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Platinum Platter Awards 2014

By Howard Jarvis. 06.04.2014

Kaļķu vārti
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RigaNOW! and its Expert Jury have decided on the winners of the Platinum Platter Awards 2014.

RigaNOW! and its Expert Jury have decided on the winners of the Platinum Platter Awards 2014. These awards are presented to what we consider to be the most outstanding restaurants, hotels and entertainment and shopping venues in Latvia.

This is the fifth time RigaNOW! has unveiled the winners of the Platinum Platter Awards. And it’s the second time we’ve assembled a jury of experts to help us reach our decision, adding objectivity to the results.

The restaurants were judged on a number of criteria, including taste and presentation of the food, service, the wine list, design, style and comfort, and value. Important too is the flexibility to innovate and surprise, so we looked at any developments at the restaurants over the past 12 months.

Accommodation criteria included location, quality of the guest rooms, staff and service, food and leisure facilities, ambience and design. Criteria for entertainment and shopping included (where applicable) uniqueness, quality, creativity and décor, quality of the bartending and staff, drinks and food, cleanliness and safety, and value.

 

Expert Jury

Bernhard Loew, General Manager, Grand Palace Hotel 

Ronald Smithjes, District Director Radisson Blu Hotels, Baltics 

Vita Jermolovica, Board Member, Riga Tourism Development Bureau/LIVE RIGA; Riga City Council Deputy 

Howard Jarvis, Editor, RigaNOW! 

 

DINING

BEST NEW RESTAURANT 

Uncle Vanya 

Smilšu 16 (G-2)

Quite a number of great new restaurants have opened in Riga over the past year, but we think Uncle Vanya has the edge. Like a staging of Chekhov’s famous play, its interior is furnished like a 19th century Russian rural gentry homestead. Latvian designer Gunta Lapiņa created the homey ambiance, which evokes scenes from Tolstoy or Pushkin.

Dishes and refreshments are almost entirely homemade including kvass, beer, liqueurs, bread, pickles, bacon and more. Recipes from cookbooks dating from 1895 to 1910 inspired the menu.

All the old favorites are here but in the best possible renditions, from pancakes with sturgeon caviar to a sumptuous cabbage soup. It’s not often you see lard on a menu but, boldly, here it is, smoked and rendered together with traditional salted bacon and toasted rye bread. Vodka comes in chilled shots, and the sound of clinking glasses accompanies Russian romance songs as clients occasionally burst into joyful song.

Runners up: Aqua Luna, Stargorod, 3 naži, Valtera restorāns, Mio

 

BEST GOURMET RESTAURANT

Kaļķu vārti (pictured)

Kaļķu 11a (G-2)

Chef Raimonds Zommers is young but already has many international and local awards since launching his career eight years ago. He’s cooked for everyone from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to the Spanish royals, and he carries on Kaļķu vārti’s tradition of innovative twists on nouvelle Latvian cuisine. On the new spring menu enjoy butter-fried turbot fillet with bean ravioli, slow-cooked suckling pig or duck, and buckwheat chocolate cake. Kaļķu vārti has been a fixture of the Old Town for as long as anyone can remember, yet it continues to be one of Riga’s very best restaurants.

Runners up: Bibliotēka No 1, Vincents, Le Dome Fish Restaurant, Degustare, Pinot

 

BEST ORIGINAL RESTAURANT

International SV

Hospitāļu 1 (C-1)

A little way out of the center, International SV pulls off the trick of creating a wide range of dishes from various countries that are modestly sized and affordable enough for customers to try several in one sitting. The dishes are expertly prepared by executive chef Andrei Shmatchenko and his team. Red king crab sushi nori comes with tempura and an aromatic mango yuzu dressing. Beef Wellington has a small but unmistakable ring of chestnuts, mushrooms and Parma ham between the perfectly cooked beef and puff pastry. Siberian pelmeni are filled with a blend of elk and venison, with a dash of beef to make the meat softer. The French section boasts Fine de Claire oysters, Burgundy snails and fresh-seafood filled bouillabaisse. There’s much to enjoy on what becomes a voyage of discovery.

A new International SV has just launched in Jurmala, and a third restaurant specializing in desserts, Afters, will open very soon. Watch this space.

Runners up: 3 pavāru restorāns, 371, Dārzs, DaDa

 

BEST RUSTIC RESTAURANT

Stargorod

Republikas laukums 1 (E-1)

With fresh beer, heaps of food and a full evening’s entertainment, Stargorod blends microbrewery, filling feasts and a historical riverside location. Millions were spent on breathing life into this 300-year-old former barracks with its tunnel-shaped redbrick interior. Now it’s one of the most popular new restaurants to open in the city over the past year. Big appetites are welcome. Dishes like crispy pork knuckle are served medieval-style on a spit brought to the table. Or go for half a roast duck served with baked apples and buckwheat.

Runners up: Rozengrāls, Bistro Priedaine, Fazenda, Nometne gardēžiem, Māja

 

BEST STEAK RESTAURANT

Zilā govs 

Meistaru 21 (G-2)

If there’s a niche waiting to be filled on the Riga dining scene it’s for a genuine steakhouse serving prime cuts by weight. Lots of restaurants serve fine slabs of meat, but just a tiny handful offer a variety of steaks.

The most popular dish at Zilā Govs (“blue cow”) is the house’s own eponymous steak served on a hot stone. The cow has been around for a while, but creative head chef Rolands Rudzats makes sure the menu is refreshed at least twice a year and exploits seasonal products like berries and mushrooms. Try his chanterelle and white-mushroom soup with black lentils and red wine, or pearl barley rolls with smoked Baltic sprats and lamprey in herb-cream sauce.

Zilā Govs took on some reconstruction last year, expanding to its atmospheric basement, while in summer the terrace with live music is an Old Town highlight.

Runners up: Steiku Haoss, Ribs&Rock

 

BEST FISH RESTAURANT

Le Dome Fish Restaurant

Miesnieku 4 (F-2)

Despite some launches of fishy eateries last year Le Dome is still ahead of the pack. Set on a quiet cobblestone lane in the Old Town, from the outside this could be an Italian or Cornish fishing village. But Le Dome is the well-appointed restaurant of the deluxe Relais & Châteaux boutique property Dome Hotel & Spa, where head chef Māris Astičs prepares alder-smoked local lake eel and the richest fish soup in Riga.

Runners up: Gastronome, Riviera, Fisherman’s Son

 

BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Portofino

Ausekļa 7-1 (B-2)

Riga’s finest restaurants are not just found in the Old Town. Portofino has a location on the edge of the city’s splendorous Art Nouveau district, the Jugendstil design extending to four massive arched windows and a magnificently restored indoor staircase rising to an optional secluded mezzanine for private meetings.

Portofino is not exactly chef-driven. Here the creative essence comes from the owner’s experience in the restaurant business and ideas inspired by travels in Italy. The menu boasts excellent soups, possibly the best pizza, risotto and pasta dishes in Riga, and dishes with rib-eye steak, rabbit, tuna, salmon and tiger shrimps and a regularly changing menu inspired by seasonal products.

Runners up: Il Sole, Da Sergio, Riviera, Olive Oil Trading Co., Monterosso

 

BEST ORIENTAL RESTAURANT

Baku 

“Teidas”, Dreiliņi

It’s hard to find, the service is not for the impatient, and the décor is Soviet kitsch. But go with company you enjoy, write off the whole evening, and authentic Baku will start to make sense. Reserve a table and while you’re at it, book ahead for plov, cooked specially in a traditional kazan, or sadzh, a meat dish that cooks for five hours inside a loaf of bread. Set inside a mansion just beyond the high-rise city limits, Baku serves up Caucasian and Central Asian food. The real taste of Azerbaijan can be experienced in dishes like mangal salad with grilled spicy eggplant, tomatoes and peppers.

Runners up: Indian Raja, Uzbekistan, Sato, Aragat, Tokyo City

 

BEST RESTAURANT IN JURMALA

Giardino

Barona 4a, Jurmala

Its slogan “Where taste matters” is key. Finally Jurmala has a memorable dining alternative to 36.līnija. We loved our last visit to this exceptional ristorante, which is as suitable for family Sunday brunch as it is for a romantic evening’s journey of tastes. Chef Vincenzo di Grande has a background in three-star Michelin restaurants but he’s also inspired by his grandmother’s recipes. Taste the best burrata in the Baltics, juicy quail in a rich black truffle sauce, homemade pasta with duck sauce, roulade of sea bass and shrimp, the finest Monte Veronese & Pecorino cheese soufflé, and a dessert with five different chocolate flavors. A wine matches each dish, so go for the whole splendid evening.

Runners up: 36.līnija, Light House, Estrāde, Pinxto

 

BEST CHEF

Kārlis Celms

A wild card, this one. Latvia is home to the Baltic region’s finest chefs, from Lauris Aleksejevs at 36.linija on the sandy Jurmala coast, to Heinrich Erhards who deserves this award for Bistro Priedaine and the recently relocated HE’s. But Latvian-American Kārlis wins with sheer youthful passion and spontaneous energy, for his infectious and unpretentious love of food. He’s used to banquet catering and entertains groups with interactive cooking lessons. But he always surprises, launching 371 between pavilions in one of Europe’s biggest indoor market spaces, Riga Central Market, and Tvaiks inside a traditional Latvian sauna. He’s also developing his dream project, a mobile catering business.

Runners up: Lauris Aleksejevs, Heinrich Erhards, Mārtiņš Rītiņš, Svetlana Rižkova, Raimonds Zommers, Māris Jansons

 

ACCOMMODATION

BEST LUXURY HOTEL

Hotel Bergs 

Riga boasts many small but special hotels, none of them too big to feel anonymous in, many of them instilling a strong sense of individuality. That’s exactly where Hotel Bergs excels, in its powerful sense of individuality. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, its location in the upmarket Bergs Bazaar shopping area, its exquisite design adorned with art from the owner’s private collection, and its excellent restaurant, guest rooms and quality of service push it out in front. Everything comes with consistent quality. Crucially, it also has the city’s most professionally run and coolest looking conference rooms.

Runners up: Grand Palace, Dome Hotel & SPA, Gallery Park Hotel

 

BEST 4-STAR / MID-RANGE HOTEL

Wellton Centrum Hotel & Spa

Newly unveiled in 2013, Wellton Centrum Hotel & Spa already has a reputation as a spacious hotel with a premier Old Town location, friendly staff, a modest but reasonably priced spa, and a fast response if guests have any qualms. Let’s hope the ambitious owners, who run several new properties in Riga, keep it up.

Runners up: Radisson Blu Hotel Elizabete, Neiburgs, Old City Boutique Hotel, Justus

 

BEST B&B

B&B Riga

A central location not far from the Old Town, clean and spacious rooms, timber-framed ceilings and a freshly baked breakfast set B&B Riga apart.

Runners up: Homestay, Jakob Lenz

 

BEST COUNTRYSIDE ACCOMMODATION

Sventes muiža

You should’ve seen this place a few years ago. Built in 1912 for a well-off family in Latgale, like so many manors in the Baltics it was sorely neglected during the Soviet period but resurrected several years ago. It’s now the most elegant place to stay near Daugavpils.

Runners up: Annas Hotel, Kukšu Muiža, Kārļamuiža, Dikļu pils, Rūmenes muiža

 

ENTERTAINMENT / SHOPPING

BEST SPA

Aqua Vila

Everything to soothe body and soul can be found in this Old Town day spa.

Runners up: ESPA Rīga, Taka Spa, Park Spa, Spa at Opera Hotel 

 

BEST BAR

Bar-Ber Room

Barber by day, massively enjoyable and innovative bar by night.

Runners up: B-bārs, Cuba, Skyline Bar, Chomsky

 

BEST NIGHTSPOT

Illu Zion

Bursting onto the scene, IZ conjures tricks as daytime eatery and daring nightclub.

Runners up: Mai Tai, SUITE, Moon Safari, Studio 69, Kaņepes Kultūras centrs

 

BEST FASHION SHOPPING

Apranga

Building Elizabetes Street as a fashion venue, this Lithuanian company brings Burberry, Zegna, Armani and the multi-brand Nude to shoppers in Latvia – and more is to come.

Runners up: Podium, Galerija Centrs, Stockmann, Spice

 

BEST ENTERTAINMENT VENUE

Bites Blues Club

Newly relaunched in a cool location with atrium seating around a massive stage: welcome to the best live blues and jazz venue in the Baltics.

Runners up: Palladium, Splendid Palace, Arēna Rīga, Ziemeļblāzma Culture Palace, Spīķeri Concert Hall

 

BEST ART GALLERY

Putti 

This little shop in the Old Town exhibits handmade Latvian jewelry you can buy and often hosts delightfully offbeat exhibitions of artisans from around the world.

Runners up: Rīgas birža, Arsenāls, Gallery XO, Istaba, Daugava

 

BEST WINE BAR

Vina studija / elmāro

Dozens of imitators don’t quite match the original trailblazers. Vina studija combines bar and retail at several spots, and at one of them bonds with elmāro, an excellent restaurant.

Runners up: D'Vine, Tinto, Check Point Riga

 

[photo courtesy Kaļķu vārti]

1 03.02.2016 04:49

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