Riga Restaurant Recommendations

January 31, 2015

I've had heaps of positive feedback on my Riga blog posts, thank you! It seems that many of you have enjoyed my suggestions on sights to see and things to do in Riga and I'm happy to say that I've saved the best for last - mushing and sledding with huskies in the snow. Today's blog post, however, is one for the foodies and is a follow up to Thursday's restaurant review of award-winning Renommé in Gallery Park Hotel Riga.


The pleased face of a holiday-goer whose eaten twice her usual portions with none of the consequences - it's amazing how much calories you burn by walking miles in the snow! Scott of the Antarctic ate blocks of butter and penguin fat during his Antarctic expeditions. So, yeah.

RESTAURANTS IN THE ART NOUVEAU DISTRICT

MUUSU




Blue mussels with tiger prawns, white wine, cream, tomato salsa, toasted wheat bread.


Local Camembert cheese, spinach, honeyed sea-buckthorn, pickled pumpkin, walnuts, and nut emulsion.


Beef tartare, tomato and celery relish, quail egg, roasted whole-grain bread, parsley olive oil. My first steak tartare in Riga!



Casarecce pasta, spinach, parmesan cheese sauce with mushrooms and creamy truffle-cream sauce.

With its Nordic interior of raw brick walls, linens, woods, and bright air space; Muusu stands out in the opulent, ornamental Art Nouveau district. At Muusu, design and food go hand-in-hand; describing the restaurant as 'an exquisite background for that which is essential – the food and (their) emotions' and the ascetic tableware as 'a canvas for them to paint on'. The menu is based on stable culinary values; the classics of modern Europe, where space is left for bright interpretation and seasonal accents, while simultaneously paying respect to everything fresh and of local origin. (source) The ambience was soothing and uplifting, the service was wonderful (as it seems to be the norm in Riga); we were well looked after - the staff called us a Baltic Taxi and presented us with a card entitling us to a 10% of the fare, and the food was faultless.


RIVIERA



Pan fried scallops with pumpkin mash grapes, apples and roasted almonds.


Baked fillet of Baltic sea trout served with cauliflower mush, root vegetables and almond-white wine sauce.


Charolais veal tartare with white truffle oil. This was perfect in every way. I'm actually salivating thinking of this! 


Tagliatelle with veal tenderloin, porcini mushrooms, green asparagus, tomatoes, spinach and creamy truffle butter sauce.


Hot chocolate fondant with home made tonka bohne ice cream and berry sauce.


A trio of home-made sorbets - mango-tequila, lemon champagne, and red oranges. 

Riviera came highly recommended by our hotel. Adjacent to Muusu, Riviera's decor also stands out in the Art Nouveau district with its stone mosaics and blue patterns - very Mediterranean chic. No surprise that Riviera serves a combination of Italian, Spanish, French and Greek culinary tastes, (prepared the authentic way, with a wood-fired grill!) complemented by their exquisite Mediterranean region wine card. The seafood was delicious, the veal tartare among the best I've had (I wish I'd ordered two instead of having the pasta), and the sorbets were a joy. A must-go if you're craving a bit of Mediterranean food in a fashionable part of town. Riviera is very popular among the well-heels locals and does get busy, so call ahead to book a table: +371 26605930.


RESTAURANTS IN TOWN

RENOMME, GALLERY PARK HOTEL RIGA


Award-winning restaurant serving Latvian classics in stunning 5* luxury boutique hotel Gallery Park Hotel Riga. Read my full and comprehensive review here


BENJAMINS




Baked salmon fillet with pistachio risotto cauliflower purée and shrimp-lime sauce.


Roasted monkfish fillet  with Parma ham, white wine cooked mussels, carrot purée and bathed in parsley sauce. Delicious! The monkfish texture was less fishy and more like shellfish, which I rather enjoyed.


Left: Risotto with wild mushrooms and grana padono cheese.

Right: Butter seared sea scallops, cauliflower purée, cockles, caramelised hazelnuts and apple with cress dressing. The cauliflower purée was wonderful - like mash, but a much healthier alternative.

Benjamins, on the first floor of 'Europa Royale Riga' Hotel has been described as 'refined and elitist' and is named after the legendary former owner of the building. We dined in the Venice hall,  famous for the only Venice crystal chandelier in the Baltic States, in supposedly one of the most grandiose dining halls in Riga. However the ambient was decidedly lacking during our visit - Henry and I were the only ones present but this could be because is was a late Thursday evening (we had just come from the ballet) and Riga is generally a quiet city. Even so, the service left much to be desired - our waiter forgot my Diet Coke (yes, Diet Coke, you can laugh now), our dishes took forever to arrive despite us being the only diners there, and when we finally started out on our long-awaited main courses we were interrupted with the bill to be settled as the kitchen was about to close.  Maybe we were unlucky and went on an 'off' day, which was a shame as the food was great and we would've enjoyed it more if not for the lack of atmosphere and service.



CAFES AND RESTAURANTS IN OLD TOWN

RIGA BLACK MAGIC BAR


The secret door to the basement bar, concealed in a bookcase and opened by pulling on the figurine on the shelf.




Nothing is 'more Riga' than Riga Black balsam - you simply cannot go to Riga and leave without trying this traditional Latvian herbal liqueur. The traditional recipe was created by pharmacist Abraham Kunze from a composition of 24 different plants, flowers, buds, juices, roots, oils and berries prepared in oak barrels. Renowned for its supposed medical properties and health benefits, Black Balsam is used in traditional medicine as a cold remedy and treat digestive problems. Legend has it that Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, fell ill during a visit to Latvia, and was cured after drinking Riga Black Balsam - referenced in The Simpsons in the episode 'Flaming Moe's'. Riga Black Magic Bar, in all its eclectic glory, is the place to go to sip Black Balsam coffees and cocktails (or knock back a shot) while sampling their chocolates and confectionaries.


ROZENGRALS






Oven-baked duck meat with red cherry-onion jam. "This is one of the favorite dishes of Rene of Anjou who conducted the range of famous tournaments. Including the tournament in Nantes in 1445 in honour of the marriage of his two daughters Margaret and Yolande." The best duck I've ever had! Generous portions with crispy skin and meat so tender, juicy, and infused with just the right amount of fat! So good that I came back a second time and ordered it again. 


Rozengrals is by far Henry's favourite place in Riga - we went back for a second time! - and you can see why with its 'ye olde' stylings. An authentic medieval restaurant, we expected it to be one of those cheesy tourist attractions with bosomy wenches serving us pots of ale and actors staging old-fashioned pub punch-ups with flyings legs of mutton and all. Rozengrals is actually very authentic and felt true to the time - the restaurant was in a warren of underground caverns lit by hundreds of candles, everything on the menu was typical of the times with a little history on the dishes (example: the honey baked beet and goat cheese salad on the menu was followed by this blurb - "After the tournament in Bruges that followed the wedding of Duke Charles of Burgundy and Margaret of York the honorable guests enjoyed this dish. 15th century"), and the staff were 'in character' without being over the top: when I asked for wifi, our waitress looked puzzled : "Wifi? What is wifi? This is the thirteenth century..." Best no-wifi letdown ever! The food is excellent; hearty, delicious, and with generous portions that would keep a medieval serf well fuelled for a day of toiling in the fields. I recommend the onion soup (served in a cauldron with a ladle) and the oven-baked duck (above)! Rozengrals and Riga Black Magic Bar are owned by the same person - as you might have figured out from their similar style - so I recommend stopping by for some Riga Black Balsam at Black Magic Bar for a pick me up after a hearty dinner at Rozengrals.


These are my restaurant picks for Riga! For a place to stay, read my post on Gallery Park Hotel Riga; for sightseeing, here are my recommendations on Things To Do In Riga; for a banging good time here's my review on Riga Shooting Range (you get to fire AK47s!). Stay tuned for tomorrow's post and my last blog post on Riga - snow sledding with huskies in the Latvian countryside! x

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Credits: photos 3, 10, and 19.

4 comments:

  1. You always seem to choose the perfect places to go. What's your general process in picking? Guide books? Blog? Websites? Personal recommendations? I always do all of these!!
    Lots of love,
    Angie
    SilverSpoon London

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    1. All of the above except guide books (they can get outdated quickly, I only make an exception for Wallpaper city guides). I also tend to browse Instagram as a quick visual guide to a new city! xx

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  2. Rozengrals looks amazing. But I would definitely be taking Ben to Benjamins when we finally get to go!

    Katie <3

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  3. Good idea to write about the culinary delights of Riga as there are really interesting chefs in and around Riga. I totally agree with Benjamins. Sorry to write, but your other picks are rather random and one is a real tourist trap. Try Vincent's, Biblioteka No. 1, Bergs, Fish (at Dome Hotel), Kalku Varti and maybe Garage at Berga Bazar (to include a more casual option) for Dinner. And check the very good Barista scene (best Espresso places are Meet, Innocent or Makonis), the wonderful farmer markets and Europe's biggest market halls. Having said that your article is a good read nevertheless:-). Have fun!

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