A restaurant without a cause

  • 2008-03-26
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

RIGA - I can't quite figure out what the creators of "Brown Sugar," one of Riga's newest restaurants, were thinking. The whole place seems to have been thrown together so half-heartedly that the only people I can reasonably imagine going there are rich businessmen from the neighboring Hotel Reval Latvia who don't know any better.
My best guess is that some rich old woman with no restaurant experience, or really even any business sense, had a bit too much time and money on her hands. On a whim, she decided to jumble together a few of her favorite things into a restaurant without any real rhyme or reason.

The first floor is has a small shop selling cakes, bread and coffee. It is set up kind of like a high-end coffee shop, but since there is no seating presumably everything there has to be taken to go or eaten at the restaurant upstairs (which has its own wait staff 's so why bother selling food downstairs?).
The display window on the ground floor features a few horribly overpriced specialty seasonings, including some completely unnecessary flavored salts and oils alongside scented candles and mini-bottles of champagne.
After seeing this, it was with some trepidation that I went upstairs and took a seat at the restaurant.
The decor was made up of semi-aristocratic wallpaper with faux-gold gilt lining almost everything (most notably, and with especially bad taste, in the bathroom). While the chairs were somewhat comfortable, a large lamp bolted to the center of each table seriously hindered conversation.

The menu features a relatively long wine list, but for some reason "Brown Sugar" only offers two varieties, a red and a white, by the glass. The rest were only served in whole or half bottles. To the restaurants credit, however, the house wine was actually pretty good.
The food wasn't too bad either 's not worth the five to 10 lat price tag but still not bad. It seems the imagined old lady benefactor actually had the good sense to hire a decent chef. The beef was cooked properly 's with a little red still in the middle 's but the pork, surprisingly, was still red in the middle as well. Fortunately nobody got sick.

The real problem with the menu, however, was the lack of variety. The two-page menu only offered four or five main courses, along with a few salads and pastas. The chef most likely went to a good Italian culinary school and never bothered to broaden his or her horizons beyond what they learned there.
To make matters worse, the service was atrocious. It could be because she didn't speak much Latvian 's our waitress was Russian 's but she managed to either mess up or outright forget three orders. She even went so far as to argue with me about one of the wrong orders, insisting that the pasta was, in fact, what I wanted.
The restaurant business is a risky one, and it is all too often that people who throw a few good dinner parties think they can make it in the cutthroat world of professional food. Most of the time these people end up sinking thousands of lats into their establishment and waiting for things to catch on while overlooking some of the glaring problems which inevitably lead to its failure. "Brown Sugar," I fear, is one such restaurant.

Brown Sugar
1/3 Baznicas Street
Open weekdays 8-23,
weekends 10-22