I hope no one will get vertigo as we bounce around the world and I catch up on the stories from past travels that have been floating around in my brain for some time but have not yet made it onto a keyboard…
First, we are going back to Bucharest. Even though it’s been months since I was actually there, it was such a fun and memorable trip, it feels sad to be typing the final posts.
It’s not that I wouldn’t love to go to noma 😉 Perhaps someday… I only saw El Bulli in the film. I am sure a meal at an institution of that stature would be worth all of the trouble of securing a reservation but I have managed to stumble upon places with a level of culinary artistry such that you will remember the meal for a very long time.
As usual, I arrived ill-prepared but the hotel did have a copy of the in your pocket guide so I knew I would figure something out 🙂
Had some time to kill before it would be time for dinner so just started randomly walking the streets near the hotel. They were filled with fin de siècle architecture, graffiti and the occasional KFC or Pizza Hut – a fascinating and unusual mix.
I definitely wasn`t dining at either of those options but no other restaurant screamed `pick me` so I kept wandering. I was starting to get tired and hungry so decided to venture into the Grand Continental Hotel where I found Concerto. There are several versions of Romania one can explore. That night I was channeling a Habsburg princess. It`s not my usual style but fun for a couple of hours.
The service was very formal and the dining room was opulent. There were only a handful of diners so it felt like I had servants at my beck and call. The meal was delicious and I had my first discovery of Romanian wine (it`s very good and great value).
If you like a side of history with your beverage, check out the English Bar at Athénée Palace Hotel. It was a den of spies, political conspirators, adventurers and their assorted entourages in the years leading up to World War II. It was then nationalized by the Communist government and filled with bugs and informants. I just had a glass of wine while I read my guidebook and planned my next move but it would be the perfect setting to have a “martini, shaken, not stirred“…
I was on my way to Eden on the recommendation of my server in Amsterdam who loved Bucharest and was jealous of my impending journey. Unfortunately, I was in the wrong season for the nightclub but it was still a very pleasant place to have lemonade after all my fervent trekking to see the real Bucharest.
I eventually got to the Old Town, which is even more spectacular with note-worthy architecture. Since it is also a tourist zone, it`s easier to find intriguing restaurants – and also lots of spots obviously dedicated to tourists 😉 I spotted a place called Nouvelle Vague. It looks like it belongs in Gastown so I decided I would ask for a table. My instincts are solid. Had an excellent main course called “sparkling fish“ and equally excellent Romanian sauvignon blanc. The service was a wonderful treat and I found out they had only been open for three months so it was nice to support some young entrepreneurs.
By the next night, I had carefully read the in your pocket guide and had zeroed in on The Artist as my dining location of choice. But then I got more typical Eastern European service… apparently, all the tables were booked even though the restaurant was empty and I wasn`t planning to linger BUT I was able to make a reservation for the next night.
But that meant I still had to find somewhere to have dinner that night. So I continued on my wandering and consulted the guidebook and decided to select la Bonne Bouche. Yet again, an outstanding dinner. Was really craving beet salad by then (just getting salad in Europe can be a dilemma) and there it was! Accompanied by delicious moules frites and a flight of Sauvignon Blanc to expand my knowledge of Romanian wine.
And then it was finally time for my dinner reservation at The Artist!!! It`s run by a Dutch chef who I gather fell in love with a Romanian woman. Now, Dutch and chef is not a word combination that normally makes one salivate but, given my obsession with the Dutch and the amount of hours I have spent in recent years in Amsterdam, I knew that was changing and it was now possible to find a good Dutch chef.
But The Artist is not just a good Dutch chef. It is the kind of meal you will remember for the rest of your life. It`s not Eleven Madison Park but it`s not something you would expect to find in Bucharest either. The food is exceptional and creative but there is also a little theatre to make sure the meal takes you to the next level.
The meal began with a literally smoking amuse bouche. Each course was accompanied by different bread, chosen to compliment and expand the flavours of that element. There is also a `spoon` selection for each course so you can have a large spoonful of each option. So I got to try ALL the appetizers. Each was a great pop of complex flavour.
I stuck with sea bass for my main course and chose the cucumber sorbet for dessert as I had observed it came with a side of theatre. First, you are presented with a mortar and pestle and a nest of herbs. The chef then appears with a ball of sorbet. You are encouraged to mix the herbs with the sorbet to create your own dessert.
You finish with sublimely rich chocolate truffles. The entire experience was accompanied by champagne and an excellent Romanian white wine. I can`t remember the exact cost but I think it was around $50 USD.
Bucharest is a total bargain. What I hadn`t expected was the delicious modern food and Romanian wine. You can eat even cheaper if you are into sausage, sauerkraut and offal but, if you are more a beet salad kind of person, you will be equally well-served. Just arrive hungry! 🙂