As a little experiment, I'm giving you a quick 3-in-1 guide to some of the Asian places in Riga. Two of them are fast food joints in the lower price range (City Woks and Wok To Walk) while the third one (Fudzijama) is a small, mid-priced restaurant with a full-sized menu. Links are at the end of the review.
At City Woks, you're the cook. Ok, not really, but you're the one telling the cooks what to do. You pick your carbs, protein, veggies and sauce from the menu, and they toss it all in a wok and stir-fry it for you. If you think such a simple procedure is unfuckupable, City Woks smiles and proves you wrong.
The rice and chicken in coconut curry sauce is a complete mess, with indiscernible flavors tripping over each other. I didn't notice any hint of coconut milk, and isn't the curry just simple curry powder? The noodle wok with pork and ginger/lemongrass sauce tasted like a bowl of washing-up liquid. The only decent dish I tried was one with oyster sauce, although be warned that they sometimes use way too much of it. Also, they insist on serving drinks at room temperature.
Out of the three joints reviewed here, City Woks is the most amateurish one. Anyone could make this stuff at home after a quick trip to Rimi. A friend of mine quickly renamed it ”Shitty Woks”, and I'm not raising any objections.
WOK TO WALK
Popular hang-out Wok To Walk in old town follows the same ”point-and-shoot” formula. If ordering feels like pointing at things on a conveyor belt, I wonder how the staff feels. The menu is a bit bigger and more interesting than at City Woks, and it tastes better too. Still, it's nothing special, but if you're mostly looking to satisfy your hunger, Wok To Walk will do just fine.
I wonder if anyone really knows what's been going on in the years since Honkonga vacated their old premises in the intersection of Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela/Hanzas iela. All this time, there's been a sign saying ”Chinese Fast Food” and brown paper covering all the windows, but nothing ever opened. Suddenly, out of the blue, the sign was gone and within a couple of weeks, Japanese restaurant Fudzijama appeared.
I think I can guess what they didn't spend all that time doing: interior design. That is not to say that this restaurant is ugly (it actually looks okay), but whoever thought it was a good idea to have red, plastic sofas should be whipped in public. Unfortunately, I have to say that the food at Fudzijama is on (sub)par with the interior. Despite being a Japanese restaurant, they serve quite many Chinese dishes. These are very one-dimensional and are almost ruined by the excessive use of what I guess is soy sauce. Also, it seems that many of these dishes come in servings large enough for two people. Fudzijama is not the only Asian restaurant to do this in Riga, and I'm not a big fan of this approach. What if you're alone? What if you're an uneven number? What if you can't agree on dishes to share?
Fudzijama also has a quite extensive sushi menu. However, I am really not impressed with it. First of all, a disproportionate number of sushi contains Philadelphia cheese. So many, in fact, that you will have a bit of a struggle finding sushi without it. And speaking of cheese, one of the futo makis came with some cheese covering which both me and my friend had trouble eating. And speaking of having trouble eating something (yes, I write in layers here, Inception style), the Ebi Šao dumpling is an acquired taste if I ever knew one. I did not become a fan, but that same friend actually had trouble stomaching them and left them all to me.
Fudzijama leaves me with many thoughts. First of all, considering that Fudzijama calls itself a Japanese restaurant, why so few Japanese dishes on the menu? Well, except for the sushi, of course. Also, isn't the sushi market in Riga rather saturated? Perhaps if Riga was a larger city, it would make sense to open sushi bars in various parts of the city. But it isn't that large, and if you're in the center, the nearest great sushi place is probably not more than 10 minutes walk. Perhaps if Fudzijama would step it up considerably in the kitchen, I would recommend that you pay them a visit. For the time being, however, I'd suggest that you make better use of your time and money by putting on the hauntingly beautiful ”Fujiyama” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet while making magic in your own kitchen.