I enjoyed it, I really did, discovering a new country, a place with lots of opportunities, a land where priorities are different and most importantly -for me- a place where food is viewed differently. This week was my first encounter with the Romanian capital, a week of enjoyment and fun, a week of discoveries, a week of culinary exploration.
A two-and-a-half-hour flight and you are in Bucharest. Close to Lebanon, getting there is not a big issue. Cold in winter and hot in summer, the country has two extremes which can satisfy all tastes.
Five days in which I got to understand how Turkish food is perceived and found everywhere, we had a night at a club, and enjoyed fancy restaurants and local Romanian food. Thanks to my friends I also experienced a Romanian Sunday lunch.
Some of my experiences weren't as good as you'd expect. I went to good restaurants, other less competent ones, but was also shocked at places like Calif, Drisdor or Devan who serve things that can barely be called food.
This week, after my experiences, I promised myself that I'd visit again. I surely want to come back to discover rural areas, different cultures and to mix more with the locals. I want to understand why the burgers aren't up to international standards, why their shawarma is that bad and why the Turkish concepts are working while their sandwiches are close to inedible.
The first impression:
- Cigarettes are not allowed in the country. Make sure not to bring more than a carton with you.
- As I sat in my friend's car, I couldn't but notice the seat belt blocked by a piece of metal, to stop the alert sound! Shocking, but funny.
- You can pay with the local currency as well as in Euros.
- The highlights of my trip were Caru' cu Bere, the local restaurant every single tourist should visit. Grano an Italian restaurant I would visit again next time. French Revolution's eclairs, which I imagine will expand beyond Bucharest and even Romania soon. Karamna, the flavors of Lebanon in Bucharest. Fratelli "the" club. Vivo and its beautiful decor and Uanderland the dream restaurant, the country's game changer.
- It is cold here and I personally love it.
Other than the detailed reviews, below is the list of all the places visited during his trip with my comments. Some don't even deserve a review and others are must try's when you visit Bucharest.
- Springtime is the oldest fast food chain in Romania and is the largest today, with more than 20 restaurants around the country. Their menu is a meli-melo of everything you could imagine.
- Habib's Kabab: Nothing to write home about. A wannabe shawarma place with no future.
- Drisdor Kebap: Good quality ingredients, a certain flavor, but their sandwiches blend a hundred flavors together into a bizarre kind of roll. A trend which I really didn't understand much. Are we eating to fill a gap or to enjoy a flavorful sandwich?
- Cremeria Emilia: Way too creamy for a gelato.
- Caru' cu Bere: Bucharest's most visited and most profitable restaurant with authentic roots offering traditional food. It's a major tourist spot.
- Capsa (savarina, cremsnit, amandina): A local dessert place considered a tourism hotspot. We had the Cozonac, a local and traditional sweet bread with a walnut and cocoa filling.
- Chocolat: The pastry shop everyone talks about has good cakes, but unacceptable seating, high prices and an overrated reputation.
- Zaitoon: I recommend they change the chef.
- E3 by Entourage: A really beautiful place where drinks are enjoyed with pleasant music.
- Luca: I've had pretzels before, but those are awesome!
- Rue du Pain: French culture, but lacking real French flavors.
- Grano: Probably my favorite of the week. The carbonara and the Limoncello were awesome.
- French Revolution: Very good eclairs, a place with a promising future.
- Devan Express: I rarely eat food that's tasteless. Exactly zero taste. Why eat bad Turkish food when you can have something that's flavorful?
- Calif: Simply disgusting. A staff that works in an unappetizing way, the same serving spoons used for everything, raw chicken and chewy meat. Horrible food and yet people visit it!
- Karamna: I loved the place, enjoyed the food and made a new fried: the owner. This is a Lebanese restaurant I'll recommend to my friends.
- Fratelli: Want to experience Romanian nightlife with a touch of class? That's your place.
- Grenier a Pain: I didn't expect to eat French croissants, Croque Madame and a blue cheese sandwich that were as good as at Grenier a Pain. I'm not sure why Rue du Pain is more popular!
- Raw'z: Not my kind of food!
- Chopstixs: Below average, unacceptable food.
- Vivo: I loved the place, enjoyed the burgers. Smoking should be banned inside.
- Uanderful: An inspiring place with good food on the menu and amazing music.
- osho: A great first impression... Average food.
- Saidoun: Nothing I had tasted good and believe me I ordered simple dishes. Not a Lebanese restaurant you want to visit.
- Other than visiting restaurants I had the chance to visit a food factory in Topoloveni. A factory owned by the Mrad family that produces three types of canned food. That was a nice experience and I felt proud of what Lebanese are doing around the world.
I believe this country has lots of opportunities and potential. I felt like shooting a Mechwar episode, visiting more restaurants, walking the streets, writing more reviews and dedicating a special section to Romania.
What I learned: This country has some really beautiful girls! There are many malls you can visit around the capital. The lake and surrounding gardens are interesting to visit; you can walk around it in an hour, breathing in fresh air while passing by restaurants and sport arenas. Ruby Tuesday is the American diner. There are no major tourist spots inside the capital. Life is calm. Traffic jams block the roads between 4:30 and 7:30 every afternoon and evening.
Thank you Odai, thank you Maissam for your unmatched hospitality and for making this trip possible.
I've got a dozen reviews for you to enjoy while I prepare for my next trip to Romania.