on a carrot purée and served with a beet root sauce and the venison enhanced with a cherry sauce and served with baby peas. The quail was one of the best dishes I’ve tasted in a long time. I loved the liver stuffing with the quail, all perfectly seasoned and combined with the sweet and tanginess of the purée and the beet root sauce. Don’s venison was nearly as flawless with perfectly cooked meat that showed off its gaminess without being overwhelming.
For dessert we tried the honey cake served with beet root ice cream and sour cream – a heavenly combination with a not too sweet ice cream. If you are looking for more traditional fare this is the restaurant to try and my favorite of the 3 nights in Vilnius.
September 16-19, 2019
For links to all the posts in this series see the Baltics Road Trip page.