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No reservations: Romania

Anyone watch? Any Romanians watch? Opinions? AB was back in snarky mode. And of course, the show ended with a slaughtered pig. I think at this point they're doing it 'just because they can'.

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  1. I am a huge fan and a defender of the show but I have to say this was the worst episode I have seen. At some point you have to look at the content like a chef would, if it is not good enough dont send it out. That was just a waste of an hour..really bad. I'll still watch with fingers crossed that it was a flook.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bubbles4me

      I agree, Tony was pretty offensive, so unappealing to watch I turned it off, and I am a big TB fan.

      1. re: bubbles4me

        I agree. I like AB and NR in general and even liked the Jamaica episode but this one was really lacking. Little culinary and no cultural highlights. I liked the comment, "if it is not good enough dont send it out."

        1. re: bubbles4me

          I couldn't help but think Zamir screwed this show up. He obviously dragged Tony to events he naturally would have steered clear of ... and then his drunkeness. Those dishes at the feast toward the end looked very interesting, but the focus was on the drunk Zamir. Pity.

        2. Really!...perhaps it is just what they chose to edit and put on film, but this episode on the Travel Channel did nothing to further any ambition of visiting this place in Rumania...totally unappealing...that Zimmern fellow often brings more class where he shows up...As for Bourdain, as with the Jamaican show, he has been weaving a great deal lately...perhaps this is all finally getting to him...He remains a compelling character though.

          1. As someone who loves Bourdain and his shows, I really did not like the episode. It was a shame because his past episodes with his Russian buddy are hilarious, and this one was just not. Usually, I don't mind the cultural parts in lieu of food, but this episode had absolutely no food at all-- and they spent way to much time at that Halloween party. I found myself very bored. All I learned- don't bother going to romania.

            1 Reply
            1. re: charlottecooks

              I'm with you, I am willing to have less food content when there is something interesting to learn about the culture but all I got from this episode is that Romania kind of blows...which I'm sure is not at all true but that was clearly how Bourdain felt or the impression he left me with.

            2. It wasn't the best episode, and I absolutely love Zamir. I have some Roumanian friends and the food can be very tasty. I was disappointed that they didn't concentrate more on the food. It was more like an attempted comedy than a travel show.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Miss Needle

                I was pretty disappointed in the show as well. That said, there are always some things that look good on paper and yet... Visiting historic Dracula's Castle on Halloween sounds like great TV, and yet... See what I mean? Actually the whole debacle of a party made for marvelously painful television. And I do mean painful!

                Speaking of pain, I'll bet that there was much more planned but that Zamir's injury may have curtailed things. That and what seemed to be a reluctance from certain parts of the population to welcome a camera crew resulted in what was not the best planned and executed episode.

                That said, the fact that it made it to the air was probably not Bourdain's idea. He may be the host/writer and may have a say in the locales and guests, but he doesn't own the show and once shot, the producers have pretty much all the leeway. Personally, I've seen worse, I just was sorry to see it on "No Reservations"...

                1. re: Scortch

                  I thought the episode was horrible. The only thing I could think of watching the show is that after filming in Romania for how ever many days, they must not have had anything good to use and had to rely on the stupid segments like the Halloween party and the car, etc.

              2. Interestingly, Michael Palin's New Europe series (also on Travel) was just in Roumania a couple of weeks ago. It was much more informative in terms of travel, of course there was little about food. But there wasn't a whole lot of food on Tony's show either - it seemed to be mostly a lot of schlock with his buddy Zumir. Both shows went to Ceausescu's palace, but Palin provided some history and background. Both went to the funny graveyard with the creative, story-telling markers. Big deal.

                Actually, when I think about it, there was a good amount of food in Tony's show, with whole pigs bracketing it. I guess the schlock was just overwhelming - left a bad taste in my mouth - I mean how many minutes did he waste on Zumir's hiring (buying?) a car that they drive for a while and then breaks down? Or on that ridiculous costume party? Or on Zumir getting drunk? I guess he's tolerable for one show a season...

                Nothing that left me saying, gee I gotta go there and have some of that... whatever...

                1 Reply
                1. re: applehome

                  At the beginning of the car-hiring segment there was a shot of the guy's other wares- a shelf of different colored jars of honey! I was thinking- oh boy, let's talk about artisanal Roumainian honey, but no...

                  1. re: Jeanne

                    Yep. Honest, straight from the hip. Why pretend you're having a good time if you're not. As someone who's been to several communist/former communist countries, the service mentality leaves more than a tiny bit to be desired...

                    Obviously, with a 'real' salary there's less of an incentive to kiss the customer's almighty ass for tips. On the other hand, there certainly is a lot of room between kissing ass and plain rudeness.

                    That episode must make the Romanian tourism board (I believe there is such a thing) cringe ---

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Somehow his defensive blog post rings a little hollow.

                      I've no idea what their budget is for shows as it seems to vary widely but, if your guide isn't guiding then get another guide. You can still film Zamir getting s**tface drunk but maybe come away with footage of something other than yet another pig slaughter.

                      But, then again... I just did a search on Romania Tourism and the first two links assure transport by 'modern car.' That sure as heck ain't a sign of great times to be had.

                      1. re: MplsM ary

                        Well, it is true that the roads are terrible (and the infrastructure, in general), but that's part of the communist legacy where you waited for five years or longer to purchase a car, traffic was restricted on weekends (you were allowed to drive every other Sunday, depending on the last digit of your license plate - odd/even), etc. etc. Gas does cost over 1 euro per liter - so yes, traveling by car is not your best option.

                        Trains are certainly more reliable, and while not super fast, they get you from A to Z. And thanks to global capitalism, there is always Hertz, Budget, etc.....which I am sure they could have afforded.

                        1. re: jeni1002

                          Hi jeni1002, i'm Daniel and i'm living in Romania. Actually, you can rent here brands like BMW (530d model for 65 euro / 2 weeks), Audi, Toyota or limusine. The car from the show is an old car and you have to arange something to have it :). On the streets you can see many Lamborghini, Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Opel and many SUVs. I don't speak about local brands as renault or ford. There are many rich people here, many multinational company (i'm working in one), great buildings, just like in other modern coutries and there is full of great hotels and restaurants. I'm a logistic consultant here and i have to admit that Romania is a beautiful country with a great couisin. Local tradition (over 2000 yrs old) are great and many of them ar the promoters of the slow food (the local foundation is under the managemengt of prince charles suite). What cand i say more, if you like to see old trains, 'virgin' nature, the local customs, have some slow food dinners and meet the local beauties (romanian girls are world known for their stilish and look), came here and see a country unic in World where over 50% of pop understanding english. Here you can see some pictures from here: http://www.roplace.ro/roplace/roplace... .
                          (i'm in a meeting write now so i write in hurry sorry for misunderstandings
                          )Regards, Dan

                  2. It's funny; even as the show ended, I knew exactly the type of comments I was going to be seeing here today, and I was pretty much right.

                    I just heard and interview on NPR with Calvin Trillin about a murder that took place somewhere in New York, Long Island, I think. I'm fairly sure that some people in here would criticize him for not talking more about the food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      So what is this supposed to be, murderhound? This is chowhound - of course we're interested in the food angle, to whatever degree it exists. It apparently doesn't exist very much in Roumania. Nice pigs, though.

                    2. I was very disapointed with the Rumunia show. I don't think AB tried, and/or had any interest in this place. And to have a Russian to show him around? Why????
                      Anyway, I spent enough summers as a child/teenager in Rumunia, and believe me, I have wonderful memories of this country, food and the people . BTW, Rumunia is all about the Black Sea- Ab hasn't even mentioned it! I felt bad for the rumunian people that watched it- I would have felt awful if it was a show about my country.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: polish_girl

                        There are a lot of us with Jewish backgrounds from that area - from Roumania through Moldova and through to Odessa. The Pale Of Settlement was formed so Jews could be forced into that area before subsequent pogroms deported them altogether.

                        I'd love to see something more about that. How about a show on just where Pastrami comes from? What's left (if anything) of the culture that learned to make that?

                      2. I was born and raised in Romania and my family still lives there. Although I generally love NR, this episode was absolutely terrible. First, even with its half-camouflaged irony, it perpetuated the same stereotypes that the West holds of Romania (i.e., a rural, pastoral space at the fringes of Europe that the West can't fully comprehend or relate to; the pastoral imagery is not necessarily idyllic, but rather primitive and cruel - see the slaughter of the pig, etc.). Second, the episode did not even touch on what sets Romania, its culture, and its food apart from other places, even in the Balkans. I felt we were reduced yet again to tzuica and mici, Dracula, etc. ...

                        It's true that Romania is a country of contradictions, and he tried to touch on this a little (it would have been a good path to pursue, imo). He could have focused on so many other aspects, food-related or otherwise. I find it especially fascinating how Romania shares so much of its culinary culture with its neighbors, but at the same time, how regional differences are so apparent at the table as well as in everyday interactions.

                        He could have gone to Sibiu, for instance; its history, architecture, and food are a perfect reflection of the multiple ethnic intersections still alive in Transylvania. Even Brasov, the city closest to the Bran castle would have been a better choice.

                        Lastly, I don't believe AB made any effort to understand Romania in the same way he seems to try elsewhere (and this point has been made before re: the Greek Islands episode, I believe). There seemed to be a disconnect between him and his hosts; this may be attributed to the Russian dude or not...All in all, very disappointing.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jeni1002

                          TOTALLY, i could not believe that they didn't hit Sibiu. I was there in November and thoight it was one of the nicest cities in the whole country - but i guess it would have confliced with the "rural" image they apparently wanted to convey. and they totally should have gone to the castel that's about a 30 minutes outside of Deva. form waht i heard, everyone knows that Bram castle is a sham and they chose to go there anyway.

                          apparently there's a huge hub-ub about how the show rec'd $20K from the tourism board and then trashed it. that's pretty shady. i'm all for not painting a rosy picture if it's not a great place, but 1) they didn't even try to find the best places 2) the food is very good and they barely glossed over it (mmmmm, saramale and ciorba mmmmmmm) 3) don't take $ from the tourism board of a place your'e "reviewing". sha-dy.

                          Eastern Europe is what it is - and many of the things he compained about are common knowledge and to be expected in that part of the world. if you aren't surprised, they aren't nearly as unpleasant - not every place is NY or a jungle tribe, which seem to be the only places not trashed by him these days.

                        2. As I've observed before, this season is not off to a good start. "No Reservations" has quickly gone from one of my favorite shows to a very missable hour of television. I did enjoy the blog post linked to above, though; I respect him for admitting that this wasn't his best show.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Jackpot

                            I have to agree. This season has not met the bar for "must see television." Perhaps fatherhood is taking up his time and energy. Regardless, it is refreshing for a host to be honest and upfront, but that's what I've always appreciated about AB.

                          2. Seems as if no one particularly cared for this one, but then, IMHO, food shows are sinking into the quagmire of so-called "reality television." This episode was less about food than about butchering.

                            In general, I dislike programs where the hosts concentrate on the gross-out element of food, where the idea is to kick someone out of the kitchen or out of business, or where the "entertainment" is putting the competitor down (bring back the original "Iron Chef" concept of mutual respect -- or better yet, resurrect Julia Child),

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: ClaireWalter

                              I found things to like and things that were interesting, but I had to dig to find them. As a Clevelander, I felt bad for the Romanians, whose episode was as bad and embarrassing and showing their home as a not very desirable place to visit, and not even a fraction of what it's all about. Since that was just what our ep. was like, I felt for them. That being said, reading Tony's explanation to me doesn't ring hollow, it sounds about accurate. He picked the wrong host/connector. It seems each time he picks a buddy of his as the tour guide instead of just a local chef/foodie/writer or someone he's met only a couple of times, they end up taking him places that are a joke (just like the Cleveland ep) and the destination gets little accurate representation and leaves the people who know about the area (locals or others) upset. This is not a good way to run the show. If they keep doing it, nobody is going to want them to come to their city/country as they will predict they're going to be made fun of.

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                I loved the Cleveland show. I'm not looking for Tony to be my travel guide, telling me the top 10 this or that, providing detailed history. I have books for that. I'm looking for entertainment. Which he supplies.

                                1. re: jennywinker

                                  You found the phony dracula castle party and watching his Russian buddy get shit-faced to be entertaining? I don't think he would even think of it as entertaining if he had to watch someone else do it.

                                  Why do _you_ think that he dumped the cooking show on TVFN and went with Travel Channel? On the Chef's Story interview he explains it: There's great stuff out there!! And what great stuff did he see on this trip, and how proud was he to show it to us?

                                  I'm not expecting the best show ever, each time. I'm not even expecting a great show, each time. Even he doesn't expect a great show each time - when he has a lousy episode, he owns up to it - as he he did with Iceland and as he did here on his blog.

                                  When he does great, people will write in and say so. When he screws up people will comment on that as well. You don't have to read any of it.

                                  1. re: applehome

                                    I must admit that I have a low bar for entertaining television. I watch (and enjoy) an embarrasing amount of reality TV, so it clearly doesn't take much to amuse me. And, point taken, I really should stop reading whiny threads about NR, since it usually just upsets me. We'll just let the ratings speak for themselves. Oh, and I did think watching Zamir get shitfaced was highly amusing.

                                    1. re: jennywinker

                                      I just saw the show this morning and, based on what I'd read here, thought I'd hate. But I didn't - I found it amusing, loved the scenery/Carpathian mountains, and noted that AB liked all the food that he ate (the tripe soup, the pig, the sausage things, etc.). Could he have done more with the show, sure, and he did look like he wasn't enjoying himself generally. Looks like the guide (Zamir) let him down on this - as if he was sort of just along for the ride.

                            2. Just when I thought the show couldn't possibly get any worse. Lets just title this one "I'm a total sellout with lousy friends" or maybe lets watch my friend get drunk and make us look bad. What a complete waste. IMO if AB had any credability left that episode would have wound up in the trash and the little blog spin doesn't carry much weight for me. It's like serving rancid fish then blaming the delivery guy. If it stinks who cares whose fault it is just don't serve it!

                              1. Another born and raised Romanian... I was excited to watch the show and was really disappointed and pretty irritated... I felt the same as Jeni1002...country was reduced to mici and tuica and there are so many fabulous dishes...not that I do not think mici are tasty!! The Dracula cliche was over the top as well.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Ela0427

                                  I was looking forward to the Romanian show..my grandmother was born there and I was excited to see the food. Worst show ever..and if his producers would have bothered to search the internet about the castle, they would have known it wasn't worth going to see. It was stupid..the entire show. They barely spoke with any Romanians. Made me sick.

                                2. I was actually entertained by this episode for some reason. I think it mostly had to do with Zamir, his hilarious Russian friend. I find this man very entertaining and AB's reaction to him interesting as well. But then again I enjoy watching Russian men drink more then I thought was humanly possible and they see what they do.

                                  I also was interested in the cemetary that they visited.

                                  1. I felt a little bit like they were punishing Romania on purpose with this episode. The scene were they weren't allowed to film at the Vlad the Impaler monument? Bourdain was PISSED.
                                    On the other hand, while I generally find Zamir insufferable (arrogant, not funny, not nearly as wonderful as he thinks he is), he was unintentionally great this episode. Drunk people make me laugh, what can I say.

                                    1. ouch! I didn't watch this episode because I was still waking up from the boredom induced coma of the Jamaica show.

                                      Hawaii tonight. Tony eats Spam. Oh boy. I love the man but . . .has the well run dry, is our boy burnt out from traveling? I hope not.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: pastryqueen

                                        I've been to Romania quite a few times in the late 70's as a kid and watching the show indicates that not much has changed. It is what it is and AB ended up seeing the normal side of the country and not what the "sanitized" travel industry would want one to see...period. Still it was not that bad I only wish he had spent some time with the Gipsies (i.e. a wedding?). By the way Black Sea coast in Bulgaria is much better than anything in Romania...

                                        1. re: Pollo

                                          But the point is Romania HAS changed since the 70s, it has changed since the early 90s - and the changes have been quite dramatic.

                                          1. re: jeni1002

                                            On the surface the changes have taken place but it will take a while before the mentality changes.....

                                            1. re: Pollo

                                              Please explain....I think these kinds of statements tend to be over-interpreted and certainly misplaced, so I would love to hear your thoughts. Without additional explanations, however, I do find it offensive....

                                              1. re: jeni1002

                                                I left Romania in 1984 and I know it changed quite a bit between the 70's and 80's. Heck in the 70's you could still find food in the grocery store. IN 1984 we stood in line for everything and the shelves were empty. Now they are full but so expensive that most people cannot afford the goods.

                                                1. re: jeni1002

                                                  What is so offensive about what I said? People lived for 40+ years under communist rule and their mentality is formed in a certain way to deal with life under these circumstances. Once the "political" atmosphere changed so did many other factors affecting life/business, etc...

                                                  1. re: Pollo

                                                    "It is what it is and AB ended up seeing the normal side of the country and not what the "sanitized" travel industry would want one to see...period"

                                                    I think I just take issue with sweeping generalizations: what is the 'normal side of the country'? AB's choice of footage is just as biased as whatever the travel industry would like us to see. Maybe even more, because he didn't even bother to contextualize.

                                                    I left Romania 7 years ago and I go back at least twice a year. And every time, my sense of familiarity gets a 'nudge'. From a culinary perspective (since this is chowhound), Bucharest has a flourishing restaurant scene, with plenty of ethnic restaurants, from traditional Romanian steak houses to Indian, Chinese, German, heck, Swiss restaurants - at various prices, and certainly, with questionable degrees of authenticity. You can even get your food delivered.....And BTW, that was not the case even 5 years ago....While services can definitely use some improvement, in the past couple of years, I have never had a problem adjusting my order or getting my food 'to-go'.

                                                    Street food is unbelievable, especially in Cluj and Bucharest; the cheap covrigi and cheese pastries are a welcome alternative to the infatuation that we have with American fast food. Oh, and btw, if you go to most supermarkets during Lent, you will see a Lent food section with plenty of soy products.

                                                    I agree that mentalities take generations to change, and I will not argue with that. But let me point you to a new generation of Romanians who has never lived under communism, who identifies with Western consumption just as much as your average American college kid, and who has not yet left Romania. And they are different, my friend, because, like Ela0427 noticed, they never stood in line for your basic groceries.....

                                                    1. re: jeni1002

                                                      True of what you are saying that positive changes have taken place but the fact remains that majority of Romania is still not much (if any) different from what it was 25 years ago....this is not a put down of a country just an observation....

                                            2. re: Pollo

                                              "By the way Black Sea coast in Bulgaria is much better than anything in Romania..." >>> i'm agree with you. Local tourism management in Romania, regarding Black Sea is not as good as it suposed to be. I quit go to the Sea here in Romania, but also the Bulgaria - starting last year - has some problems with the local authorities, many tourist's car were stollen, the price paid per food has increased and so on. Now i prefer to go in Greece or Spain. Also, in the summer you can choose the romanian mountins (great food, great tradition, great views and also great people - i'm talking here about the agro-tourism). This year i'm planning to visit the germany's castles and taste the local specialities :).

                                          2. Hey y'all, if you dislike the show so much, please quit watching and then whining about it later. Seems like many of you feel that NR is on its last inevitable slide to irrelevance. So stop watching.