RIGA - Enjoy a day with Eastern flare with a double dose of Indian pleasure. Though the flavor and mysteries of the Orient are nothing new to Riga, a new hidden delight has just popped up.
Shalini, an authentic eastern massage salon, offers clients the only Ayurvedic massages in Riga. Owner Digna Cudare got the inspiration for the salon on a trip to India. Wanting to bring the ultimate relaxing experience to Latvia, she opened up Shalini in August 2008.
I had an opportunity to enjoy the Kerala-style Ayurveda massage in which warm herbal oils are spread all over the body to remove toxins. Highly experienced masseurs, trained in India, were able to make the experience a learning experience as well, describing every bit of the massage and problem areas.
Though not the deep tissue massage I had expected, the next day's result was a relaxed, blissful feeling and surprisingly, the muscle aches had disappeared. It cost an unpretentious 30 lats (42.69 euros) 's for the hour spent on the table I would have paid twice that.
Shalini doesn't limit itself to just Indian massages, but also offers Egyptian hot stone massages, Persian honey massage, Swedish and French classical massage and for the adventurous non-traditionalist, a Philippine lymph drainage massage.
Located in Old Town, it's convenient for popping by on a cold snowy day and warming up. The decor is worth mentioning as well. Owner Cudare, in her many worldly travels, has picked out items from India, Turkey and the Far East to complement her salon and give it an air of mystery.
After emerging from your blissful, warm oil stupor and showering off, you'll probably be feeling a bit hungry. Luckily, and it is unknown if this was deliberate, the famed Indian Raja restaurant is two short blocks away.
Sue's Indian Raja (named after the owner's late wife) was first a successful restaurant in Vilnius, hosting dozens of functions and hosting locals and celebrities alike. Over the next four years, six more restaurants with the same name opened in all three Baltic states.
However, the Riga restaurant is special. Opening its doors in 2001, it was listed by Conde Nast Traveler after six months as one of the 100 best restaurants in the world. No small feat for an Indian restaurant in one of the world's coldest areas.
It is not unusual to see politicians and celebrities 's Prince Charles himself also visited 's dining here, but what makes the Indian Raja so special is that the price appeals to everyone. Most dishes are around 6 lats (8-9 euro) and the portions are big enough to eat your fill and then some.
But not only is the history of the restaurant memorable, the food is enough to make you want to live in the cozy brick walled basement. Top chefs from India and Nepal are well versed in the art of fine cooking from India, Nepal, Thailand and China.
The melt in your mouth samosas and the fresh garlic naan bread were my personal favorites. As a true Balt, I too consider any spices stronger than dill to be too much, but luckily the Raja caters to the sensitive tongued ones too. A gaggle of sari-clad Latvian waitresses take the time to explain the ingredients and the spice level of each dish, so you can be sure that you get what you want. The restaurant also has a bevy of tasty vegetarian dishes, prepared with authentic Thai or Indian spices.
While you wait, you may be treated to talented belly dancers who take to the floor in the evenings, and of course eastern music seems to seep out of the ceiling.
After a day of relaxing massages and hearty spiced food, you'll be sure to sleep well and dream of exotic, warm locales.
Sue's Indian Raja
Vecpilsetas street 3
11. Nov. krastmala 29 (entrance from Peldu street)