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Cornel's Garden

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We finally made it to Cornel's Garden after months of
intending to go. I know it has been written about
before, but the food was truly FABULOUS, and deserves a
must visit from everyone, not that they are hurting for
business, since it was packed and we had to wait over a
half hour on Saturday night. The meal was so beyond
delicious that I have to bore all of you with the
details. If you don't feel like reading, don't -- just
go!

We went with a Romanian-born Israeli friend, who kept
muttering after almost every bite something like "a la
mama casa" -- just like in my mother's house. It is a
considerable tribute, since his mother may be one of
the world's greatest home cooks. Although it is always
a plus to have someone to negotiate the dinner in
Romanian, the staff was very helpful and explained all
the dishes to the rest of us in English as well. As
other people have written, though, be sure to ask about
the specials, since the menu only scratches the surface
of the offerings.

For starters, we had icre, a superb rendition of
taramasalata. (or is tarama an adaptation of icre --
who knows?) We also had tasty cold fried meatballs
which were filled with garlic and dill, and fried
slices of kashkaval cheese, which I didn't love but my
friend did. We followed with soups -- bean ciorba,
which reminded me of bean soup I had had in Yugoslavia
years ago , with creamy beans in a rich veggie and
tomato broth, and even better, the meatball ciorba.
This was had a rich broth soured with sour bran or
bread (the taste overtones are similar to those of
japanese pickles) lots of herbs and tender meatballs.
These were served with hot peppers to nibble on or
slice into the soup. The meatball ciorba was also
served with sour cream which the waitress warned us
against putting in the bean soup.

Main dishes was "spinach" which was spinach and almost
enough garlic to qualify as a vegetable on its own,
stewed with spareribs. (Sort of like a treyfe norhtern
indian saag gosht). We also had spectacular sarmale,
or stuffed cabbage stewed with paprika and smoked pork
(similar to what is served in some hungarian
restaraurants) and a stew of pork , sausage and
mushrooms, which was served with mamaliga showered with
parsely and grated brindza cheese. The stew had a
deeply swine-y flavor, perhaps better in January than
July, but it may have been my favorite.

For dessert, we had mititei, which are like grilled
ground beef sausages with lots of garlic and pepper.
They had a light and crunchy texture, which my friend
said comes from using a leavining agent like yeast.
(We had to wait while they finished making a new batch
of the meat mix, hence the dessert.)_ They were served
with the meals biggest dissappointment, outstandingly
mediocre french fries. Such superb food deserves
better fries (and better bread too, though that was
less dissappointing). For sweet dessert we shared
some papanusi, or the homemade donuts topped with sour
cream and preserves.

Smoking is not only allowed but seems to be
encouraged (and perhaps is even compulsory in some
sections) but the ventilation was excellent to it
was not reallly a problem. Four of us consumed enough
food for at least 6 or more people, and the bill was
$75 with some beers before tip.

Sorry for going on and on, but the meal was truly
memorable.

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  1. do you plz have address and phone #?? thx

    3 Replies
    1. re: stephen kaye

      As Jim Leff has pointed out, Cornel's is the first
      really good restaurant to open in Sunnyside. We were
      excited about it and have gone there a few times. The
      food (off the menu, as directed) was very good.
      However, the smoke is out of control and the noise
      level makes it very unpleasant. The lovely wait staff
      just ignores any complaint about the smoking.
      My suggestion--go during the week. it's on Skillman
      Ave between 47 and 46 Streets.

      1. re: phyllis

        Does anyone remember when drinking and smoking were
        part of the dining experience ?
        I happen to frequent Cornel's and I can understand the
        guys who sit there for an hour after they have eaten
        and smoke about 6 butts really should know when to open
        up their table, however , they are the regulars, and
        that sort of adds to the atmosphere.
        Early Sunday afternoons are a good time, most of those
        guys come in during the week after work.
        Regards, JK

        1. re: John Knoesel

          I certainly do remember the dining/smoking days and I
          am so happy not to have to put up with it any more.
          Now you know my age, I guess. However, I do love, love
          good food and, in my opinion, tasting it with smoke in
          your face and mouth isn't the optimal way to experience
          it.

          I will try Cornel's during the week or earlier. Thanks
          for the tip.