In these months when Romanians abroad would normally head home to share time with the family, the pandemic has forced a change of plans – leaving us to find other ways to reproduce the feeling of belonging. What better than freshly cooked Romanian food, with traditional recipes?
With this thought in mind, our steps took us on a Friday evening to the best Romanian eatery – the family-run Restaurant Bukowina, that opened three years ago– named after the historic Habsburg region joining Galicia and Transylvania. Located at Ballgasse 6, the restaurant lies along a picturesque back street with a romantic flair, just a few minute’s walk from Stephansplatz.
We were a group of eight, Romanians and international friends, some of us there for the first time. But we were welcomed with a warm smile like old friends. We were happy to sit outside, warmed by infrared heat- ers that took the edge off the cool evening. We warmed ourselves with a schnapps – the Romanian way to sharpen the appetite. The menu is selective – klein aber fein – but manages something for every taste, with key ingredients delivered regularly from local producers in Romania.
A Sumptuous Spread
We started with a rustic platter – various meats and sausages, home- made bacon, cheese, pickles, red and spring onions – complemented by two Romanian spreads of roasted eggplants: zacusca, the most popular, with red peppers, and salata de vinete, mixed with fresh onions. With these under our belts, we ordered a bottle of Jidvei, a dry, white wine to pair with the main dishes and an ideal wine for a summer night. For beer drinkers, there is also a choice of several Romanian brews. Then, slowly the main dishes arrived, a divine mix of colors, flavors and tastes.
We began with sarmale, the traditional Romanian cabbage rolls with pork and rice. Usually prepared for Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Easter, they are a true comfort food – pure savory served with polenta (corn- meal boiled in water and whipped to a porridge-like consistency), sour cream and chili pepper. We continued with roast chicken and fried trout with lots of garlic paste, and another polenta with fried egg, cream and feta cheese.
Everything was so good! And filling! But no Romanian meal would be complete without a few mici – grilled sausages of ground mutton, or beef and pork, with lots of garlic (see reciped on the next page). Found all across the Balkan region, the Romanian ones are, of course, the best – served with mustard and fresh white bread. Struggling to keep up, our international friends had already come a step closer to understanding our culture and perhaps even our souls. What can bring people closer than good food and wine? And through the jokes and laughter, we could hear them calling, “Noroc! Noroc!” – Romanian for “Cheers!”
We were nearly stuffed, but we wanted to leave some room for pa- panași. So, we had the leftovers packed up to take away, as – and this is the really fun part – Romanians will happily eat any kind of food for breakfast, a habit cultivated during holidays, when everyone cooks in large quantities, which must somehow be consumed as soon as possible.
Needless to say, I prefer my mother’s sarmale for breakfast over a fancy chocolate croissant 🙂
Coming back to papanași – that most popular Romanian dessert. These are fried donuts made with cottage cheese and topped with sour cream and soft blueberry jam, soft yet crunchy, and a total delight. The portions are very large; you might want to share.
All in all, it was a great evening with friends in a beautiful setting, traditional, yet also modern, in the heart of Vienna! So, we are looking forward to the autumn, when the concerts with Romanian artists and parties with live music, will start again (pandemic permitting), with Bukowina doing what they do best – bringing people together in a place that feels like home.
Mon – closed