Garlic. Probably the single most useful ingredient in any kitchen. Depending on how you cook it, it can be tweaked to serve almost any purpose. By pressing it, eating it whole or finely chopping it and deep frying it you can make is as pungent or as mild as you like. To my mind, not many dishes do not go well with garlic, and there are entire cuisines (particularly Asian) in which garlic is one of the main pillars.
”the perfect refuge on a biting cold winter night”
So you may not be surprised that this guy just happens to love it. Garlic and chili are the two things I simply couldn’t live without. Although the idea of a garlic restaurant isn’t exactly revolutionary, it’s still a damn fine one. Ķiploku krogs (which translates into Garlic Pub) is just such a place, and it is here to cater to the tastes and cravings of me and the likes of me. Located in the more quiet outskirts of Riga's Old Town, Ķiploku krogs is a cozy, vintage-styled tavern which interiors remind me a bit of the tavern in Roman Polanski's gorgeous 1967 movie The Fearless Vampire Killers. Old-fashioned, lit up by candles, with wooden furniture and stone walls, and most importantly: with tons of garlic hanging everywhere. The perfect refuge on a biting cold winter night.
The menu may not be strikingly innovative, but it has most of what you would wish for, and the food is more than reasonably priced. What is striking, though, is how little the food actually tastes of garlic. Considering the name of the place, you would think that it would be an orgy in vampire repellant. But no; instead of getting behind the wheel, revving the V10 to take you for a rough ride, the garlic sits quietly in the backseat, playing Candy Crush. Although this is a major let-down, you'd be surprised how much I'm willing to forgive, provided that the food tastes great despite the lack of garlic. Sadly, Ķiploku krogs is a hit and miss. I enjoyed the basket of garlic bread and herb oil, which is on the house, and the snails starter is also rather tasty. However, in general the food is under seasoned and lacking in flavor. I wouldn't say that there is anything wrong with some of the dishes I tried: the penne with chicken and cheese sauce, the pasta with deer meat sausage or the roast pork fillet with oven baked potatoes and mustard seed sauce (although you really need to like mustard to appreciate this one), but they just didn't grab me and they certainly didn't leave any lasting impression. This lasting impression, unfortunately, was left by the chicken fillet with peas and garlic pommes purée, because this was frighteningly tasteless. The chicken tasted like it had not been seasoned at all, and the pommes purée seemed to apologize to me for being on my plate.
”you'll be passing gas like a bloated corpse”
However, Ķiploku krogs does have one winner on the menu: the deer meat sausage (which seemed different than the one in the pasta) with red wine braised cabbage and oven baked potatoes. This dish really was a great experience, and it's definitely one to try, should you go to this restaurant. Choose something else to go with it than the garlic beer, though, which I think is more of a ploy than anything worth your attention.
A final word on the garlic. Despite it being so absent on your palate, Ķiploku krogs has to be using some Weapon of Intestinal Destruction, because get ready: after a visit, you'll be passing gas like a bloated corpse. Rest assured that you, and your immediate surroundings, will remember this restaurant for days to come.
All in all, I wouldn't really advise against going to Ķiploku krogs. Depending on your preferences, it might be worth a shot. After all, as I mentioned the prices are quite reasonable, the place is enjoyable to spend some time in and you will be well looked after by the staff. However, if I could give one piece of advice to this restaurant, it would be to not be so cowardly with the garlic. Allow it more space, and maybe try incorporating new things like black garlic, different garlic oils etc. If Ķiploku krogs would throw caution out the window and dare to live up to its name, it could become a do-not-miss place.