We've officially found a new favorite restaurant in Tartu and we've been there three times already. It's called Moka and it's smack in the centre, really close to the main building of the University of Tartu.
It's been around for a year or so already and I'd heard good things about it, but something about the logo or the exterior just didn't make me want to go in. For some reason I thought I'd find a crowded and stuffy small cafe that offers boring cakes. Oh how wrong was I. I mean it is a bit on the stuffy side in terms of ventilation when it's jam packed with people and the tables would benefit from being slightly more apart, but otherwise it is just splendid.
The first time we went there it was still OK to sit outside. I ordered a tempura-shrimp dish from the starters and S ordered the lasagna. Our boy enjoyed one of the freshly baked warm dinner rolls they brought out. So there we were, sitting, enjoying our drinks and the last bits of nice weather when our food arrived and my mouth literally fell open. The presentation was IMPRESSIVE. Really, really beautiful and so unexpected for this relatively understated cafe-like place.
We took our first bites and the initial amazement quickly morphed into outright delight. The food was great. Tasty, thought through in terms of intermingling flavors and contrasting textures, etc. Super. And the prices are regular cafe-prices, very reasonable.
My shrimps were coated in the most delicate tempura and came with super generous dollops of cream cheese, a nice and spicy mango chutney and lovely beetroot crisps.
S's lasagna was far too great a piece for him to manage, but was wonderful in every aspect and came with an obscenely large Parmesan crisp.
We went back the next weekend with some friends, S and a friend of ours had quesadillas (filled with smoked chicken, accompanied by onion rings and some kind of nice wafer/ bread stick thingies that had obviously been deep-fried.
I had the salad "Supreme" (shrimp, meat scallops, potatoes, pine-nut vinaigrette etc).
That weekend we also noticed that they have a 'National cuisines' thing going on every weekend. That weekend was dedicated to the States, but none of us took advantage apart from our friend's baby brother, who had a brownie (alas, a bit disappointing as it wasn't moist enough) for dessert.
However the rhubarb-espresso Alaska, that our friend had was very nice. Especially the Alaska bit. The rhubarb-espresso (a sauce that was basically blended rhubarb in espresso) was a bit over the top.
And then just the three of us went back the following weekend for the Belgian weekend. As expected I found both the mussels and the French fries on the menu - surprisingly in one dish, so that's what I ordered.
The mussels came in a lovely super-rich white wine/cream sauce, but the fries were a bit boring and I would have expected something more from this place. To be honest, I think they might have been frozen fries from a bag. But the mussels were fantastic.
S had Viking pork with vegetable duxelle and that was finger licking good to the last morsel. And impressively presented again.
For dessert we shared a slice of insanely rich Creme Brulee cake.
The long story short, if you're ever in Tartu, GO to MOKA. I can't wait to go there again.
Oh and I almost forgot, chef de cuisine Andrus Vaht came out to chat with us one time we were there and was most charming. Now what else can you ask from a nice visit to a restaurant.