Sun 30 Sep 2012
Some of my friends who read the travel notes recorded during our vacation in Romania this summer keep asking – what about the food? When will you share the culinary experiences of your trip? May I say that I kept them pour la bonne bouche?
I must start with a counter-recommendation. Avoid Hanul lui Manuc a place of great tradition that fell under the hands of not so skilled cooks. If you are there because of circumstances go to the Romanian restaurant at least, or ask for the Romanian menu, and not the for the one called Oriental or Middle Eastern. If you ever lived or travel to the Middle East you will immediatly feel the fraud, and if you did not you risk to get the wrong impression about Middle Eastern food.
Now, I should say from start that when I travel to Romania I am walking on the nostalgic path when it comes to food There are a few dishes which I tried in other places of the world, but they never succeed to equal the flavor of the ones prepared in Romania. In this trip I made an exception, as we travelled to the area neighboring Serbia, so we tried Serbian food as well, on both shores of the Danube. By far I should say the one prepared on the Romanian shore was better and I warmly recommend Taverna Sarbului (The Serbian’s Den) which is actually a chain with other restaurants in Bucharest, Constanta, Sinaia and Brasov. It was much better than the Serbian counterpart called At Toma located on the other shore, which has however two advantages – less expensive and they also speak Romanian which is good for the non-Serbian but Romanian-speaking visitor.
Taverna Sarbului near Drobeta Turnu Severin have even a traditional device for charcoal roasting lambs.
The location of the restaurant on the shore of the Danube is excellent. You should go for any of the pastries filled with meat (they were excellent also on the Serbian side) and for the grills. You can avoid however the kebab, as the Romanian mititei are much better. We went for Sausages on beans and for Lamb cooked in spinach – both photographed here one second before they disappeared.
We ate quite well in Timisoara near the Bega river, at the place the local call At the Boat. I like both brands of the local micro-brewed beer, bearing the name of Nenea Iancu the Romanian playwright and satiric writer who is remembered dearly this year 100 years after his death, and who was a big fan of beer and places where his characters drink beer.
A trip in Romania without eating papanashi is like you never got there. The best we had during this trip were the ones in the restaurant of the hotel in Sebesh, were we spent the last night of the trip.
A trip to Romania without eating mititei (the Romanian version of the Oriental kebab, the true one!) is like you never got there. On our way to Bucharest, after descending the mountains before Pitesti we stopped at Dedulesti, where a chain of restaurants on the side of the road prepare arguably the best mititei in Romania. They indeed equaled in our memory the ones prepared at the legendary Cocosatul in Bucharest.
Last, at least for me, a trip to Bucharest without eating at least once at Caru cu Bere is like I was not in Bucharest. It’s not only nostalgia for the so many meals and beers I had there with my parents, my friends, and lately my sons (Avi loved the place), it’s also the fact that the place succeeds for the last few years to keep a good level of the cuisine, not to speak about the beer prepared according to the same receipt of the one enjoyed by Nenea Iancu. This time we were twice there, and we enjoyed Ciolan pe varza (pig foot on sauerkraut) and sarmalute cu mamaliguta (cabbage stuffed with meat on polenta). However we also have one negative recommendation – avoid the galuste cu prune (gomboti, plums filled pastries). As they say, one does not come at Caru cu bere for gomboti.