Sfäär of 1-2-3 dishes
Text: Aivar Hanson
Pictures: Lauri Laan
Restaurant Sfäär is a new unique addition to the catering establishments in Tallinn, where the chef Toomas Lääts prepares food in the 1-2-3 method. These numbers represent neither speed nor quantity, but the number of flavours on one plate. Toomas considers more than three inappropriate.
The opening of new catering establishments that had subsided for a while has begun again. And it seems like the break has been beneficial. The new places are more interesting and unique than ever before.
Toomas Lääts is back in Tallinn and is again cooking for everyone interested. One chef more or less in a big city, what difference does it make? Ordinarily none. But Toomas is not ordinary. It is the food that he prepares that is ordinary.
And this is quite a phenomenon. Toomas makes people move in the direction where he is cooking at any given point of time. The pre-pensioners loved to have pasta, which they did not normally eat, in the once-trendy Moskva, because Toomas was cooking. They have had no business there before and after that time.
Georg Ots Spa in Saaremaa was worth making the journey for many. Not only for the pleasures of the spa but also for Toomas’ cuisine.
Toomas’ dishes are, as mentioned above, ordinary. Very ordinary. One cannot even explain with words what it is that makes you eat and remember them. But a human being is created to eat. And it is an instinct to tell the good and bad food apart. This is all that is necessary, I guess.
It only takes him three words to introduce his kitchen: local, fresh and seasonal. I have not met a single chef in a whole year who would not use these words to describe their kitchens. Yet, the food offered by Toomas is unique.
Like this ocean fish pollack that is offered in beet and fennel sauce, served with steamed early cabbage and cucumber. Made of very mundane components, a not so very ordinary end result. This is what Toomas’ dishes are like.
Although Toomas readily categorizes his kitchen under the New Estonian Cuisine, even he cannot get by without foreign influences. Even language-wise. Here is bruschetta with shrimp, tarragon mayonnaise, cucumber from the shores of Lake Peipus and a “drowned” egg.
A proper Estonian sandwich in a new style, to put it linguistically correctly – an open sandwich. All of the Sfäär’s guests know what a bruschetta is, what and open sandwich is would have to be explained to next to everyone.
It is important for Toomas that people would clearly understand what they are ordering. And he also wants to show that even a simple sandwich can be a tasty experience.
Actions come first, words and use of language follow. That is the only way the Estonian thing can be developed. Sfäär: resto & store is actually not a completely real restaurant and it is not a store either.
The two half-realized things together, however, add up to a great and, most importantly, a functioning whole in an environment where “real“ restaurants and stores are struggling to survive. What is real then?
This is something everyone has to decide for themselves.