When starting to prepare for this review, the first thing that hit me was just how many photos I've actually taken. It never really dawned on me exactly how many times I've been to Singh's, but judging by the number of photos, it's a lot! A lot more than necessary to write an informed review, that's for sure. This must mean one of two things: I'm a masochist, or Singh's is a really good place.
If memory serves me right, I was in Stockholm when a friend sent me a photo of this not yet opened Indian restaurant. Now, no one in their right mind would be in Stockholm yet wish they could go to Latvia for some Indian food. I guess this tells you how starved I was for a good curry in Riga. After months of peeking through their windows during renovation, it was finally time to step inside the mysterious gym shower-looking restaurant. By this time, the wait had been almost unbearable, and I really had to make a conscious effort to keep my excitement from running amok with my expectations.
”you might come home with a severe case of 'delhi belly'”
The very first time I stepped inside, I didn't actually eat. By accident, I happened to stumble into some unofficial sneak opening, so I just took in the atmosphere and talked to a friendly lady who might have been a (co)-owner. She informed me that Singh's cuisine comes from the Punjabi region, and perhaps this is why you might notice the absence of some of the dishes you're used to finding in the menu at many Indian restaurants. However, Singh's has a fairly sizeable menu, and although your usual Vindaloo, Balti, Jalfrezi etc. dishes are not there, you'll no doubt find something else to satisfy your cravings. Vegetarians will also be happy, since Singh's has quite a good selection of non-meat dishes, and daytime eaters will like the affordable lunch offer (€7, no drink included).
During my many visits, I've slowly but surely singled out a few favorites. Since the meat at Singh's isn't really melt-in-your-mouth tender (although it's still fine), my favorite main dish turned out to be the Goan Jhinga Curry; a mild, creamy prawn dish in coconut sauce. As for starters, the Chilli Paneer is awesome; it's intense and spicy, and the serving is so generous that if you order rice to go with it, you basically have a full main dish. And these two are just the tip of the iceberg – keep exploring and you'll find many other dishes which are fine examples of Indian cuisine. Most (if not all) dishes can be had mild, medium, hot or extra hot. If you decide to go for the spiciest level, be warned that you might come home with a severe case of ”Delhi belly” that will keep you thoroughly entertained (yes, I'm speaking from experience).
And speaking of spiciness, I have to give Singh's a lot of praise for doing what many other Riga restaurants don't: they listen to their guests. On my first couple of visits, I was honestly a bit disappointed, since the spiciness level was rather on the mild side, even after asking for really brutal heat. Recently, though, I made another cocky ”hit me with everything you got” kind of order. And let me tell you, if I weren't out in public, I'd probably have curled up in the fetal position and started sucking my thumb. To add insult to injury, me and my crew had just laughed ourselves silly over a story of precisely such a macho jackass who couldn't handle the food he had ordered. So, hats off to Singh's!
”service has been nothing but excellent”
Although this review is awash in praise, I do have to file my usual complaints. On a wall in the downstairs section, there is a TV which I wish they could get rid of. A TV automatically becomes the center of attention, and that is an unwanted distraction that I'd rather be without when I go out dining with friends. Also, although the prices at Singh's (€2.50–12 for starters, €4–11 for mains, beer around €3–4) are almost perfectly adjusted to the size servings and the quality that you get, I really wish that plain basmati rice could be on the house. I have no objections to being charged a few euro for more fancy types of rice, but €2.95 for a serving of white rice is a bit on the steep side. On a more positive note, though, service has been nothing but excellent. At Singh's, you really get consistently good service. I truly hope that the owners spoil the waiting staff once in a while, because they truly deserve it.
So, is Singh's the best Indian restaurant in Riga? Yes and no. In my opinion, there is not one Indian chef in Riga who can beat Himalaju's Bam Bhandari* when he's having a good day (which is virtually every day). However, Himalaju is technically a Nepalese restaurant, it's quite low-key and doesn't have a lot of strictly Indian dishes on the menu. Singh's, on the other hand, is a full-fledged Indian restaurant, it's a much fancier place, their Indian menu is much larger and has all the things which make up an Indian meal (naan bread, to name the most obvious). So, between the two, you have the choice between very good and very good. As far as dedicated Indian restaurants go, though, Singh's is best in class.
* important: I'm talking about the restaurant on Blaumaņa iela