Monte Pacis: Fine Dining in a Monastery

Dining table

Out of all the reasons that could draw you to the church grounds on Sunday, fine dining could be the least likely. And yet having a meal surrounded by baroque vaults in a monastery is a real opportunity presented by Monte Pacis restaurant in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Pažaislis monastery located by Kaunas lagoon is a functioning institution with Camaldolese (Kamalduli) nuns residing here. It is a part of the national architectural reserve with a beautiful church which is one of the best Italian Baroque architecture examples in Northern and Eastern Europe. When in 17th century the monastery was built in this tranquil woody area, the place was called “a peaceful mountain” thus the name of the hospitality complex.

Pazaislis monastery

Pazaislis church

Pazaislis monastery grounds

After a brief walk enjoying the beautiful surroundings, our party was led to the dining hall and seated in throne-like chairs at a big round table. The concept of one of the most unusual Kaunas restaurants Monte Pacis is to serve food made of fresh local ingredients that are cooked using ancient monk recipes.

Silky smooth tomato butter with freshly baked bread was a delightful start of the dinner while waiting for six course tasting menu to arrive.

Tomato butter

Chefs compliment – wild reed with pine bud syrup – seriously intrigued us. Freshly collected in the morning from the local surroundings the core of the reed was very succulent and pine flavour quite intense. It felt like taking a big breath of forest air while having a stroll along the lake. Valdobbiadenne Prosecco DOCG was a beautiful pairing to it, tempering down the intensity of pine, diluting the sweetness of the syrup and evolving into subtle floral finish.

Reed with pine bud syrup

Smoked salmon with horseradish cream, coffee and mustard sauce was a perfectly balanced combination it terms of flavours and textures. Hints of smokiness, smoothness of salmon and sauces, and crunchy bread crisps. It was accompanied with oaky Italian  Falerno del Massico wine.

Smoked salmon

Rich duck consommé with ceps and duck ravioli was a continuation of wilderness theme. It’s a shame that ripe and fruity Alsace Pinot Gris wine was not exactly the right combination to this delicate dish, that otherwise could have been perfect.

Duck soup

Pan seared salmon cured in soy and honey marinade served with steamed bok choy had an oriental touch to it. The flavour of the marinade was quite intense, almost overwhelming the salmon, with dominant dark soy sauce and honey flavour. But that’s where an unusual red wine suggestion justified the combination of ingredients: Sicilian Frapatto with elegant tannins worked with food just perfect, smoothing down the sharper peaks of the sauce and bringing out buttery texture of the salmon.

Seared salmon

Pear sorbet with cinnamon came out between the dishes and it was beautiful on its own. With its richness and the amount of sweetness it could have easily been a dessert. However it was too heavy for a palate cleanser, but then it is often the case with sorbets for me unless they are very citrusy.

Peer sorbet

Beef tenderloin with smoked mashed potatoes and roasted garlic was a classic combination. The meat was only slightly cooked, extremely juicy and flavoursome and the subtle sweetness of garlic was just the right addition to it. Potato mash was a bit of a let down as potatoes never taste that good in late spring. I could perfectly imagine getting away with parsnip puree instead. Merlot blend from Bordeaux with flavours of ripe berries and spices was a perfect choice for this dish.

Beef tenderloin

For the dessert we had boiled rhubarb stalks with rhubarb ice cream, candied nuts and apple tree blossom. It was very refreshing and not too sweet. Domaine Dupont apple ice wine was exactly what was needed here: intense flavour, but not too dominant and the classic apple and rhubarb combination is something you can’t go wrong with.

Rhubarb dessert

After we were done with the tasting menu, we decided to have a peek at the a la carte and we just couldn’t resist ordering one more dessert: traditional Kamanduliai cake, made according to a an old monks’ recipe. A generous layer of hazelnuts and caramel was sandwiched between two shortbread cookies and topped up with a salty caramel. With the crunchiness of buttery cookies, richness of nut and caramel filling and gooey salted caramel It was simply perfect and made me to admit my weakness for salted caramel and note it as a reason to come back here again some day.

Kamalduliai cake

Monte Pacis, T.Masiulio st. 31, Kaunas, Lithuania

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