Shangri-La, the fictional paradise on Earth. Whoever chooses such a name for his/her restaurant must be setting the bar rather high. Quite far from the city center, on Brivibas gatve, you will find Chinese restaurant Shangri-La in a very unassuming building in a very unassuming neighborhood. Some would even say ”shabby”. And shabby is the word that comes to mind when you walk through the door and enter the restaurant. Sure, it's undoubtedly a Chinese place, which the classic lanterns and wall decorations will reveal, but the place looks old, worn down and would benefit greatly from the help of some carpenters and a good interior designer. But who cares, really. You probably won't stray this far from the center and into the less posh outer areas of Riga in search of a fancy establishment with a million dollar ambience. No, if you come here, you do it in search of great Chinese food.
”IN RIGA YOU HAVE TO REALLY FIGHT WITH THE STAFF TO GET ANY CHILI HEAT”
So, will you find paradise class food at Shangri-La? Well, the Chinese chef (yes, he is from China) is definitely not without talent. There are no real surprises on the menu; it's very westernized, but with enough variation to provide you with at least a few choices. The chicken with chili that I tried on my first visit didn't really throw any complex flavors at you, but I was pleased to note that my wish to have the dish extra spicy was granted. Normally in Riga you have to really fight with the staff to get any chili heat whatsoever. Later visits provided me with the chance to try the fried chicken in garlic sauce as well as the hot pot lamb in black bean sauce, and these dishes solidified the ”pretty decent, but not great” impression I already had. Noticeable is the strange absence of vegetables in the dishes, they contain almost nothing but meat and sauce. But whatever the dishes lacked in flavor, they made up for in sheer volume. Shangri-La's food is on the slightly pricier end of the spectrum, but even though I came to the restaurant starving, I had real troubles finishing my meal. If you know that you and your company don't need huge portions to satisfy your bellies, you can easily share a dish and be happy (and this goes for the rice portions too). This, of course, cuts your individual bill in half, making Shangri-La a very affordable place to dine.
Is Shangri-La worth the trip? Well, it's by Riga standards a pretty decent Chinese place, but the worn-down interior will not give you a particularly memorable dining experience. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, then by all means, drop in and give it a shot. If you're not, there are other places which are just as good and better. Kudos to them, though, for having Asian music on the sound system, as opposed to the too-many-dB euro disco some of the larger Asian restaurant chains annoy their guests with.