The small forest village of Annas lies less than a hundred kilometres from Riga. It hosts a design hotel of the same name, as well as the Vannas spa (“Bath”), the Kannas restaurant (“Jug”), and that’s about it. Nevertheless, Annas is a historically important village in Latvia. It used to surround a luxurious manor where Garlieb Merkel, famous Latvian intellectual and activist, served as tutor. Not much is left of the manor nowand the modern design hotel attempts to conserve the remnants and reconcile them with modernity. And that is exactly what the hotel’s restaurant, Kannas, does with local food. First comes a hefty loaf of bread, fried in lots of grease. It cannot - and does not - get more rustical than that. The food represents extremely modern Latvian cuisine with some European nuances. The herbal cream of fennel soup is served with bone marrow from local cattle, salty-sweet French Charolais cheese, and crunchy almond chips. The langoustine comes with local forest mushrooms and pumpkin. The bread brings your attention back to the origins ofitall. Local color isaddedby bittersweet Raiskumietis village beer, brewed by a traditional recipe, and Ligatne fruit wines, all brewed practically at a stone’s throw away from the restaurant, at the same Gauja region. And if those seem too extreme, it is always possible to reach for a good old Chablis or Amarone.
"Restorans 3, the current talk of the town in Latvian culinary circles, takesup two floors at a narrow pedestrian street in Riga Old Town. The first floor is the Heaven and the ground floor is the Earth. And sure enough, itis harder togetto Heaven than itisto stay at the Earth. Not that it's particularly hard to walk upthe stairs –it’s just that the stairs to the Heaven are rarely open.Itis used to organize dinners where food smell mingles with the smellsof nature inthe dining hall. Film projections offer beautiful natural views and sounds of nature soothe the ear. Restorans 3 has become a serious contender for the title of the best restaurant in Latvia. Keep an eye on them. The Heaven is worth a special trip to Riga. But ifitis really not accessible, then... the Earth is perfectly goodas well. The broad windows offer cinema-screen-like views to the narrow old town street. Sunlight ordarkness, fog or rain... the different moods are there, at a hand’s reach. During the day, the 3 offers an à la carte menu, where the guest can make up their mind about some of the best fine dining in Latvia based on single dishes. In the evening, the 5- and 7-course “Taste the Nature” menus are also available, and a vegetarian version isavailable of the former. Head Chef Juris Dukalskis makes sure to keep the experience atthe Earth not dissimilar to that at the Heaven. The baked quail is smoked with juniper right there on the table. The burning juniper branches are a supremely aromatic spectacle. Hedoesnot hesitate to use many different ingredients inone dish (such as oxtail, beef tongue and squid), but each complex composition forms an enjoyable, balanced whole. The wine selection leans noticeably towards natural and biodynamic tendencies."
The Vincents has reached an iconic status in Latvia. You’d be hard pressed to find a Riga local who has never been to this 25-year-old restaurant. And even those who haven’t would hardly dare to admit it. Getting caught in a lie is easy, though, since nothing but details have changed over time. Say, the collection of pictures of famous visitors is taking ever more space on the wall. Some of the elements of the interior design get refreshers... A visitor will be quick to notice that the servers, dressed in all black, do their work on the background, nearly imperceptibly. This is done on purpose to let the star of the show - the food - shine brighter. Introducing the goods starts off low-key, too. Meat cuts and fish are rolled upon a special side table. Next up, a glass-lidded boxof truffles. The clients can personally choose their food and decide whether and how much truffle to have grated on their dishes. If the client doesn't like this old-school system, the alternative is its opposite - a degustation menu, where each new course is revealed at the moment of serving. This menu surprises with special effects, such as a dish served inside an ice ball. The ice ispartially melted with a blowtorch on the table to allow access to the food. The biggest recent change to take place at the Vincents was granting the wines equal status with the food. The manager, Raimonds Tomsons, is a winner of the European sommelier championship himself. The drinks selection for the tasting menu features only rare wines, starting from the house champagne. Other drinks donot pretend to compete with the wines. Only the acoustics leave something tobe desired and some of the interesting information and perhaps even the enjoyment can get lost in the din. But this provides a good reason tocome back to the Vincents in a while. To see what itis like to change while remaining unchanged.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.