15 Feb Restorans 3 – Riga
Our plan to work our way through the Baltic countries continues with Latvia’s capital city, Riga. In its eight hundred plus years of city existence Riga has literally been through the wars but its independence, along with many of its historical buildings, was restored in the early Nineties. Despite that, supposedly no house is more than thirty minutes away from unadulterated forest. The beauty of those thin pines and birches stretching from the moss covered ground up to the sky – it’s no wonder so many myths and legends are born here. That whirlwind of the city and the outdoors seems to be great inspiration for many of the contemporary Latvian restaurants today.
Restorāns 3 is a perfect example of enthusiasm for local produce and respecting nature. Their philosophy aims for accountability in how these ingredients are used, trying to get the most out of every part, as well as ensuring they come from responsible farming and fishing practices. I love food like this – it makes sense in so many ways to make the most of what is unique to your location.
I purposefully had a tiny lunch to make sure I had maximum space available for this dinner. There are two options on the nine course tasting menu, the gourmet or the vegetarian. Both Mr Munch and I had the gourmet but as he was avoiding seafood due to allergies some of his dishes crossed over from the vegetarian, specials and à la carte menu too.
To start our food extravaganza was a celebration of humble pumpkin. It was like the Fairy Godmother got hungry waiting for Cinderella and pimped up the extra pumpkin to see her through the night. Long shavings of lightly pickled pumpkin were drizzled with pumpkin seeds and wonderfully green pumpkin oil. Next to this on a bed of pumpkin seed crumb lay a quenelle of pumpkin sorbet with a pumpkin foam hat on top. Never before have I written the word pumpkin so many times. So many textures with one main ingredient. Loved the flavours, the concept and the fun! Why not start the meal with a sorbet?!
What swiftly followed was a little croquette eaten with cranberry gel and a dip/spread with pork scratchings generously scattered on top. This dip tasted like the delicious nutty fat you get on good parma ham but with a whipped consistency. One of my favourite items on the menu! Bowl scraped clean. Plate three provided us with a stunning moose pâté with thin strips of dried moose meat and more grated on the surface. A great way to taste moose for the first time. The pâté was wonderfully smooth and savoury, not as rich or dense as what you might expect from goose or chicken liver pâté.
The chefs’ playful side came out again with the seafood taco – a deep fried piece of seaweed formed into the shape of a taco filled with sashimi tuna, fresh coriander leaves, spring onion and bonito flakes. Mr Munch’s version was similar but with additional pickled ginger, edible flowers and herbs. Both were served on large pebbles to really give you that seaside feeling. An extra bonus is that one of my pebbles was edible! Made out of fish mousse and topped with cod roe, it was a perfect bite sized treat.
Then came the first hot dish. As you know from my Wreckfish post, I have a soft spot for the combination of parmesan and truffle. If I sees it, I wants it. This was my Hallelujah moment – Jerusalem artichoke soup with not only grated truffle but truffle oil, plus a mouth watering Jerusalem artichoke crisp with parmesan and truffle. A few small cubes of dried fruit dotted the side of the bowl. While they look unobtrusive the flavour was sharp, like a sour apple. Turns out these are pieces of dried queen berry, or quince! The dream. Velvety soup, earthy artichoke, heavenly umami from the truffle counterpointed by the occasional flash of quince. Happy Minn 🤤
I will admit, at this point I was comfortably full. I could have had dessert here and been happy but we still had three more dishes to look forward to! The first of these was simply titled ‘cauliflower’. Ok, how exciting can this be? Actually there was so much to discover in this bowl, from the curry sauce to the sweetness of pineapple, sharp bite of raw red onion, coriander, mint and chilli. One moment reminiscent of Morocco, the next Mexico. More than meets the eye with this one.
The fish dish presentation wise really took you to the ocean with the foam, tapioca crisp and touches of seaweed. Beautifully cooked fish – I have completely forgotten the name of it but it was very meaty and had an interesting pattern, almost like dark meat on the bottom and white meat on the top. If you know what it is from the photos do tell me in the comments! Ending the savoury part of the meal was duck and cabbage, a classic winning combination. Here we had both wintery red and spring-like green cabbage with a glossy rich sauce to round things off.
Dessert was another first for me. The whole dish centred around acorns! Acorn caramel, acorn ice cream and an acorn set cream. This is a taste I’ve not come across before – it’s slightly nutty but with a little acidity. Not a bright fruit acidity but something more woodsy. Freeze dried raspberries added a brightness both of colour and sourness, lifting the caramel and cream elements. As a finishing flourish at the table, frozen yoghurt ‘snow’ was dusted across the plate from a height, a reminder of the wintry weather Riga used to get on a more regular basis years ago.
Mr Munch also had a rather unconventional dessert – beetroot ice cream on an oat and buckwheat crumb with apple garnish, finished with a dark Calvados sauce. More down to earth ingredients celebrated in a contemporary way.
Restorāns 3 has a great sense of fun when it comes to food but not at the expense of flavour. I love their inventive spirit and creative ideas. Perhaps a few of the dishes could slightly smaller – we left with stomachs bursting at the seams. You cannot deny the value for money! A thoroughly enjoyable meal and a great first insight into contemporary Latvian cuisine.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Restorāns 3, please give it a like if you did and follow me on instagram for more mouthwatering food discoveries. See you next time, we’ll be continuing on our Latvian exploration!
Total receipt (2 people): €139.8 (roughly £116)
2 x 69.90 Gourmets nine course meal
Rating: 8/10 Playful inventive approach to contemporary Baltic cuisine