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2023-09-25 12:43:34

Monhe Negro

DINING -> Restaurants
By Andra Kunstberga. 10.06.2013

Kalēju 23 , Riga Phone: 6721 4137
Skype: 2
Working hours: Mon-Sun 11.00 - 23.00

"Black monk" serves up the most authentic Latin American and Hispanic cuisine in Latvia. The life of one of Riga’s newest restaurants, Monhe Negro, lies in its Mexican chef Javier Garcia, a longtime resident of the city.

Every dish and many of the drinks that he’s imported specially for the pleasure of the patrons, he says, tells a different story from his childhood and his exotic family background.

“Black monk”, named because of the 17th-century monastery that once existed on this spot and in the vicinity, serves up the most authentic Latin American and Hispanic cuisine in Latvia.

The interior is as dark as the name suggests, but classy. Many of the sturdy circular wooden tables have rings of stone set in the center. Outside in summer are four small plastic tables that give no hint of the elegant interior.

Javier already runs a chain of six Tex Mex restaurants in Latvia, but his aim with Monhe Negro is to create a more personal environment where he can cook and chat to customers.

The emphasis is on seasonal ingredients, fish and seafood. Javier starts his day at Riga Central Market, which he says reminds him of markets in Mexico, selecting the best and freshest produce he can find. Pike, carp, smelt, red snapper, dorado, octopus, squid, prawns, and mussels often end up on the freeform lunch menu, at just €3.50, rustled up on weekdays between 11am and 4pm.

A la carte highlights feature delicious chicken enchiladas (€7), guacamole, tapas with Manchego sheep-milk cheese and chorizo, gazpacho soups hot and chilled, genuine Argentine steaks with garlic-and-parsley chimichurri sauce, and ceviche – a Peruvian dish of raw fish marinated in citrus juices and chili. Speaking of spice, Javier prefers chipotle peppers from Mexico.

The green salad (€4) is a large and pleasing pile of lettuce leaves and rucola, lime juice and, unusually, lots of fresh coriander. The simply named chicken soup (€5.20) is a dark orange broth with chicken chunks and strips of tortilla that’s extremely spicy even for our weathered taste-buds.

The menu is clearly broadly Latin American, also including the famous Cuban dish moros y cristianos, or black beans and rice. But some Spanish classics are on offer too – Valencian paella of course, as well as desserts such as churros donuts and the glazed, melt-in-the-mouth crema Catalana (€3.80), considered to be the original crème brûlée, made without egg yolk.

There are plenty of delights to imbibe too, including sangria and Spanish and South American wines. As an aperitif, try some dry, pale Romate Fino sherry. At any point during the meal, sample some of the incredibly smooth and rich Pampero Aniversario rum from Venezuela (€5.70 for 5cl) or the lighter, creamier Ingenio Manacas from Dominica (€4.30). It will round off a truly enjoyable Latin American dining experience.