Although the number of reviews on Foodinriga.com is approaching 70, I must have been to at least as many restaurants in Riga which I for one reason or another decided not to review. Fazenda* is one of those restaurants. Suddenly though, the other week, I found myself wondering why I came to this decision. To remind myself, I went back to Fazenda a couple of times, and voilà - a review!
Going there in ”review mode”, I found myself looking at the place differently. And what I saw pleased me. Fazenda might not look like much from outside, but once you enter, you're suddenly transported to what reminds me of a vintage summer cottage. The style is old school bourgeois, the ceiling is very high, it's spacious and intimate at the same time, and most notably, you could go there ten times without discovering all the decoration details. It's like you walked into an elderly person's home, and a very homely and cozy one at that. The illusion only breaks when you look out the window. Outside you will see not a calm autumn lake, or a meadow swaying in the breeze, or snowy mountain tops, but gray asphalt and dirty cars spewing carbon dioxide all over Lāčplēša iela.
”if you're looking for bombastic cooking, this is not the place”
So let's turn our gaze back inside. There, that's better. The friendly staff will bring you Fazenda's menu, which is of the hard-to-define kind. For lack of a more precise definition, I would call the cuisine ”international”. But that isn't quite accurate, since I don't really find any African food here... or South American... or Caribbean... Oh well, I could just call it European cuisine? But that excludes the stir-fries, the coconut, the guacamole... Oh, bloody hell, just check their website yourselves and decide on your own definition.
The menu is large enough for most people to find something they might enjoy. However, with the arrival of the plate on my table, my lost memories returned. Anyone remembers my review of Mercato? Fazenda suffers from the exact same problem. The place looks great, the service is impeccable etc., but the chefs are just way too cautious with the seasoning. If you're looking for bombastic cooking, this is not the place for you. Whereas I, at least, like food that speaks to me in a clarion voice, Fazenda's food stutters and mumbles very much like the quiet café jazz on their audio system. Now, don't get me wrong, the chefs really know what they are doing. The food is beautifully and professionally prepared, so why let it stumble and fall on the last obstacle? Now, I can't be sure that it's Fazenda's intention to let ingredients carry their own weight without much seasoning, but doing so is taking a big risk; it's heavily reliant on the ingredients having enough flavors of their own. Many of course do, but many don't. As a result, the dining experience at Fazenda is too timid for me to remember or to yearn for when my belly starts to rumble.
However, this past week it's become clear to me that many people seem to not share the sentiments I'm expressing here. Fazenda is often crowded, and business seems to be doing fine. And if this type of cooking is your thing, you'll surely be pleased to hear that the price tag is much smaller than you'd expect. Certain other restaurants in Riga would easily charge double for the same quality.
* this review concerns the Fazenda restaurant on Baznīcas iela