Restaurant Zexe - Bucharest
By a longshot my best Romanian meal in Romania. A very pretty little restaurant around a courtyard in a part of town with an awful lot of interesting houses from the early 1900s. The restaurant specializes in meats, but is apparently also well regarded for its fish dishes. I had lunch:
Started with the house special eggplant dip. It was just slightly spicy, smoky with the properly charred eggplant and really just about the best dish of its sort I have ever had in any sort of restaurant.
My main course were two types of "sausage." One was the national dish of mici (pronounced, I think, meach) which on the menu here was spelled Mititei. They claim it is the best in the country and having now tried it in about six different places I would not be surprised. It is a skinless sausage, more of a fat sausage shaped, spiced hamburger really, grilled and fantastic. I also had Patricieni, a house made, hand chopped slightly spicy sausage that was also among the best I've ever had. I accompanied that with a lightly creamed spinach in which the spinach retained a lot of its texture and was a perfect accompaniment. I also had a side dish of lightly pickled beets with freshly grated horseradish in a bit of cream on top of them.
In all it was a fantastic meal. The food on the tables around me all looked equally excellent and the wine list was reasonably extensive with a variety of Romanian and other wines. Though most people were drinking beer. If you are in Bucharest - GO!
I didn't find anything else in Bucharest that struck me as particularly chow-worthy. I had a lunch at Caru cu Bere http://www.carucubere.ro/ro/ - a famous old beer house. It is quite beautiful inside and the street side patio is good for people watching. For the sake of my long gone Romanian grandmother I had saramale - sort of the national stuffed cabbage. It was far better than my grandmother used to make, but that's not saying much. Still, it is the sort of food that is best eaten at grandma's house rather than in a restaurant no matter what the quality. The Old City is wall to wall with restaurants and bars and fun to walk around in. I did find a reasonably nice, and quiet - which is rare in the area - Lebanese restaurant. I don't recall the name but it was on Strada Franceza across from a Turkish restaurant that also looked nice. I had a simple, very fresh, very nicely done mezze platter.
I just arrived in Brasov yesterday. Last night I was in the mood for a simple steak and salad and that's what I got on one of the side streets off the main square at a place called the Keller Steakhouse. It was, however, an excellent arugula salad with parmesan. Today for lunch I went to a place and had the simple mici along with an eggplant salad (with tomatoes and a fresh local cheese.) It was excellent and the place is beautiful. I will go back there for dinner tonight or tomorrow as they specialize in Transylvanian soups and stews that looked very good at neighboring tables but wasn't at all what I wanted for lunch on a hot day. It's called Gaura Dulce and is on the street behind the building with Cerbul Carpatin - the restaurant where the tour busses go on the main square.
If you need a moderately priced hotel (220 lei = US$66.30 including breakfast for a single) I am staying in the Bella Musica and recommend it. It is across the street from the main square but just enough out of the fray to be reasonably calm and quiet. The people are great and helpful and the rooms, though small, are well and comfortably put together and immaculately clean.
Have a great trip.