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Review: Kalku Varti, Riga


On my final night in Riga, after packing up my bags I ran in the rain to dine at the stunning Kalku Varti. In the spring of 2009 the restaurant was given a brand new look, in which Nordic light-beige colours prevail. An ornamental charm has been created by means of Latvian ethnographic pattern, derived from a lace coverlet needle-pointed in 1895 in a Bebrene parish. Columns in the restaurant resemble supports of a house porch, while chandeliers are reminiscent of a modern variation of Latvian puzuri (compositions made from straws). The entire interior, including furniture and decorative elements were produced in Latvia. The moment you set foot into Kalku Varti you realize this restaurant takes the term “local” seriously. Meals offered by the restaurant have been enjoyed by many prominent persons — presidents of 26 states visiting Riga within the framework of a NATO Summit and the royal families of Sweden the Netherlands and Spain who were received by the countries President.

I arrived at a plush booth outfitted with a beautiful table setting featuring stunning stemware, silverware and a wee bouquet which stood straight up into the ceiling. Throughout the meal there was a clarinet player and pianist who gently played a relaxing melody . Once at my seat I surveyed the room and my shoulders fell backwards. The ambiance Kalku Varti creates is a relaxing drug. I couldn’t help but laugh as I realized I was about to enjoy one of the most romantic meals of my trip at a table for one. I even noticed other diners eying me wondering why I was being given such attention from the waitstaff and sitting on my lonesome (their stares read: poor boy).

The Chef had coordinated a delicious menu which featured a distinct Latvian flavour. Highlights included the unusual rhubarb sorbet paired with meringue, traditional black bread served with smoked pig fat, a selection of warm local cheeses and a grand sweet finish featuring a three foot high caramel tower. I made sure to order a Hot Balsam the countries classic boozy cocktail which is full of healthful benefits and also associated with a true love mythology. I made sure to finish my entire glass. After a fantastic meal, this lonely food writer couldn’t be more pleased to drink an elixir which promised to nourish both body and soul.

I enjoyed:

Mango Mojito

Hot Balsam

***

Fresh Buns and Black Bread

french butter with volcanic salt and smoked pork fat

Rhubarb Sorbet

meringue

Cauliflower Puree with Radish

toast, black sturgeon caviar, cucumber caviar

Baked Latvian Cheeses

whole grain bread and pumpkin jam

Green-pea Pottage

thyme biscuit and goat cheese

Butter-fried Sterlet Fillet with Cauliflower Puree

white wine-poached apples with champagne cream

Roasted Suckling Pig Cheeks with Prune Strudel

apple puree, shallots and pork broth reduction

Cheesecake

passion fruit sauce with blasted caramel tower

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