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By Howard Jarvis. 13.12.2011

Save to foursquare Tērbatas 73, Riga Phone: 6709 2295
Working hours: Mon-Thu 11:00 - 23:00, Fri-Sat 11:00 - 06:00,



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Not many Old Riga tourists will want to trek more than a kilometer along Tērbatas Street beyond Vidzemes Market for a dining experience, however innovative it may be. But Cotton really is a destination worth the journey.

The second venture from Heinrihs Erhards, chef and founder of the organic food lounge Botanika (recommended in our dining listings, under “international”), goes further than other fusion restaurants to add an Asian touch to modern European cuisine.
Erhards describes Cotton as employing “French methods using Asian ingredients.” Having worked in fancy restaurants in New York and Paris, he should know, and it’s a sense of experienced confidence comes across in Cotton’s cuisine.
It doesn’t matter that the setting is in a postmodern complex containing a “seven-star” hotel of mega-deluxe suites frequented by super-wealthy Russian businesspeople – although it must help to pay the rent. What matters at Cotton is the food.
The dishes play with spices and aromas that are never heavy-handed. A regular Italian risotto is made with coconut ginger, seaweed, miso pasta and salmon. Baked pikeperch fillet comes with shrimp tempura and avocado chutney. Beef Bourguignon is braised with honey and soya and served with pearly couscous. You get the idea.
The choice of bread, all homemade, is a little more Latvian, including brown bread with pumpkin seeds and white buns with a coating of cheese. But it comes with hummus to spread.
The menu consists of a concise selection of appetizers, soups, salads, main courses and side dishes, many of which complement each other. Sides range from eggplant caviar to stir-fried noodles with teriyaki chicken. There’s also a “chef special” menu of specially created courses that changes weekly.
On the day we visited we were able to opt for pork breast braised for 20 hours and served with a rich Asian-style cherry tomato-and-bouillon sauce, celery purée and cucumber slices (€5.50).
It was simple but magnificent, each slice of pork unashamedly carrying a thin line a deliciously flavored fat. In an age where every ounce and globule of pork fat is thoughtlessly discarded, it’s a rare pleasure to experience a dish that revels in the genuine taste of the full flavor of the meat.
We followed up this with a dessert – fruit-filled chocolate maki sushi. Closely resembling rolls of pancake lightly flavored with chocolate, filled with mascarpone cheese and, alternately, pear, strawberry and banana, the dish was a fine follow-up to the pork. Accompanied by fresh berries, it was refreshing and not too heavy.
Incidentally, sushi – the non-sweet kind – occupies a special place on the menu. All of it is made in-house and includes, for example, “royal casino maki” (named after the highbrow gambling den located on the premises), which is a selection of salmon, eel, tuna, avocado, tobiko and Philadelphia maki (all sushi selections are priced at €7.90).
Despite the predominantly Russian-speaking clientele, the décor of the restaurant is not overly ostentatious. Wispy curtains are used to give a little privacy to many of the tables, although of course that means you can eavesdrop on the intrigues of your neighbors’ business discussions.
As soon as the sun sets, colored lighting is switched on and the mood deepens. You take another sip of green tea permeated with cedar nuts, mint and honey and, for making the effort to come here, give yourself the gift of a taxi-ride back to your hotel.

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