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Ambiente

Restaurants
By Howard Jarvis. 16.04.2013

Ambiente

Save to foursquare Kalēju 9/11, Riga Phone: 6708 7580
Email: ambiente@kolonna.com
Web: http://ambiente.lv
Working hours: Mon-Sat 12.00 - 23.00,

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As part of a complete makeover for the restaurant in Old Riga’s Hotel Konventa Seta, talented chef Māris Pastars had the idea of creating an entirely new atmosphere – and dishes – inspired by the decadent Art Nouveau period.

However, rather than go overboard copying the style’s ostentatious designs, each of Ambiente’s rooms was decorated to appear like a separate part of an apartment from that colorful and optimistic but ill-fated period.

Choose among tables in the dark and cozy library, a plush sitting room or a bright, breezy-blue and less pretentious kitchen. Tables were already taken in the library so we opted for the quieter kitchen, the only “room” without white tablecloths, decorated with painted pots and pans and paneling in azure.

Judging from Latvian cookbooks dating from the Art Nouveau period, sausage and sandwiches made up a large part of the diet for the Riga masses. But Pastars and his team decided to play with healthier ingredients.

Back in the day, herring was a higher-class fish than it is now while salmon was far more popularly eaten. Accordingly, herring have swum their way into the Ambiente menu, pickled with apple salad and beet mousse (€5.50) or battered in beer. Fish in general are represented well, most notably in the baked stuffed tench, or carp, served up whole on the plate.

Fending off a full two pages of appetizers – each of them at €7 or under, except for the Latvian sturgeon caviar – we went for the river-fish and crayfish soup (€7) to start, followed by fillet of steamed Baltic plaice with spinach risotto and beetroot sauce (€11).

The Ambiente menu helpfully recommends wines for the dishes. For the soup, for example, it suggests a glass of bubbling prosecco, an aromatic Marqués de Riscal Reserva from Spain, or some classic pinot noir from Chile’s San Antonio wine region.

But in keeping with local tradition, we instead ordered a shot of vodka before each course. It didn’t arrive chilled, unfortunately, but it was a full 50 grams.

We were not disappointed with the soup, which arrived almost instantaneously. Generous and succulent chunks of fish, probably pike-perch and salmon, with prawns and identifiable pieces of crayfish tail mingled at the center of the bowl with bundles of strips of vegetables, surrounded by a thick tomato-heavy broth.

A plump crayfish sat on top, its beady black eyes staring into oblivion, the back of its shell already prised away inviting its flesh to be sucked out. A wedge of lime and sprig of fresh basil completed the picture. This is not a dish for polite eaters and the napkin quickly became daubed with blood-red stains. But as fish soups go, this was one of the most satisfying we’ve experienced in Riga.

We made good use of the thick slices of doughy, grainy bread that arrived in a basket together with three balls of butter, one of which had been made with hempseed.

The “kitchen” we sat in is the furthest of Ambiente’s rooms from the actual kitchen, but the friendly waitress kept checking on us unobtrusively to see that all was well.

We didn’t have to wait long for the main course either. Presented with some panache, a top-heavy roll of plaice was poised on the risotto, skewered with a long stalk of fresh rosemary and crowned with a slice of candied orange. A hardened wafer-thin piece of fish skin balanced on the side, just for show.

The sweetness of the splash of beetroot sauce and the orange contrasted with the creamy textures of plaice and risotto as well as with the savory rosemary and subtlest of hints of pepper in the fish.

Meat features on the Ambiente menu, of course, also inspired by the cuisine of a hundred years ago. There’s pork fillet with mashed grey peas and black plum sauce, for example, or venison sausages with apple-and-cranberry ragout. For vegetarians there’s barley porridge with porcini mushrooms and fresh Latvian cheese. But we didn’t feel regretful about concentrating on fish.

To round off the meal we also played it local, ordering chilled marzipan cake with seabuckthorn sauce (€5.50). It’s actually worth visiting Ambiente just for a thick slice of this delicious cake, which has several layers of luscious chilled-cream filling coated in a solid blanket of super-sugary marzipan, balanced by the squiggles of sour orange-colored sauce. We departed Ambiente pledging to return on another occasion for more “Art Nouveau cuisine” – perhaps when the seating spills out into the atmospheric Konventa Terrace in the Jāņa Sēta courtyard in May.

LeHZYaAw 01.10.2015 19:45

Hi Dave,I just heppened to bump into your blog while lnoikog for link echange partners.Great and fun blogs keep it up buddy.
and I wish you and your wife, wonderful years ahead

Reply




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