02 Mar Vincents – Riga
Dinner at Vincents was highly anticipated. Head chef Oskars Sprukts worked his way from trainee to the top using creative flair to showcase quality ingredients in new ways. Sharing his vision are Sommelier Raimonds Tomsons and his award winning team. This trio have been in top three at Latvia’s Best Sommelier competition over the past few years and Raimonds isn’t too shabby with the title of World’s 3rd Best Sommelier (2019). With this in mind, the six course tasting menu is available with the ‘sommelier’s choice’ where for an extra €70 specially selected wines complement each course.
If you read my previous post on Restorāns 3, you’ll know we had 9 courses there. Latvia must love a big menu because even though the Vincents tasting menu is six courses, with all the extra bits we really had twelve and that’s not even including the bread spread! They are nothing if not generous. To kick off proceedings, goats cheese stuffed olives and gougéres (mini choux buns) stuffed with porcini mushrooms and truffle cream were nestled in moss, reminiscent of Latvian forest floors. Wonderful savoury morsels to whet the appetite.
Our second appetiser gave a window into Vincents’ theatrical style of presentation. On an ice sculpture shaped like a throne and weighing enough to give the waiters a proper arm workout sat a single daikon roll filled with home cold smoked salmon, salmon roe and seaweed. I enjoyed the finishing touch of a Vincents ribbon around the chopsticks. The most diva-ish setting for a dish I ever did see! The marinated daikon shone brightly against the orange tones. Something to excited the eyes as well as the stomach.
To round up the pre-starters was an elegant dish titled ‘Autumn bounty’. Beetroot marinated in dashi and seaweed powder served in almond milk with a touch of roasted vanilla bean and fresh thyme oil. I’ve not had home made almond milk before but it is significantly fuller in flavour than a typical shop bought version. Its light creaminess compliments the earthier tones of the beetroot.
Time for the first official course! If you’re planning to go and would rather not have spoilers, skip to the next paragraph ?Our main waitress turned up looking sheepish, carrying a brown paper bag. She explained that they’d had some trouble in the kitchen with our first course and unfortunately they’d had to bring this in to replace it. I had an inkling that it was a fun act but Mr Munch was actually concerned we’d been too awkward and broke the kitchen (my menu was gluten free and his without seafood due to allergy concerns). Inside the paper bag were two tins of fermented sardines – notoriously stinky preserved fish! She encouraged us to be brave and open the tin – surprise! Inside is the most beautiful, delicately arranged carrot tartare. Notes of orange, Melderis goats cheese cream, a perfect quail’s egg like a sun amongst the micro herbs. This combination of sweet, citrus and rich yolk made it a highlight dish from the menu ?
Next up was another cold smoked Faroe Island salmon dish. I loved the presentation of this – upright leaves sprouting out of horseradish crème fraiche are a lesson in patience and attention to detail! The salmon itself was stunning – sashimi-like firm texture, delicate smokey flavour, delicious. Mr Munch had a baked cauliflower salad which was more Mediterranean in style featuring olives, sun dried tomatoes, chilli and more of those scrumptious quails eggs.
Adding to the luxurious ingredients came my Wagyu beef tartare. What a treat! Dotted with shimeji mushrooms, fresh wasabi and micro greens, every bite was perfectly balanced. Beef works so well with wasabi, as it does with horseradish and mustard. Vincents’ Japanese take is right up my street. Mr Munch had a pasta dish of foie gras tortellini complete with morels, truffle juice and duck consommé. At the table a small bottle of special twelve year traditional balsamic vinegar was presented to us, a dash of which was drizzled across the tortellini. These two dishes were truly indulgent.
On to the fish course – wild North Sea flounder perfectly pan fried to a mouth watering golden colour. A large rice crisp (similar in texture to a super thin prawn cracker) was adorned with caramelised onion purée, porcini and herbs and they were brought together with a cava velouté. The textures in this are great. Once again these are classic ingredients but the use of the rice crisp adds a level of ingenuity. On the other side of the table, Mr Munch was hogging all the room with a humongous glass jar used expressly to keep Alba black winter truffles. Much of this truffle was grated atop home made spaghettini. Wonderfully simple but perfectly executed.
At this point, it’s time for a palate cleanse. The waitress wheeled over a trolley with various metal contraptions, a mixture of old science lab and lovely copper cookware. We were shown the yuzu cream which she swirled onto the so-called ‘anti-grill’ where liquid nitrogen wafted. As the cream froze, she added a stick, turned it over to freeze both sides and handed us yuzu lollies! As they were thin they had to be eaten immediately before room temperature melted them. It was so fun to watch, not only at our table but again at neighbouring tables later on. The waiters looked like they enjoy making it too, making the most of the theatrics!
Not only were our tastebuds refreshed but it also energises the atmosphere as it changes up the simple ‘place food in front of you’ routine, especially for a long meal such as this. While we’re taking a break I might as well mention the bread. I had two varieties of home made gluten free bread, really lovely especially when warm. Mr Munch had a whole box of breads including sourdough, brown farmhouse style, traditional baguette, Latvian rye bread and a cute brioche shaped like a chef’s hat. It comes with a note explaining that their natural yeast comes from Tishbi Vineyard in Israel and is twenty seven years old. They use a mixture of French and Latvian organic flours and the butters are also French, from Bretagne. We had a trio of butters – unsalted, salted and seaweed (fantastic umami). Delicious.
Last of the savouries – the meat course. From the forest of Ventspils on Latvia’s Western coast came our saddle of roe deer. Beetroot chutney was the base on which mushrooms, brussel sprout leaves and carrots were placed, unified by a red wine juniper berry sauce. This is a dish of the forest – ingredients found in similar environments usually work well together and this is exactly that.
I love desserts but this was a whole new heavenly level. Entitled ‘Sea Buckthorn Night’ this was a celebration of all things sea buckthorn. I wish it was more available in the UK but perhaps it not being so makes it more special when you do find it. This vibrant orange berry has great medicinal properties and is high in vitamin C so we will call this a healthy dessert ?A crescent of sea buckthorn and vanilla panna cotta is the moon in the night sky surrounded by stars of tiny meringues. The berries are pickled and placed as if fruits from a tree of sea buckthorn cream growing out of the earth (flaked almonds). A swirled rose of sea buckthorn sorbet finishes the picture. I can happily say this was my dish of the evening. Sea buckthorn is wonderfully tart and the balance was just right of sweet and sour. The panna cotta vs pickled fruit, creamy texture vs crunchy almonds and meringue, the sorbet frozen enough to hold itself together but melting in the mouth to quench your palate. Another beautiful dish, carefully considered and making the most of an ingredient found in the Baltics.
Vincents is impressive. Not in a way that alienates or makes you feel out of place, but rather encourages you to have fun and explore food at its best. Moments of drama at the table liven up what can be a routine gesture. It’s also fun seeing when it happens at other people’s tables, you catch neighbours looking over, wondering what you’re eating, or recognising the theatrics of dish you’ve also just had. In some ways this is reminiscent of classic French service, like a crêpe Suzette being flambéed in front of you. Vincents takes this idea and turns up the dial, not so much that it’s gimmicky, but just enough to give you that sense of joy and excitement.
We were also emailed our menus which was a thoughtful touch and extremely helpful when writing this post! This attention to detail in the food, drink, presentation and service is a winning formula and I cannot wait to return. In my opinion this is on a two Michelin star level (and I don’t say things like that lightly!). Got to give credit where it’s deserved! Make Vincents a priority if you’re in Latvia. Thank me later ?
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, please like it below if so. For more munchtime deliciousness check out my instagram. Mr Munch and I are off again on a short break – where you think we’re going next? Comment below!
See you next time for more foodie treats ???
Total receipt (2 people): €311
2 x 6 course tasting menu €130
1 x 0.75l bottle Casa Vinicola Guizzo Valdobiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut 2017 (Italian sparkling wine from Veneto) €36
2 x glass Carl Loewen Riesling Laurentiuslay Alte Reben Trocken 2018 (German white wine from the Mosel region) €7.5
Rating: ?10/10?Mind bendingly delicious