In the world of gastronomy, umami* denotes the fifth taste - the intangible sense that cannot be explained with the traditional 'sweet', 'salty', 'bitter' or 'sour' and is most often described by those visited by said sensation with a delighted 'yummmm'. Umami - it is the heavenly feeling of contentment, the joy to the taste buds and good spirits that are retained by our sensory memory for a long time to come.
The tiny restaurant in Ģertrūdes Street embodies this sensation to the full: unobtrusive, understated and the same time stylish decor; the owner (the restaurateur and chef Elmārs Tannis, a well-know figure on the Latvian culinary scene) is always around, assisted by his wife - in a very elegant, unobtrusive, natural and incredibly warm manner. The menu - small, frequently changed, well thought out and fairly reasonably prices - does not aim to surprise with insane gastronomic feats of culinary experiments, plumping for quality and a tiny bit of umami in every dish. There is nothing lardy-dardy about it: everything is very genuine and to the point.
The idea behind Elmārs Tannis' Umami was bringing to Riga the atmosphere of a metropolitan downtown restaurant, the likes of which you can find in any of the world's largest cities: light and open and yet elegant and stylish - never pretentious, though, making it the kind of restaurant preferred by people who appreciate unobtrusive style and food as a pleasure.
Among the artwork adorning the restaurant's walls (paintings by Zane Lūse) you will notice a piece by then fourteen-year old Tannis' daughter, a still life featuring an empty plate with tableware placed on both sides; one of the items has assumed a perfectly real and three-dimensional shape: a metal fork has replaced a painted in one in the young artist's composition. The fork seems to be inviting one to start tucking in: reach out and grab it, sample a bite of this or that and discover umami.
The lively street is buzzing behind the large windows; two fans are whizzing away on the Umami ceiling. The seemingly measly twenty-four seats are filled by a whole of a twenty-four people simultaneously applying themselves to discovering umami, the fifth cardinal point of the taste world.
* 'umami' is a loan word from the Japanese: 'umai' - delicious, 'mi' - taste.
27 Ģertrūdes Street
Keywords: restaurant, Riga