Restaurant 3 prides itself on being wild and flavorful while using natural ingredients presented in a modern and clever way. A perfect example of old meets new in Riga, Latvia.
People, journalists and restaurants in particular, throw around terms like organic, biological, and farm to table with unnerving ease. Whether it is a writer looking for an interesting angle, or a chef trying to market his restaurant as ethical and jump on the latest food craze, the significance of these phrases can get lost. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what they actually mean, what the place is actually doing differently from ‘normal’ restaurants.
This is not the case at Restaurant 3. They are very clear about how they obtain their ingredients, and that it is done in a way which matches their philosophy. They want to take things back to a simpler time, when food passed from the natural world and onto our plates without being played with or modified for economic reasons. They believe that ingredients should be “wild” “natural” and that there should be “no waste”.
They pride themselves on foraging, and only taking a sustainable amount of one food type from the natural world. They use wild ingredients like boar, deer, beaver and pigeons, and where things are farmed they ensure that it is done responsibly and without artificial methods. They also try to use every part of the animals they serve – even the bits which might make people squeamish. This is food your ancestors would recognize – although probably cooked better and presented in a much more attractive way :)
With an ethos like this, you might expect to find yourself eating off a tree stump in a Latvian forest but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The restaurant is modern, colorful and very contemporary, and it is housed in one of the charming historic buildings of Riga’s old town. The walls are for the most part exposed brickwork, and the furniture is largely stylishly designed and made from wood. The lights were dim, giving it a romantic and intimate feel, while modern artwork hangs on the walls.
The two head chefs also comprise 2/3s of the team behind 3 Pavaru – another of Riga’s restaurants, and one which we enjoyed eating at immensely. There, they had already showed us their willingness to experiment, and their desire to have fun with their cooking. Here, they showed their more thoughtful side with their natural ingredients, and proved that they are both exceedingly versatile chefs.
The menu changes every 2-3 months, and what is available depends on what’s in season and can be found in the wild. They offer an a la carte menu for the lunchtime sitting, before moving onto tasting menus in the evening. If you come for dinner you have a choice between the five course, the seven course, and the vegetarian option (which also contains five courses). We went for both the standard five course meal, and the vegetarian one, so that we could try out a large selection of their creations.
The vegetarian was amazing, and once again these chefs challenged my culinary preconceptions. I’m not used to seeing vegetables take center stage, so this was a great surprise. We had dishes like naked barley with salted mushrooms, and roasted malt with bits of pickles and celery mixed in what I would describe as a sour cream sauce. This dish was served with a malt drink as well as a dark beer – both of which matched the food perfectly and had an earthy, natural taste.
Another amazing dish was dessert, which was the same on both menus. It was built around beets and cucumbers. The beets had a dried cabbage leaf on top, and were naturally very sweet. The cucumbers were marinated in elderflower and lime, which gave them a wonderfully complex combination of flavors. It was all served with Laima Chocolate (from a local Latvian chocolate factory), and a mousse which was frozen with liquid nitrogen. It all came together perfectly, and it really was an unexpected amazing dessert, made from an unlikely set of ingredients.
Once again, these chefs had proven themselves to be experts at thinking outside the box and doing things differently. Unlike at their other restaurant (where they had allowed themselves uninhibited freedom to do as they desired), here they had put their creativity into a philosophy, and it hadn’t limited their ability one bit. For a genuine organic and farm to table experience, Restaurant 3 is a must, and it is well worth checking out if you are ever in Riga. The food was exactly as they described - flavorful, fresh and wild!
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