Three Chefs has a second name, which is probably the longest restaurant moniker in Latvia: Tam labam būs augt, meaning “The good must grow”––it says everything about the place. The three toques who run the kitchen, Mārtiņš Sirmais, Ēriks Dreibants and Artūrs Trinkuns, aim to provide “more goodness” and have become legendary over the years for their delicious ambitions. Their names are synonymous with Latvian cuisine and they’re frequently featured on television, in media, as well as in culinary competitions outside the country. Guests are always welcomed with bread presented on white parchment paper that is decorated with liquid spreads, artfully painted in seasonal colors, with contemporary flair and a very temporary nature––those tasty dips will not stay long on that paper. The menu may be confusing for first time visitors. Don’t worry, it’s purposely that way. Chef Dreibants claims he “wants to pile the whole world on every plate, but only so that the main characteristic of each ingredient is prominent”. Hence, you can enjoy dishes like cod filet, pearl barley, red king crab and citrus or Iberico pork, braised cabbage, leek and, Brussels sprouts with a mustard demi-glace sauce. And once you leave this eatery you’ll really understand the meaning of that convoluted, complicated name; the good really does grow here.
Jurmala, on the Gulf of Riga, might just be Latvia’s most unique resort town. Nowhere else can you find such an intriguing mix of architecture (wooden art nouveau villas and Soviet-era sanatoriums) and such pristine nature and sandy beaches. Even the people are happier here than anywhere else in the country. 36. Linja is a restaurant for happy people. Located directly at the edge of the sea, Jurmala, becomes beautifully deserted at the end of the season. Few guests visit the town’s other restaurants during low season, yet scoring a table at 36. Linja requires making a reservation far in advance. Everyone who goes to Jurmala ends up here. The menu is very long, featuring everything from vegetarian avocado tartare to the world’s most precious beef; Wagyu. Don’t ask the waiters for advice, just order what you wish to eat and they’ll accommodate you. The same applies to the beverage menu, it’s designed to cater to all tastes. You’ll never be bored here. Even when you dine alone, there is always something new to see and experience in this happy place.
A prime location and ambitious décor; eye-catching chandeliers, wood paneling and generous windows affording breath-taking views of Riga’s most beautiful park. The ambiance is sublime, the service impeccable; Biblioteka knows how to impress. Start with a drink; there’s no cocktail menu here, instead, libations are tailored to the guests’ individual wishes and preferences. After that you’re going to want to spring for the chef’s nine-course tasting menu with the beverage pairing. Ox tongue, simmered for 36 hours is a melt-in-your-mouth-splendor, served with a 2015 Pratto from Cà dei Frati that lifts the dish to next-level perfection. Chef Maris Jansons dishes are a ‘flavor library’ containing wild tales of intrigue and idyll, they makes for riveting eating.
Things that are hidden in plain sight are usually intriguing: places that don’t advertise; off-the-menu dishes requested only by in-the-know guests; discreet restaurants that savvy gourmets keep for themselves. COD is one of these. Yes, it’s Japanese––traditional Japanese culture is all about discretion, after all. COD might be a well-kept secret, but it’s always busy. The action circles around a robata grill where chefs slowly sear raw ingredients over an open fire, taming even the richest, most robust mackerel into irresistible, subtle delicacy. Coals and embers have a way of making everything taste better. Naturally, there’s tataki, tempura and sushi too, the latter offering some fun surprises like Wagyu beef sushi and goose liver wrapped in seaweed. Sushi joints are ubiquitous in Riga, COD, however has them all beat with superior fish and expertly cooked rice with a well-balanced acidity, The mostly black décor adds a layer of seriousness, even the wait staff is dressed in somber black uniforms, they move silently, appear, and disappear, often almost unnoticed. This is not a place for loud conversations, so whatever you do, keep it down while you knock back your sake. There’s a chef’s table in the kitchen, it seats four––four guests that are really in the know. You don’t have to know a lot, you just have to visit COD once. And then finish your meal with cocktails in the subterranean bar. The signature drinks change often and the beverage list is one of the city’s most extensive.
Wild game is popular in Latvia, there’s an increasing number of eateries featuring it on their menus as more and more hunters from near and far are finding their way to our land. If you have an irresistible desire to eat wild dishes, you should definitely journey to Dikli, a minute palace in the middle of forest that serves game throughout the year, because––you guessed it––the owner, Egons Mednis, is an avid hunter. Of course, not all dishes are game-based, but we’ve never eaten anything here that hasn’t come from the nearby forest or the estate’s private pond; quail, rabbit and pike perch are just a few of the star attractions that Chef Jānis Siliņš will regal you with. Refurbishing ancient residences and transforming them into hotels and restaurants has become a way of preserving the country’s architectural- and cultural heritage, touring these treasures allows visitors to experience the country in a completely new way. Largely thanks to its restaurant, Dikli is probably the most well known of Latvia’s grand old houses. Its dining room is located in the exposed brick-cellar; a proper, white tablecloth-affair with a particularly warm,atmosphere.
Rapidly evolving gastronomy is most often characterized by turbulence. There are no guarantees that you’ll get the same menu and a similar experience next time you return to that new favorite place. That’s why we like Entresol, it’s impressively dependable and solid. They’re probably not trying to be the country’s best restaurant, but they’ve definitely contributed to the development of the new Latvian cuisine and helped shine a light on it. Knapas, or Latvian-style tapas, don’t exist anywhere else. And we’re not talking about things that come out of tin cans and jars, served straight up with bread; these are amuse-sized little bites such as smoked duck with pumpkin purée, octopus with potato or rabbit pâté with lingonberry jelly. The kitchen recommends fashioning your own appetizer by choosing three from the vast variety featured on the menu, more than half of them have local accents, all boast the unmistakable aromas of truly fresh ingredients. If you happen to visit on the early side of lunch, you’ll spot local farmers personally delivering newly plucked produce to the restaurant’s doorstep. The ostrich filet main course is a truly Latvian creation. Unbelievably, the giant birds are farmed all over the Baltics these days. This one is served grilled with potato foam, marinated mushrooms, reduction sauce and the value-added bonus of grilled ostrich heart. The waiters in Latvian restaurants don’t usually entertain their guests with too much information, Entresol is a pleasant exception. Here they always point out specials and explain everything in detail. There’s something to be said for quality and consistency, not everything needs to inventive and new.
A restaurant located in a building that also houses a culinary school? You know it’s going to be great. Chef Māris Astičs’ Ferma is all stylishly decked out in exquisite dark furniture, geometric wine shelves, black ceiling fans and paintings of plants on the walls. The name speaks for itself, everything is local, straight from the farm. And naturally, when the chef heads a hospitality school on the same premises, technique and execution are not going to be shabby. Latvian tomatoes, venison, herring, beef and that most Latvian heavy-hitter bukstiņputra, a real farmer’s lunch stew of barley and potatoes. That’s just the tip of the gastro-iceberg. Astičs highlights the unique character of each ingredient. Try to experiment with wine: scallops with mashed peas go beautifully with an American Riesling, its lemongrass- and passion fruit aromas are an exquisite match for this dish. And if you’re visiting in the summer, squeeze yourself onto the restaurant’s popular verandah that abuts Viesturdārzs park, it’s like having a picnic, only without the ants.
Kuldiga, in the western part of Latvia, is a small town with a long history and a beautiful old city center. A place like this should have at least one restaurant that you can safely recommend to visitors. That would be Goldingen Room, located right on the main square, it surprises everyone with its tasteful, modern interiors. It’s an Italian-style eatery, with pizzas making up half the menu, yet there are always typically Latvian dishes to be had as well. We suggest you order the mutton roll with pumpkin, prepared according local traditions. Make sure you taste the Kuldiga berry wines. Ask for the very special birch sap wine if it’s available, it’s an absolute symbol of Kuldiga town and the Goldingen Room.
"Ezerputni", Amata, Drabešu pagasts, Amatas novads
Here’s a secret we considered keeping to ourselves, but it’s so good we can’t not share it! At the end of a road, deep in the Latvian forest lies a fantasy resort of sorts. Camouflaged by lush trees is a gorgeous wooden house with a thatched roof, it’s part of the Jonathan Spa Estate, a property consisting of one hundred (!) such houses, two of which are the quaint hotel and spa, the rest are private residences. Tastefully created artificial lakes render the environment even more picturesque; everything suggests that people here want to keep all this beauty and comfort to themselves. But we’re officially letting you in on the magic number. The restaurant’s atmosphere is sublime; the selection of European cuisine is wide, and features two or three daily specials. In these spectacular Latvian surroundings you should of course eat Latvian: the herring, a national dish, is as festive and tasty as you’d expect it to be; the parsnip-pear purée soup is a real flavor explosion, with an exceptionally light texture; everything giving nod to the local, Latvian suppliers.
The end of the world isn’t far away, it’s located right here in Latvia, in a place called Annas that also features a ten-room design hotel, Spa Vannas, and a restaurant, Kannas. All of them are cozied-up in one little house. Annas turns into the end of the world at summer’s close, when there’s been constant rain or snow for a few days. Follow your navigation device closely when driving here, and don’t under any circumstances turn back, even when the road narrows and you start doubting the GPS, wondering if it hasn’t taken you for a ride in the wrong direction. You’ll get there, it’s just not the most obvious place to find. But it’s worth the effort as Kannas easily rivals some of Riga’s best restaurants. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Dzintars Kristovskis, a new recruit and bearded man with striking tattoos (is that an oxymoron?) who didn’t end up here by chance while losing his way. He’s not exactly a man of many words, but he speaks the language of flavors. Every one of the ten dishes on his short à la carte menu, including the roasted mutton, is made with ingredients from this Red-Riding-Hood region. Of course, the mutton is the most surprising, as all chefs seem to speak in unison about the diminishing availability of local mutton, the meat’s usually of poor quality, coming from unskilled butchers. It’s easy for a small party to try all ten dishes, they’re all winners. Venden mineral water from Gauja National Park is every responsible driver’s drink, but for the non-designated drivers there are local berry wines and beers. And though this might seem like the end of the world, it’s still Europe; the wine list is full of Old World favorites.
Near the capital’s Freedom Monument, in the middle of Bastion Hill park you’ll spot Kolonade’s huge panoramic glassed-in terrace and the columned, low-slung building that gave the restaurant its name. It’s a Riga-classic, a bit old-fashioned, yet very charming. The views from those generous windows are stunning, spreading from the leafy green park to the Latvian National Opera and the iconic Laima Clock. The atmosphere here is peaceful and the wine list goes on for days. What more could you wish for? Ostrich tartare with Dijon mustard, three kinds of onions and soft-boiled egg; smoked eel with pickled egg and beet crisp; moose carpaccio with Parmesan and truffle oil; all are toothsome starters. Follow one of those with the pike perch filet cooked in white wine, it comes with green buckwheat and vegetables. Kolonade boasts four types of meatballs as well; duck, lamb, moose and beef. There are soups and pizzas too, just in case it wasn’t hard enough to make a choice here. There’s also a special wine-tasting menu, but keep in mind that you need to book that one in advance.
Laivas is the Latvian word for boat, though incongruously, the restaurant has nothing to do with boats. It’s just a very comfortable restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Liepupe River and the opposite shore. Still, it’s very easy to imagine being on a boat, and the menu offers plenty of seafood––just like the cruise ships that roam the Baltic Sea. What’s more, Laivas is located directly next to a water park, attracting families who come here for a bite before, or after their aquatic adventures in the park. In addition to the main bill of fare, Laivas always offers a short seasonal menu, focused on one specific ingredient and demonstrating its diverse possibilities and uses. The autumnal star is pumpkin, transformed into soups or simply grilled, even baked into cheesecake for a new flavor sensation. We recommend that foreign guests pay special attention to the selection of local delicacies: sprat in oil and sprat pâté are traditional Latvian dishes. If there is one single flavor that represents this country, it would certainly be the sprat.
Black and white photos enhance this dining room’s simplicity and give it a pronounced cosmopolitan feel. Le Dome, within the hotel with the same name, is quiet and neat, classic in its layout. At night the place is packed, mostly with regulars who come for the excellent seafood: smoked trout confit with horseradish emulsion, pickled beets and dill oil; butter-poached turbot with seasonal mushrooms; an alder smoked sturgeon with potato fondant, leeks and cucumber horseradish sauce, majestically presented on the coals of a mini-grill, under a dome that is ceremoniously lifted tableside. The word "fish" is right there in the restaurant’s name, but the kitchen doesn’t limit itself to the bounties of the ocean, there’s a tapas of black pudding with quail egg and lingonberry jam, roasted venison loin with parsnip purée, and veal filet with celeriac cream for the meat aficionados. The wine list leans mostly on Old World classics.
Let’s be honest, there really isn’t very much of interest in Liepupe village, except the eponymous manor house that serves food and offers accommodations too. Just don’t expect a luxury retreat, this is more of an old-world-charms sort of place, offering a glimpse of the genuine, and of a Latvian country lifestyle of yore. Restoring an ancient building complex of this caliber requires money and effort; by visiting Liepupe Manor you’re contributing to the cause and supporting the locals. The first impression here might be a bit awkward, as if the owners were away and the staff had been left to its own devices, foreigners are just not a familiar sight in this small village, which is yet another reason to visit! Come here for a meal and stay for a breath of fresh air and some bird song. The menu features locally farmed ostrich and the regional specialty, a Camembert-like cheese served with pride.
This cozy café in the center of the Old Town is a local favorite. Chef Andrea Bressan blends Latvian- and Italian cuisines. Melting octopus carpaccio or minimalistic shrimp salad – it’s simple in that elegant Italian way, and just as delicious. Latvian herring forshmak and goulash are on the menu as well as Italian pasta and pizza. And lest you loose yourself in some sort of Latvitalian reverie, the view of Grēcinieku street and the Georgian restaurant upstairs will remind you that this is an international project, not just another trattoria.
Liepaja’s restaurants were never famed for their gastronomy, but that all changed overnight when Chef Jolanta Bula and Mixologist Juris Budnikov moved into town and brought along their expertise from high-end Riga restaurants. M’O, located in an imposing, red brick building, was made for them, it’s the perfect place for the duo to display their prowess. The bar is the first thing every visitor encounters upon entering, and the dining room has a good view of the action in the half-opened kitchen that cranks out Italian-, Spanish-, and French dishes made with Latvian accents. A tuna tataki-tapas is so large it almost creeps off the plate, in any other Latvian eatery this would be considered a small-ish main course. Every mouthful of it is a joy, the tuna perfectly prepared, hiding under a pile of juicy cherry tomatoes and leafy greens. The duck entrée is served Latvian style, in an oxtail stock. Most ingredients are ubiquitous restaurant-favorites, starting with the salmon and ending with the beef, but M’O tweaks things in a rare way that makes each dish an immediate standout. The wine list is interesting, and the wait staff excels at suggesting pairings. You’d be missing out though, if you didn’t taste the house cocktails before calling it a night.
Time stops as soon as Malpils Manor peeks out from behind the trees and appears on the horizon. At first, you won’t notice how extraordinarily peaceful it is here. Then, when the quiet finally hits you, you start listening to the silence. It’s an unusual experience. Later, back in the real world, even the most discreet noise will seem like a full-on death metal concert. Once you’re done savoring the sounds of nature, take a seat! The menu at Malpils Manor doesn’t differ greatly from the ones at most other Latvian restaurants, there are, however, some enjoyable finds, the local craft beer, for instance, which you should be sure to try if it’s available. Like said beer, Malpis’ beef is hyper-local, what’s more, it’s raised like cattle used to be raised, in other words, it’s not as tender as you might be accustomed to, but the flavor is otherworldly. Also, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, even if there’s a blizzard out there, make sure to ask for the ice cream––it’s made with beer!
Muusu is in a snug, typical two-story building on Skarnu street, just steps away from the Musicians of Bremen-monument and St. Peter’s Church, it’s one of the capital’s most unique restaurants. Tranquil and elegant interiors emphasize the kitchen’s gastronomic aims; impeccably sharp flavors and a remarkable respect for ingredients are top priorities. Dishes marked with an «m» are highly recommended as they’re prepared with local ingredients. Perfectly al-dente black ravioli with eel is one that’s definitely worth trying. Goose liver velouté, Jerusalem artichoke mousse and coal-oven roasted eel are also great choices if you’d like to get acquainted with Chef Kaspars Jansons and his carefully sourced products. Another well-executed starter is the smoke-cured river trout, here served with tomato tartare, ricotta, capers flowes, and a 64-degree egg. Main courses are meat-heavy, from leg of lamb with roasted beets, to duck breast, simmered in red wine, and served with a parade of wheat berries, plum, cloudberry, sea buckthorn, carrots and salsify. Fish lovers would do well to opt for Latvian sturgeon or catfish. Good to know: Muusu’s popular business lunch is served from 12.00 to 4 pm, there’s an abbreviated menu until 6 pm, after which they roll out the full à la carte arsenal.
Per sé, near Riga’s Stock Exchange, is a perfect casual dining place; brick walls, unusual zig-zag flooring, comfortable sofas, and a clever layout, it all looks rather glamorous. There are big wine cabinets along the walls with a fine collection that covers all bases; a wide selection of champagne, Old World classics, and intriguing Lebanese choices. Despite the Latin name, Per sé also makes room for Latvian dishes on the Mediterranean-leaning bill of fare. The lamb tartare with poached quail egg, pickled onions, mustard and lemon, and the lightly smoked shrimps with sour cream and dill sauce on brioche are both excellent. Porcini risotto with truffle oil and Danish pike perch with asparagus and black mussels will also make your evening unforgettable.
Valdemāra iela 121, Ainaži, Salacgrīvas nov., Ainaži
It’s right there on the border, between Latvia and Estonia, an unassuming roadside establishment that doesn’t make much noise or advertise with any greater gusto. Blink and you might miss it, but know that this is a pleasant pit stop on your way in- or out of the country. Plavas Hotel and Restaurant serves typical Latvian countryside food. Nothing fancy or overly impressive, just honest, hearty fare that is significantly better and fresher than the fast food that is otherwise found along motorways.
As the saying goes, third time’s the charm. This means that if we want to achieve some clarity, we must try a restaurant least thrice. The first time probably offers beginner’s luck, the second time is usually a failure, and the third time is often magical. Latvia is the land of small eateries, you won’t find any chain-operations here. Three Chefs (Tris Pavari) and 3 are a bit of an exception, however, as they belong to the same owners. They are without a doubt Latvia’s most creative restaurants. In order to understand the nature of 3, you need visit it at least three times. That’s exactly what we do. The first time we meet some friends and socialize. We order an appetizer; marinated beets with goat cheese and horseradish cream, and we quickly realize that this place deserves a much more thorough inspection. Success. When we return the second time, the old saying, astonishingly, doesn’t apply. Nothing about our lunch goes awry. Mushroom pie and black garlic dessert get us even more exited to try everything else. The third visit takes place in the evening. Now there’s a world of possibilities, both à la carte- and tasting menus. There are three set menus, more or less elaborate amalgams of the à la carte offerings, as well as a vegetarian option. Latvian cuisine is, as of yet, internationally unknown, there are surprises to be had here. It starts with the bread basket; white cone-shaped wheat rolls with cocoa! “No, it’s definitely not a tradition, we like experimenting,” says the waiter. Marinated herring doesn’t taste sweet like in Sweden, or spicy, as in Estonia. If anything, it’s tangy; a clever match for horseradish-marinated potatoes. Slightly hesitantly, the waiter offers an apple distillate from local brew master Abavas. The tart nuances of both food and drink make for a perfect pairing. If you can’t visit restaurant 3 more than once, go for dinner and opt for a tasting menu, it’ll give you an idea of where Latvian cuisine is going these days.
It’s all there in the name: Riits is Latvian for morning. Of course you’re going to get a great, organic breakfast here. The omelets are legendary, and most conveniently, served until late afternoon, if you’re the type who likes to sleep in. But what about lunch and dinner? We wanted to know. For the longest time, Latvia’s finest dining establishments were reserved for festive events. Riits is, in essence, the complete opposite. It’s an affordable place that welcomes everyone and, it so turns out, it features quail soup and pork ribs as signature dishes. The former is a very simple, homemade grandma:esque soup with a clear stock, vegetables, and, of course, quail meat. The latter is a hearty portion of slow-roasted spareribs with barley porridge. The ambiance is impressive in its laid-back ease. The local flavors linger even longer on your palate if you finish dinner with a shot of spiced Stone Braker, distilled in an Old Town cellar. Supper here feels like being invited to a proper Latvian home.
It’s big and boisterous, and perfectly Mediterranean, transporting you directly to the crowded streets of Nice. The décor is typically bistro-chic. There’s jazz and blues oozing out the loudspeakers To get into the mood as fast as possible, start with the classic combo of oysters and champagne. There are eight varieties, from sweet, French Pèrle Blanche 2, to rich Umami 3s from the coast of Ireland. Continue with the time-honored theme: flawless beef carpaccio–– sliced thin, with a decadent helping of fois gras, plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano, truffle oil and capers––this is a prime example of a well-balanced dish. Elegant, albeit less than bright citrus notes dress up an array of ceviches, from tuna, pike perch and shrimp, to salmon and squid. The bouillabaisse is good enough to be served in the harbor of Marseilles. Fast and very responsive service, easy to like-dishes––this is what makes Riviera so successful. Keep in mind: the portions are relatively large, so don’t be greedy and over-order.
This place is full of contradictions. On the one hand there’s the culturally significant, gorgeous old Skrunda Manor, and on the other there’s an old military eye-sore, until recently the Soviet Army’s most important radar station. There are no greater opposites––refined manor culture versus the army lifestyle of an aggressive socialist country. Thankfully, they didn’t destroy the old “chateau”, it remained (semi) intact and is now nicely restored, seeking to revive and modernize the values preceding the Soviet invasion. We don’t recommend Skrunda to regular gourmands used to enjoying the very finest culinary achievements, but if you’re open to new flavor experiences (including some extreme ones), then Skrunda might just be for you. Here you’ll enjoy pork salad with potatoes, sauerkraut soup with pork, lamb rib roast with vegetables and mushrooms. Definitely make this a packaged tour––staying overnight and visiting the ghostly, abandoned radar center is a unique experience. The cultural differences will feed your mind for a long time.
You have two choices here: raucous gastro-pub vibes and majestic views of St. Peter’s Church or formal dining in a more muted atmosphere: The former is on the ground floor, the latter on the first, both serve the same food, both are located in Riga’s new, ambitious Redstone Boutique Hotel. St. Petrus’ young chef, Maksims Cekots, has considerable experience from restaurant kitchens abroad. Perhaps this explains his distinct culinary style and use of local ingredients. Lightly salted sturgeon, marinated pumpkin, and mushrooms form a delightful, hearty combo, much like the cream of mushroom soup with blackberries and lentils. If you prefer meat there’s a lovely selection of cuts that get fired up in the Josper grill, all are served with various sides and sauces. This restaurant-newcomer stands out with its bold experimentation and prejudice-free attitude toward food and drink. St. Petrus is like a young wine with good potential, it might just benefit from some maturing in the cellar
There’s no need to trek to the north side of Latvia to savor Valmiermuiža Brewery’s beers when you can simply take a leisurely half hour walk from Riga’s city center and visit its “embassy’”, a ministry of rural culture and traditions, right in the country’s capital. This diplomatic outpost has a short menu, because let’s face it, you’re here to drink, first and foremost. Food is but the star suds’ supporting actor, albeit a tasty one; artisanal cheese and charcuteries, pickles, a venison burger, fish and chips, bangers and Jerusalem artichoke mash. As for the craft ales et al, Latvia is way ahead of the other Baltic countries when it comes to producing small batch libations. The embassy’s mission is simple: it’s here to introduce foreigners and locals alike to beers, ciders, berry wines, and distillates. Even malt liquor, which you won’t find anywhere else. Enjoying these rustic beverages to the tunes of Latvian pop music is a unique experience. And if you get really into it––the drink, not the music––you can bring home your favorites from the shop next door.
Despite the fact that Valtera is situated in the ultimate tourist-vortex of Riga’s Old Town, it caters more to adventurous eaters than to those who are looking for the hop-on-hop-off bus and a cheap hot dog. The first thing you’ll notice upon entering a is a big blackboard with Chef Valter Zirdzinsh’s handwritten passages about his interest in local ingredients and the future of Latvian cuisine. Then you’ll take in the place itself, a humble and country-style joint, with arched ceilings, massive doorways, wooden flooring, paintings by local artists and frilly lighting. Seasonality and commitment to local products dictate the menu; dry-aged beef tartare with mustard seeds, egg yolk, onions and cheese is fanned out on slices of quick pickled cucumbers, and served with homemade bread. You can’t visit Valtera without trying the smoked eel. Although the size of the dish is relatively small, the flavor is just tremendous and the accouterments are stellar; potato confit, pickled red onions and dill sauce. The presentation isn’t bad either, the dish is dramatically brought out under a smoking cover. All of it ingenious in its simplicity. Slow-cooked pork with onions, mushroom sauce and herbed breadcrumbs is a solid main course. Don’t be surprised when the soup is poured from a copper pitcher or a dish is served in a beaker, Chef Zirdzinsh relishes creativity almost as much as he enjoys regaling his guests with chalkboard musings. The best time to visit is in the evening when the place is just crawling with people, it allows you to experience Valtera’s wild, true spirit.
It’s not rocket science. All you need is a great ambiance and cheap wine. That’s why Vina Studija is perpetually crowded, cozy and noisy, it’s the living room you always wanted, a social gathering place where you can hang out with your friends over a glass or three, and even if you loitered here every day you’d still discover new things. The wine selection is varied enough that you can go from white to red, to rosé and back again, all during one meal. That’s if you’re even here for the food. There are small, sharable plates like tuna tartare with avocado and lemon sauce, goose liver pâté and moules marinières, the menu is created to complement the wine, not vice versa, and there’s a separate a wine shop, with very decent prices.
It looked like a disaster waiting to happen when the charismatic chef of Latvia’s very best restaurant suddenly jumped ship after 23 years at its helm, Food enthusiasts all over the country were following Vincent’s fate. Us too. And we continue to do so as an important lesson is being played out in real time. In short, instead of plummeting into neglect, good old Vincent found new elegance and charm. It might indicate stagnation that the restaurant’s décor, with its contrasting tones, timeless classics and modern-ish elements, hasn’t seen the slightest change, but let’s not jump to conclusions. The new chef, Alexander Nasikailov, has been with Vincent’s for eleven years already. He’s added a tasting menu to the repertoire, a five-course extravaganza that isn’t revealed until it unravels in front of the guests’ eyes. Here’s what we’ve seen so far: Nasikailov’s, food is prepared with exclusive, imported ingredients as well as more local products than ever before, from birch sap juice to apples straight out of the chef’s private garden. Most of the dishes get their final touches tableside, adding a bit of drama, flavor and, of course, aroma. Last year, Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Raimonds Tomsons was named best sommelier in Europe and Africa by the International Sommelier Association. Just in time to spruce up Vincent’s wine selection. The list includes a De Venoge Louis XV 1995 champagne and Barriours, a rare dessert wine that can only be bought by the barrel. Previously, there wasn’t much interaction between guests and staff, now Vincent’s waiters relish telling stories about both the food and drink, it creates a much warmer atmosphere. Vincent’s is far more interesting these days, which just goes to show that sometimes it takes a bit of a shake-up to improve things.
Zoltner is a small brewery, hotel, and restaurant in the far reaches of the Latvian countryside. The journey here is tiresome as the roads aren’t great. Guests arrive a little shaken, hungry, and thirsty, which of course benefits the restaurant. Time for a beer! There are three varieties brewed on site, as well as elderflower- and cranberry-flavored beer cocktails. Then, time for some food! The spareribs with bean purée is a fair portion of simple Latvian heaven. Don’t miss the signature dessert: caramel cake made with barley malt. Latvia’s distant corners deserve to be discovered! Zoltner’s quality, silence, and peace will not leave you indifferent.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.