Back at the beginning of December, I went to Romania. It was sort of a spur of the moment trip. I never in my life planned to go to Romania, but I had an extra week of holiday time, SkyScanner told me the cheapest plane ticket was to Bucharest and I actually do know someone there who has always promised to show me around. Sorted.
The first night I was there, my friend Mihnea took me to Caru’ cu Bere, one of the more famous traditional Romanian restaurants in the country. The restaurant is gorgeous – half beer hall and half neo-Gothic cathedral, this place is always busy.
Not really having any concrete idea of what Romanian cuisine is made up of, I ask and am told it’s essentially soup, stews and polenta – Eastern European stereotypes with a twinge of Italian. Okey dokey. That’s what I do.
I start out with the ciorbă de burtă – tripe soup.
I’ve never had tripe before, and you know what? Not heinous. I’m not sure I’d go for it every day, but it wasn’t bad. The difficulty I had was how the meat actually looked. It was a bit pale and looked a bit stringy, which creeped me out slightly. The taste was nice though. The soup broth itself was super buttery, so it was nice to have that huge-ass loaf of bread you see behind the bowl up above.
We also had a sharing platter of cured meats, olives and cheeses, where I quickly realised another characteristic of Romanian cuisine is size.
By the time the starters were half-way finished, I was full. Without any time for my stomach to settle, my main, the Tochitură Moldovenească – Moldovian Stew – arrived.
The Moldovian Stew is a traditional dish of cubed meats in a heavy sauce served with polenta topped with a sharp cheese. It is seriously heavy, and seriously good.I don’t even want to think of what the sodium count is on this, but it was so tasty, I went back for seconds a few days later.
I skipped dessert, and rolled home to my hotel – falling asleep in food coma glory.
Caru’ cu Bere is one of those places you just have to go to if you’re in Bucharest, and I’m fairly certain everyone does. It introduced me to Romanian cuisine, and set me up for the rest of the week, lending context to the cuisine – mainly the Italian influence.
Normally when thinking of Eastern European food, you think all goulash and cabbage rolls (and they have that too) but it’s the other ingredients – the parmesan, the polenta, the olives – that make this type of cuisine unique. Ultimately, it’s what makes it shine.