EURO-DINING: The Old Town's newest restaurant, Bistro 18, serves up plenty of European wine and sophistication, but its limited food menu tends toward the pricey.
VILNIUS - Bistro 18, a new dining destination in Vilnius' Old Town, aspires to break away from the traditional, serving up modern European fare 's with a touch of fine wine 's in a cozy, relaxed setting.
Located at Stikliu 18, just a short walk from Pilies, the restaurant sits among many of Old Town's other popular posh bars and nightclubs.
From the outside, Bistro 18 appears to be just another high-end, exclusive restaurant.
As my friend and I shyly made our entrance on a recent Wednesday night, we saw that almost every table was fully occupied by well-dressed elites. However, the waiters did not pass judgment on us. We were kindly greeted and shown our table in the second of three clean, white-washed rooms.
The menu had few soups, starters, light pastas and salads, but the main courses made up for such losses.
The dinner entrees include rack of lamb, fillet of beef with green peppercorn, duck breast with rose wine topped with redberry sauce, pork tenderloin and olive tapenade vegetables, and chicken marinated in olives with ratatouille. The prices ranged from 22 to 33 litas.
One quirk was that the menu didn't list any beers, juices or water. That's because the bistro's specialty is wines.
An attached wine shop is expected to open soon, and we could already see stacks of bottles nestled in the separate chandelier-lit room that will house it. The owner told me over 150 different wines will be sold here, including labels from Western Europe, South America, New Zealand and Africa.
My friend and I ordered stews that cost less than 20 litas each, and we capped them off with 200 ml glasses of sweet, Italian red wine, D'Istinto Primitivo, that cost 13 litas apiece.
Most of the dishes we glimpsed on other tables were grilled or roasted and drizzled with garlic and olive oil.
A woman sitting next to us ordered the fish of the day 's sea bass 's so soft it was falling off of the bone as she plucked at it with her fork and knife.
The food arrived at our table rather quickly, and the cheerful servers were helpful with all our questions.
The savory stew was an instant favorite. My slow-cooked lamb was tender and melted softly in my mouth, and the sauce carried a hint of tangy flavor mixed with its sweet dates and almonds.
My friend said his Irish stew, served with vegetables and beef, could have used more spices to unlock the flavor. On the other hand, he pointed out that the meat didn't have any fat so would be good for dieting.
The dessert options are limited to two items, apple crumb caramel pie and creme brulee. For those with a sweet tooth, we advise asking the waiter for more sugar to add to the caramel.
The final verdict: Bistro 18 has the ambition of being a modern European bistro, but the high prices and small portions won't be welcome to those on a low-to-moderate budget.
Open 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. daily
Monday through Saturday
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Dinner: 6:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Kitchen closes at 5 p.m. Sundays