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Romania


magnolia
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My good friend (former college roommate) just started her new job with the US State Department in Romania. I'm planning on visiting her there in Bucharest (but she will have a car, so we can check out other parts of the country...plus she has become fluent in Romanian, so communication shouldn't be a problem).

Any restaurant recommendations in Romania (particularly in Bucharest)?

What about specific dishes to try while there?

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I wrote about it here but there are a couple of places that I overlooked.

Doi cocosi - (Bucharest, Sos. Bucuresti - Targoviste, phone +40-1-667.1080/667.1998/224.1415, fax +40-1-224.0697. Open 12:00 - 02:00. Famous for its live traditional dance, music and food (specialty: pui la ceaun - cauldron-cooked chicken) - one of the most authentic romanian and fun places I've ever been to. The deep-fried chicken was juicy, it's skin as crisp as it gets and the garlic sauce a nice complement. I hope the place is still in business, I haven't been in years.

Nicoresti - Maria Rosetti St., phone +40-1-211.2480/211.1334. Open 09:00 - 23:00, Sun 13:00 - 23:00. Extensive menu, try sarmale (cabbage rolls) or friptura de pizdulice (a marinated and grilled piece of chuck meat, tender and succulent).

Locanta Jaristea and Moara Mariei (see inyourpocket.com for Bucharest) sound good and I'll visit on my upcoming September trip.

Dishes not to miss beside the ones mentioned above: ciulama de pui with polenta - a white sauce chicken dish, the bean paste salad "fasole batuta", the eggplant salad "salata de vinete".

Don't miss the "street food" for a snack: pretzel (covrig), gogosi (the doughnuts) or merdenele (a flat square pie filled with cheese). Get them as hot as they get.

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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This is all very heartening to read. The one time I went to Romania was under Ceausescu - 1974 - and for the most part the available food consisted of pork and potatoes with varying amounts of liquid and grease. You could tell when some component of the dish was particularly rancid, because it would invariably be smothered in dill, the one thing which was apparently plentiful. (Alas, as a result of its association with the worst of those meals, I developed an aversion to dill which lasted many years.) It was painful; you could tell that these people had known real food and were embarrassed to be serving us this stuff, though they certainly did it with a very good grace.

There were two shining exceptions to this sad and sorry record. One was the market in Iasi, where I bought a kilo of the most beautiful fresh raspberries and devoured them - yes the whole kilo, and yes I paid for that indiscretion, and yes it was worth it - on the spot. The other was the two or three days we spent in Transylvania, where the food was absolutely delicious - perhaps seemed more so by contrast. It's so long ago, and I was so young and comparatively clueless then, that I can't tell you what we ate or where; but I distinctly remember the marvelous pleasure of those meals. And the fragrance of those raspberries....

Wouldn't I love to go back now and see what it's really like.

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Oh, the markets are another story, how could I forget? Muffin, just go to any market and get 1/2 kilo (1 lb) of tomatoes - bite into one and please let me know how you liked it... Or an old, crinkly, last year's crop apple - some farmers store them and sell them year round. Oh, the sweetness of it!

Same goes for whatever fruits and vegetables are in season but the thing is to buy from real farmers as the markets now abound with imported stuff that's no different than what we have here year-round.

Lisa, I know what you mean and let me tell you that the next 2 decades were even worse. Traveling the country and dining with locals is the best bet, but even so there are things to be considered. The poverty level might be an issue and as welcoming a people romanians are, they might not have the best of food to offer. The restaurants in villages are a shame, although you might stumble over a little treasure of a shack that grills the best possible "mici".

Muffin, how long will you spend there? The mountains are a couple of hours from Bucharest and the seaside is 3 hours away. I would't miss a trip to Sinaia and Brasov (go see the Peles and Bran castles) and if you're interested I can find out what's new and good in terms of restaurants.

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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Lisa, I know what you mean and let me tell you that the next 2 decades were even worse. Traveling the country and dining with locals is the best bet, but even so there are things to be considered. The poverty level might be an issue and as welcoming a people romanians are, they might not have the best of food to offer. The restaurants in villages are a shame, although you might stumble over a little treasure of a shack that grills the best  possible "mici". 

I wish we'd had that option - with one exciting exception we didn't. This was during that period when our countries were doing all sorts of "cultural exchange" stuff; I was there with a singing group from my high school, touring for three weeks and then singing for Ceausescu in Bucarest at the end of the trip - and we were kept on a pretty tight rein, as I'm sure you can imagine. Pre-planned meals in hotels, mostly - alas. The one exciting exception was a visit to a lady in Bucarest who happened to be a good friend of my boyfriend's family: he and his younger brother and I were given special permission (requiring very complicated arrangements) to spend the last afternoon of the visit with her instead of doing whatever the rest of the sheep were doing.

It was a pleasant if slightly melancholy afternoon, chiefly remarkable for two things. The lady (whose name escapes me now) had been a countess, and the tiny apartment she inhabited was actually part of the mansion that had once belonged to her family; the government had permitted her to keep two rooms, I think, and whatever personal belongings she could fit into them. So that tiny apartment was crammed tight with her memories; marvelous furniture and bibelots and so on, everything with some extraordinary history to it. We were enthralled and moved.

I wish I could tell you some wonderful food memory - she did her best for us and it was certainly a vast improvement on the pork-and-potato standard - but the lunch was rapidly overshadowed by the real excitement of the afternoon: the discovery that my boyfriend's brother had lost his passport. And this only about 12 hours before we were all scheduled to fly home! Many hours of endless flurry and red tape, and the very real possibility that he would not be allowed to leave the country when the rest of us did. I don't remember the details of how this was resolved at the eleventh hour, only how lucky we were to have a native friend, especially that particular native friend. Though she was a scion of the dispossessed aristocracy she did have certain crucial connections, and it was certainly she who pulled that particular large rabbit out of a very small hat, arranging a temporary passport and somehow getting us all out on schedule after all.

Slightly more excitement than we'd bargained for....

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Wow, thanks for all the great information...my friend has only been there a couple of weeks now, but when I spoke to her a few days ago, she was already raving about the delicious berries and tomatoes -- particularly tomato and cucumber salads -- as well as the soups. I'm really looking forward to visiting her and trying some of the things you posted about...yummm.....

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I hope you'll have a great time and I'd love to read about your experiences upon your return. Meanwhile I'll be around if you have more q's.

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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  • 2 months later...

Given the date on the original post, I may be far too late. Still, better late....

My personal favorites in Bucharest are two. The first is Bistro Ateneu (str. Episcopiei 3, reservations recommended, 313-4900). It is strategically situated close to the Athenee Theatre and the Hilton; a cosy place, as attractive for its environment as for its food. Then there’s La Taifas (str. G. Clemenceau 6). It is a couple of small rooms and is very likely to be crowded. The menu is largely traditional dishes and it is posted on blackboards. The atmosphere is nice and warm, no credit cards (though this may have changed by now). Others worth a visit:

Hanul Maramures, str. General Berthelot 24 (set very far back from the street on the north side--I walked past it about five times without seeing it!), serving traditional food in a comfortable setting at very reasonable prices

Doina, Soseaua Kiseleff 8 (222-3179 and 222-6717), a pleasant drive and somewhat fancy. A wonderful outdoor terrace and garden and beautiful indoor setting for an excellent, if expensive, meal.

Doi Cocosi, Soseaua Bucuresti-Targoviste 6 (667-1998 and 667-1080), a bit of a distance on the road to Targoviste, is also excellent. Don't let the touristy air throw you. The food is quite authentic. (And you will almost certainly enjoy the show!)

Though some guidebooks recommend it, I didn't care for the Aquarium (str. Alecu Russo 4). It is a beautiful setting in an old villa, but too stuffy for me, too expensive, and a very limited menu. Food was fine but the experience has kept me away ever since. By the way, you can expect excellent traditional Romanian music at all of these places (Doi Cocosi even has a folk dance show).

Finally, although I don't think that the food is quite as good, you really must visit Caru cu bere for the splendid, spectacular interior.

I have recommendations for a number of other cities as well, if you’re interested (and I’m not terribly too late) (including Brasov, Sibiu, Sinaia, Cluj, Iasi, Suceava….) Just ask.

One last word of advice: new places are opening all the time and you ought to ask someone local for recommendations as well.

Have fun: it’s a beautiful country with warm, funny, friendly people. I can’t wait to go back!

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le goût de ce qu'elles sont."

Curnonsky (Maurice Edmond Sailland)

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  • 4 months later...

Hate to be a nitpicker, since it's always good to see someone write about Romania. But Vlad's castle is in Bran, which is further south from Sighisoara. It is actually about 26 km south-west of Brasov, which is a wonderful little town with a strong Germanic influence.

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John mentioned Vlad's birthplace and Sighisoara is correct.

Bran Castle is known as Dracula's Castle because of Bram Stoker's novel, but in actuality Vlad has never lived there, apparently he only stayed there once overnight. His castle is now in ruins, at Poenari.

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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  • 3 years later...

What city, John?

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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From sources I trust, I'd say in Bucharest go to "Upstairs" - you'll need a very short cab ride as it's across the street from a mall.

Strada Brânduşelor 2-4 - call for reservations at 021-528.19.02. See review here.

"Caru' cu Bere" (see the menu in pdf) - one of my fav places in Bucharest, superb old building, great location, and for the last couple of years I hear their food improved tremendously . Atmosphere can't be beat, location is perfect - just steps away from Calea Victoriei, and right across the street is one of the oldest (if not THE oldest) little church in town, Stavropoleos Church. If you decide to go in, don't miss the charming little courtyard (to the right of the street entrance) that holds some very old artifacts (it will take you a whole five minutes to visit the entire place).

Casa Jienilor, strada Făinari (Calea Moşilor), reservations at 021-212.19.51 - another short cab trip, but solid romanian food.

Bistro Villacrosse - another very good location, in the passage with the same name on Calea Victoriei.

And I have more where this came from - a blog (in romanian unfortunately) of a friend that has been reviewing a lot of restaurants in Bucharest. Let me know if I should go on - although I don't expect you'll be spending a lot of time in Bucharest. :)

In Moldavia I don't have any specific addresses to send you to, but if you see a place that says "Pensiune" go for it. It's usually home-cooked food, and usually very good.

I hope this helps, let me know if you have more q's.

Kellytree, so sorry I can't help with Cluj. I'm investigating though, how soon do you go?

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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Kellytree, so sorry I can't help with Cluj. I'm investigating though, how soon do you go?

I am going the first weekend in October.... I have to go to the airport to drop someone off so I figured I might as well take a little weekend trip to the cheapest plane ticket destination (with the right hours) I could find.... 154 Euro for 4 people round-trip - not bad.

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So this is what I got for Cluj:

- Chios restaurant - I was told they have great "mici". I took a look at the menu and the cabbage rolls sound good, too.

- Hanul Dacilor- excelent Romanian food -Str. Constantin Brancusi Nr. 86 A, ph.# 0723/280401 - website in Romanian only, unfortunately, but maybe the pictures help

- Agape restaurant is a very casual, self-serve buffet kind of place, and I'm told they have great Hungarian food - str. Iuliu Maniu nr. 6

- Deja Vu - international, Ion Ghica Nr. 2

Apparently Cluj has a love for Italian (or something like it, I hear). This restaurant was highly recommended though, as very special and with the supreme argument that all Italian ex-pats eat there. So here it goes and I'll leave it up to you if you want to go for Italian food - Club Italia - 21 Decembrie 1989 nr. 152

Or, if you feel adventurous, you could have game (although they have a tamer menu also) at Hunter Prince. Bear paw?

I hope you'll have a great week-end and I would love to hear from you (as I need to check on how accurate my sources are :D)

Edited by Mistinguett (log)
The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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  • 3 weeks later...

Recommendations by Mistinguett: Sep 19 2008, 01:51 AM :

- Chios restaurant - I was told they have great "mici". I took a look at the menu and the cabbage rolls sound good, too.

- Hanul Dacilor- excelent Romanian food -Str. Constantin Brancusi Nr. 86 A, ph.# 0723/280401 - website in Romanian only, unfortunately, but maybe the pictures help

- Agape restaurant is a very casual, self-serve buffet kind of place, and I'm told they have great Hungarian food - str. Iuliu Maniu nr. 6

- Deja Vu - international, Ion Ghica Nr. 2

Apparently Cluj has a love for Italian (or something like it, I hear). This restaurant was highly recommended though, as very special and with the supreme argument that all Italian ex-pats eat there. So here it goes and I'll leave it up to you if you want to go for Italian food - Club Italia - 21 Decembrie 1989 nr. 152

Or, if you feel adventurous, you could have game (although they have a tamer menu also) at Hunter Prince. Bear paw?

I hope you'll have a great week-end and I would love to hear from you (as I need to check on how accurate my sources are :D)

The only one of the above recommendations we went to was Agape ... unfortunately the self service buffet was closed and by that time it was getting late - the troops were getting cranky and hungry so my friends gave me that "if you pull out that damn book with all those restaurants/bars in it again you are dead meat" look

Generally, the food was Ok. Nothing special and nothing to write home about. Having said this we only went to "regular" restaurants- nothing fancy.

Day 1 Dinner was at the Maimuta Plangatoare (I'm told this means the Flying Monkey). A very casual, rather cosy place. wooden beams, brick-faced walls, locals ( I guess) hanging out..... The pork was better than the beef ( both of these they took a thinish slice of meat - cooked it somehow stuck some mushrooms(canned) and cheese on top and flipped it in half like an omelette.

One of got a "traditional" dish which was called Gypsy style Beef (or Pork?) - basically the same piece of meat as above topped with gypsy sauce (ketchup and half cooked thick slices of onion) and a side of mashed potatos which were good.

The wine tastes like half grape juice and half wine.

Total cost for 4 : 60 US dollars (this includes 2 bottels of wine, coffee, and one or 2 desserts)

Day 2 Lunch: We ended up going to a lame kebab joint.... due to cranky hungry friends that have no sense of adventure (read above). I had hummus and bread- it was good. The rest was generic.

Day 2 Dinner: We were walking around town stopping at every bar on the way and then it started to pour down raining so we went to the "next restaurant we find" - It actually worked out good. The place is called Restaurantul Matei Corvin.

I had a cumin soup - basically a clear broth with grated carrots and onions at the bottom and a good dose of cumin. It was actually very good.

Someone had goulash - basically a tomato based chunky (very) veggie soup. The flavor was good. Someone had some sort of beef with a peppercorn/ mushroom sauce - the mushrooms were fresh / the sauce was one of those "just add water" types but at the end of the day edible. This came with a side of roasted potatos which were very good. I don't remember what the other person had.

For dessert one guy had chesnut puree. Now this was very good- chesnut puree topped with whip cream.

The food at this place was better - the price was the same.

All in all it was pleasurable. Nothing emotional foodwise (except for maybe that chicken sandwich at the local little fast food joint after a night out drinking and dancing tasted pretty good)

Cluj itself is a lot bigger than it looks on websites. People are friendly enough except for a lot of bartenders and trons who give you the idea that you are bugging them by coming in and making them actually have to do what they apparently are there to do.

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We recently had the opportunity to visit Romania for about a week and while some of our time was spent on cultural/artistic visits, we did some eating as well. Rather than go restaurant by restaurant, I think it’s more useful to give some rules of the (eating) road and highlights since much of the local food seemed fungible.

The rules:

Local specialties (stuffed cabbage, polenta, fish and meats) tend to come with cream sauce.

Vegetables are organic and soups and salads made from them very good.

Most bread is terrific.

The pre and post dinner drink – Palinca – is a great plum, grappa-like treat.

Grilled beef is done to one’s specification and terrific.

The highlights:

Beef (Argentinian) with Bearnaise, kofta, Spanish jamon with brochette and whole wheat bread at the Novotel in Bucharest

Walnut cake at the Stag restaurant in Sighisora

Vegetable soup at Hilde’s in Gula Humorlui

Minestrone, salad and tomatoes at the Antique Restaurant in Radanti

Some additional points:

I am just back, and I wish I had something really encouraging and interesting to say about the food I had in Romania.

However, all I can say is that there was more than enough of it, for which I should be thankful, and that it was served with great generosity and hospitality.

However, there was not much variety, no matter whether at a restaurant or private home, everything was pretty much the same.

Magnolia is correct

2) Romanian wine is not good.

But I disagree with Jordyn

The dogs are gone for the most part.

And since Mistinguett posted, the dogs came back.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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  • 4 months later...

We took our three kids to Romania last summer, don't have any specific recommendations just some observations from our trip.

In transalvania, north of Sinai, they make the best grilled pastries called Kurtos Kalacs (Hungarian), which I think is brilliant and the most memorable thing I ate there. Turns out they sell it in Israel not far from where I live.

All the road stop restaurants we went to grilled their meats to super well done, I was never afraid of contacting any strange bugs.

I loved their ciorba soups, which is flavoured with lovage and dill. It is a bit sour because they add sauerkraut juice to it. Traditionally fermented bran was used and this I tried doing at home with very stinky results.

Anyone living in Romania during Cecuscu's regime did not know why we wanted to visit.

Bear pastrami was listed as one of the items in restaurants in Sinai, The day we arrived they shot 2 bears that entered city limits. This I didn't try out of respect for smoky.

Also liked their kashkaval cheese which is more pungent than I am used to but great on pizza.

We didn't seek out any well known establishment worth mentioning, especially with three kids tailing along.

Beautiful country, especially the Carpathian

gallery_63527_6503_30724.jpg

Selling potatoes

gallery_63527_6503_129846.jpg

what cheese is she selling?

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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hmm looks to me like farmer's cheese popular and staple food in these parts.

Just sour cream and let it rest overnight draw the whey and compress and refrigerate. BTW the whey is used to make great crepes or bliny or blintzes.

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hmm looks to me like farmer's cheese popular and staple food in these parts.

Just sour cream and let it rest overnight draw the whey and compress and refrigerate. BTW the whey is used to make great crepes or bliny or blintzes.

that would seem right, that was the only thing they were selling in a gymnasium sized room, just farmer's cheese. This I though pretty strange but was told that this is a remnant left over from the communist regime when farmers were told exactly what to grow. When we were traveling in transalvania we noticed that each village would sell a different crop at the size of the road. We didn't notice early enough because while passing through a kortus kalacs village (hungarian pastries that I love so much) we drove through without stopping, figuring we would stop at the next town. Next town they were selling nothing but onions, the town after that only potatoes, and so on, until we were out of kortus land completely...

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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