Service with a scalpel

  • 2008-09-10
  • By Monika Hanley

RIGA - The gynecologist's stirrups weren't that much of a surprise, seeing as it was a medical-themed restaurant. But having them on the table was a bit unsettling.
The decor at Hospitalis spans the whole range of the medical memorabilia, from gynecological stirrups to x-rays, and has a morgue section and a dentists office. For the more inconspicuous diner there are more normal tables at which to enjoy your meal, although the scalpels and bright lights still loom overhead.
The restaurant opened on July 24 and has since seen a steady stream of customers, gawkers and critics. However, much of the fascination has been with the decor, and not with the food.

Once you've elbowed past the peeping toms outside, opened the door, and breathed in the medicine-scented air, you're greeted by a peppy nurse who shows you to your table. After the initial shock of the decor, the scene is more reminiscent of a diner or medical-school cafeteria, with a hint of Tim Burton-esque twists thrown into the mix.

The menu is fairly expansive, ranging from 2.50-lat salads (3.25 euro) to 16-lat steaks, done rare for the "extreme taste," according to the menu.
It's hard to classify exactly what type of food is served there, as the menu offers dishes like Thai shrimp soup and spicy chicken fillet alongside traditional favorites like mushroom soup and pasta. The best way to categorize it would be to say it was diner-chic. 

Despite the immaculate and artful presentation of the food, the actual taste left something to be desired. On the menu, "Iceberg lettuce with lightly salted salmon and bleu cheese dressing" sounded fantastic, but the reality left much to be desired. It would seem that, much in the true Latvian fashion, the cooks make everything look as it should while using the most Latvian ingredients available and making everything taste like Grandma used to make.

For example, the bleu cheese dressing was really mayonnaise mixed with bleu cheese crumbles. The salad was a chunk of lettuce to be eaten with knife and fork. The salmon, however 's with a sprig of dill, naturally 's was delicious.

The best part of the meal came at the beginning. As the scantily clad nurse-waitress brought us our scalpel-shaped knifes and silverware, she also brought along a metal basket of freshly baked rolls accompanied by a tiny service bell-shaped dish of herb butter. That bread alone made the trip worthwhile.
Despite the rest of the over-priced menu, the extensive drink selection was great, with many drinks coming in beakers or various other medical-themed containers.

After tasting my peach margarita, I realized that this was the first I'd ever had that was made with juice and not syrup, meaning that not only was the drink tastier, it was probably healthier as well. Leave it to a hospital-themed restaurant to serve health-conscious cuisine.

Hospitalis is located at Stabu Street 14, just off Brivibas Street. Open until 11.