Riga's most exciting restaurants is led by 3 chefs who aren't afraid to try new things, and at 3 Pavaru they pull it off with food that's fun and delicious!
Latvia is a country where interesting things are happening with food. While it has a rich culinary tradition, it is far removed from the formal dining cultures of Western Europe and North America. It is also a country which has been enjoying a new found freedom over the last couple of decades, having previously lived through a time of food scarcity and restriction during the communist era. As the country grows economically, it is gaining access to new ideas and ingredients and increasingly looking outwards for inspiration.
These factors have come together to create a lively and experimental restaurant scene – especially in the capital – with chefs enjoying access to international ideas, and being unshackled from the weight of well-established traditions which dictate how things should be done. It is a blank canvas upon which cooks can paint whatever their choose from an ever expanding pallet of ingredients.
Perhaps this explains the atmosphere at 3 Pavaru, and why they have made the interesting decisions they have – taking the open kitchen trend to new extremes. 3 Pavaru translates to ‘three chefs’ in English, a name which represents the collaboration between the three cooks who manage the food. Despite its relatively young age (it opened in 2011), as soon as we walked in we could tell that this was one of the places that Riga’s cool crowd choose to eat. It was busy with people, and the sound of laughter coming from the main room alluded to the relaxed atmosphere inside.
When you walk in, you step into a foyer and from there you can go into the main dining room, upstairs if you’re doing a cooking class, or towards the back if you want to enjoy a cocktail. We had reservations at the “chef's table” and were eager to get seated and check things out. This was what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned that 3 Pavaru have embraced the open kitchen.
The three chefs for whom the restaurant is named, have a variety of different backgrounds. Eriks Dreibants is the oldest of the three takes a holistic approach to cooking and recognizes how fields as disparate as history, biology, art, and fashion all influence what ends up on the plate. Martins Sirmais is the socialite of the group and loves to interact with his guests (I wonder if he was behind the open kitchen idea). The trio is completed by Arturs Trinkuns, who at just 27 has managed to establish himself as a rising talent in the Latvian restaurant scene.
The chefs work in an island section which sits right in the middle of the dining room. The work spaces around the edge of this area give way to raised bar, which comprises the chef’s table. If you book yourself a seat here, you will literally be siting across from the chefs and will have a birds-eye view of everything they do. I have seen open kitchens before, but this makes the chefs the focal point of the meal in a way that other restaurants do not. It’s really cool and fascinating to watch, but makes me an awful date as I am just to distracted by watching everything that is going on. Appetizers are being prepped, mains dishes are getting those final squeezes of sauce, someone is using liquid nitrogen, and I’m pretty sure prawns are being fried in the corner - it’s organized chaos at its best.
As we had observed firsthand by this point, the dishes themselves continue the quirky experimental theme of 3 Pavaru. This was definitely one of the most interesting restaurants we’ve been to in a while, and it is blindingly obvious that the chefs enjoy mixing it up and breaking the rules. They bring you bread for example, while you wait for your appetizers - that’s a pretty standard occurrence in restaurants. We watched the waiter whip out some parchment paper however, and a series of bottles. He then proceeded to splatter different dips and sauces on the paper as if he were Jackson Pollock (for us to sop up with the bread)! It was an intriguing way of reinventing the bread course, and all the more fun as we got to see them do it.
The dinner took the usual form, with main courses following starters and ending with dessert, but there was nothing usual about the combinations of ingredients or how they were used. We had the chef's special (which was vegetarian) and which was simply called Cauliflower. I think a better name would be cauliflower 5 ways as the vegetable came roasted, pureed, creamed, and marinated with a side of cauliflower couscous and kale juice.
Even our dessert was out there. We had black onion sponge cake (it was black because it contained squid ink) with black sesame ice cream, fermented garlic and white chocolate. That list of ingredients might be enough to put many of you off giving it a go, but I assure you, it was sweet, delicious, and definitely a nice way to finish off our meal! I admit it was crazy, but it was also so good!
Don’t come to 3 Pavaru if you are afraid to try new things. If the experimentation is enough to make you pass over this restaurant, know that you will be missing out on something unique and spectacular. This is not just an exercise in originality or a one-dimensional gimmick, this is truly great food that will leave you satisfied and inspired. If you decide to go, make sure you book in advance. There are plenty of open-minded Latvians who fill the place out most nights.
For more information about this restaurant, please follow the link below: