I am originally from Riga, I don't live there anymore for more than 7 years and the food is one of the main reasons why I am still coming back (sorry family and friends))
What is the traditional Latvian cuisine? Bunch of weird stuff actually...gray peas with bacon, rye bread dessert, pork ears, all things pickled, all sorts of crazy wild mushrooms (legal ones) that you never heard about before, crazy variety of local river and lake fish and of course each family has their own traditional dish that they consider a must try in Latvia. For my family specifically those are pancakes, my mom can make pancakes out of everything and it would taste different :) Few years back my American friend was staying over for a week and every morning my mom would make us pancakes and at the end of the week he could not believe there was such a huge variety out there.
But anyways let's go back to my recommendations.
My absolutely favorite restaurant in Riga. Not only it is located in the heart of Riga and offers absolutely stunning views over the old town and St. Peters church, but it also has homemade traditional dishes, unique presentation and an open kitchen where you can see how your chef is preparing your dishes.
They have forever changing menu, because they only use seasonal and local produce, so there is a chance that whatever you are seeing right now won't be in the menu anymore, but trust me I have been to this place many times and St. Petrus guys just never disappoint.
I wish I never had to write about it, because my mouth is watering right now and it is just very hard!!! Local herring with cottage cheese pancakes, grilled octopus with local mushrooms, and traditional vinaigrette salad for starters. We were extra hungry but those starters filled us up so much that I don't remember what happened after...JK...for mains we had black dumplings with local fish and caviar ( I had this last time and this is my absolute fav dish in the whole country) and grilled king prawns with carrot puree, and grapefruit ice cream.
To make this experience even more unforgettable we also stayed in their sister hotel- Redstone Boutique Hotel. This is the most Instagrammable place in the whole country, and I know what I am talking about (wink-wink). This hotel just recently got opened but is already having a leading position in all the city tops. Each floor has a different theme, 3rd floor- the color of the Baltic sea; 4th floor- English pink; 5th floor- milky white; 6th floor- blue lagoon. We stayed on the 5th floor in the room overlooking St. Peters church. I spent a good few hours taking pictures in all the windows, balconies and couldn't believe how beautiful my city actually is.
My personal favorite thing about this hotel is that you are served breakfast in the room, which means you don't have to get ready and go anywhere and most importantly that hotel doesn't have any waste from buffet food.
Cod Robata Grill Bar
Everyone is Latvia loves fake Japanese cuisine. Sushi culture is very popular and locals created a lot of weird combinations like baked sushi, sushi with cream cheese, caesar salad sushi, sushi wrapped in bacon to name just a few absolutely weirdest creations. Not a lot of Latvians actually know that those dishes have absolutely nothing to do with Japanese cuisine and that real Japanese people would be screaming in shock if they were served one of those dishes.
Cod Robata decided to finally show Latvians what is real and authentic Japanese cuisine and you know what? they are absolutely rocking it! I would be proud to bring here my Asian friends and I am sure they would enjoy the food here.
The restaurant itself is located in one of the famous restaurant streets, I heard it gets pretty busy here over the weekends, so we decided to visit during the week. The server was literally the nicest person ever, so kind and knowledgeable, without any hesitation, he was serving all the surrounding tables in Latvian, English, and Russian.
My favorite starter was tuna tataki, very fresh and was just melting in my mouth, we also tried tofu salad and vegetable tempura. This was by far the most delicious sushi I tried in Riga, incredibly fresh, very nice proportion of filling and rice, we got a selection of nigiri (scallop was too much for me as a sushi ) and king crab roll! However, scallops as a main were my favorite main dish, they were so beautifully presented that I first ate them with my eyes and camera:)) Like a cherry on a cake or even better we got a selection of homemade mochi- Japanese ice cream for a dessert, which surprised all of my friends. Refreshing and absolutely delicious and again just incredible instagramable!
COD will satisfy any guest be it meat/fish lover or a vegetarian. The chefs demonstrate simple and authentic flavor combinations that would leave you speechless. The fusion of secret ingredients in drinks and dishes, welcoming smiles of staff, open kitchen, cozy decor and highly photogenic food- I will be back!
I have heard from everyone in Riga that Koya is the most popular place for brunch in Riga. All you can eat brunch buffet for 10 Eur per person, sounds like a dream, right! And what did I do? Yes, I came here for lunch :)) Rebel! From the outside Koya looks like an abandoned shed, I even wondered for a second if taxi dropped me out at the right place, but then I saw a welcoming light and soft jazz music and I knew I was not lost. This place in the summer is a true gem, I can relax all day on the beautiful terrace overlooking the port, listening to chill music and drinking absolutely mindblowing cocktails (without any plastic straws!!! the first place in Riga where I saw that, well done!)
Koya uses local fresh produce and surprises their guests with exquisite dishes with Latvian twist. Tuna here was just great, but most importantly my sturgeon fillet was so fresh it was probably swimming few minutes before it was served.
This is just a fantastic place to relax, enjoy the ambiance, listen to some music, spend time with some friends and drink their absolutely delicious cocktails! Literally!!! I would fly back to Riga right now just to have another sip of their Blood Orange punch!!!
3 Chefs/ 3 Pavari
3 Chefs was acknowledged among the highest ranking restaurants in Riga and received a 3rd place in the Top 30 restaurants in Latvia Excellence award. I took my family here for my mom's birthday and firstly want to point out that both waiters, chefs, hosts and bar people were just extremely nice to us. My mom and dad like to joke around every second and I absolutely loved that the staff was joking with us as well, replying to us in a very friendly and funny manner, they made this evening unforgettable and it felt like we are having dinner at our friends' house.
My favorite part of the dinner was the starter show. The starter is literally drawn on the table in front of you. One of the chefs comes out with "paint"- different sauces, dips and oils and artistically spreads all of it just on the table in front of you, of course, explaining what everything is, after that they bring out warm home-made bread and you dip those warm soft pieces in that goodness! I had no idea that this is the usual procedure and they greet everyone like that, my family including me were surprised and were looking at that with our mouths open and even my dad who is hard to impress gave a round of applause after it!
3 Chefs is where you can try true Latvian cuisine with interesting ingredients like; birch sap, smoked caviar, lingonberries sauces, a lot of dishes with wild mushrooms and chantarelles and of course the main specialty- honey cake which was my absolute favorite after sea bass with black potato – wasabi puree for main.
Bonus: What to order in Latvian restaurants
Of course, to try real Latvian food you don't need to go to fancy places you just have to know what to order. One of the places I always recommend is LIDO- a leisure center which combines 3-floor buffet with traditional home-made Latvian food, Latvian folklore, national music, costumer and amusement park for the whole family. I go here every time I return to Riga and I absolutely love the food and the vibe of this place.
Food that I recommend tourists to try.
Fish. Latvian waters are full of fish, we have tons of lakes, rivers, ponds and our Baltic sea. We have over 100 species of fish, but most popular would be: pike, pike-perch, trout, catfish, crucian carp, tench, perch, sturgeon, vimba, roach, bream.
Smoked fish is a true specialty in the country and the best place to try it would be Central Market (Central Tirgus) go for smoked sardines, sprats, mackerel, and perch.
Mushrooms. All Latvians are crazy about mushrooms, they personally pick them in the forests, pickle them, make soups, stews! If you see the type of mushroom in the menu you never heard about- just go for it and you will never regret.
Mushroom season is August- October and the best ones to try are chanterelle, porcini, russula, and many more that just can't be translated into English.
Rye bread. Not only it is a must to every dish, but we also eat it pan fried with a cheesy sauce and garlic as a starter. Anyplace you go please order "kiploku grauzdini".
Rye bread dessert. A weird specialty with is a dessert made out of rye bread with whipped cream and sugar, not my fav but worth trying.
Beer. Yes, we do produce our own beer and it is awesome. Velmiermuiza, Uzavas, Aldaris, Labietis, Piebalgas, Tervetes.
Cheese with thyme, paprika, and seeds.
Soups. Cold beetroot soup, mushroom soup, dock soup, shchi- cabbage soup, okroshka- made with locals drink kvass.
Black Balsam- herbal liqueur made with over 50 different natural ingredients. Hard to drink as a shot and locals don't really drink it that much, but it is a must try and the best place to do it is the Black Magic shop.
Pickles- we pickle everything, but best things to try are- sauerkraut, gherkins, tomatoes, patty pan squash, garlic.