RIGA - There are very few comforts from home - home being a metropolitan center somewhere in the United States or Western Europe - that are still unavailable in Riga. You can get sushi, even if the sushi isn't very good. There are a couple of places you can get a kosher lunch, even if you're not Jewish and can't tell the difference. And now, with Gastronome, you can get pretty decent high-end seafood.
Better yet, you can go shopping at the high-end market, which is attached to Gastronome and offers all the best cheeses from France, alongside fine coffee and meats.
Yes, the food is good, and the 6.50 lat (9.47 euro) business lunch should be a nothing sum for you readers who don't survive on a journalist's or missionary's salary. First you get the bread, yes the bread, complete with three scoops of green butter (Yes, butter can be green! ) and a few small slices of a cheese the name of which the waitress could barely pronounce.
You get a green salad. That's standard fare. And finally you get cuts of three different grilled fish; the restaurant changes exactly which fish it serves on a daily basis. The day I was there, it was sea bass, a good thick taste especially when topped by a delicious red sauce, durao, which tasted very similar to the sea bass, and polka, which was a little tough, a little too gamey.
Like many of the newer restaurants in Riga, Gastronome has a relaxed, softly-lit feel, with a palette of warm browns. Think of the very fine Bestsellers Restaurant at Albert Hotel. The music is good and new age. Interestingly enough, the restaurant boasts an open kitchen out front where you can watch the chefs prepare the fish for your pleasure. It's similar in style to the kind of thing you would see in a sushi bar. Their work seems pretty bloodless, quite artful and un-theatrical.
Over on the side, there are some slabs of dead fish on ice and some very alive lobsters, which begs the old unanswered question: Do these lobsters know what's about to happen to them? And further: Do they know that their entire existence has been about pleasing rich foreigners in a wealthy restaurant in the capital of the poorest country in the EU? Perhaps their existence can be seen as a metaphor for the changing direction of Latvia's foreign outlookâ€¦
Anyway. The market attached to the restaurant deserves a few words as well, particularly since you can get lunch here too. There's even a counter where you can choose from among salmon and gourmet salads for a rich lunch on the go, and a cafe that offers pasteries and coffee.
In short, if you want some decent seafood in a genteel setting where the waitresses speak English, but not too well to lose the charm of living in a foreign country, go to Gastro-nome.
Gastronome Brivibas iela 31