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Brown and the savory

By Howard Jarvis. 27.01.2012


Save to foursquare Ģertrūdes 27, Riga Phone: 67312500
Working hours: Mon-Fri 12:00 - 23:00, Sat 13:00 - 24:00, Sun 13:00 - 22:00,



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There’s a tiny brick-walled space off a cobblestone street that’s well worth visiting as a dining spot, off Ģertrūdes about 15 minutes’ stroll from Old Riga.

The family-run Umami has about 10 small tables, which can be arranged together for bigger groups. Reserve beforehand, as it can get busy in the evenings.
Shades of brown permeate everything, from the furniture to the menus to the locally produced paintings. The lighting is pleasingly dimmed, the windows huge to maximize both the interior space and the absorbing street action, and the overall effect is stylish and casual.
Umami doesn’t feel like the pet project of a celebrity chef, but the man behind it is Latvian-Canadian Elmars Tannis, founder of longstanding Riga restaurants such as Čarlsons and Pizza Lulu.
Here it’s all about the food. The word umami originates from Japan and stands for the legendary fifth basic taste – a kind of yummy savoryness – together with salty, sour, sweet and bitter.
Keeping things clean and simple, twelve dishes are on the menu (there’s a separate dessert list), including three soups and three salads. After you order, bread is brought to the table with virgin olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
The vegetable or chicken-broth Vietnamese pho soup (€4.50-5.50) serves as a fine starter, a satisfying bowl with rice noodles, portobello mushrooms, spinach and herbs. You can taste coriander, mint, basil and a twist of lime. Lots of umami there.
Primary ingredients are chosen from around the world. Among the main dishes, New Zealand veal is sautéed with sundried tomatoes in a barbeque sauce and served with ratatouille and mashed potato (€18.50). Icelandic haddock comes with basmati rice and a sumptuous sauce blending tiger prawns, white wine and tomatoes (€14). And watch for teriyaki lamb when Umami next changes its menu.
Care has gone into the select list of drinks. The wines come from small distributors and are not found in local supermarkets. The cognac is not Hennessey but Chateau Paulet. Experiment by mixing it with sparkling water as a pre-dinner drink.
If you’re a rum drinker, try the 12-year-old or the 20-year-old Dictador (€5.50-€8.50), a super-smooth and mouthwatering new Colombian rum. It complements all the umami perfectly.


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