In some ways, Romanian food is as regionally distinctive as that found in France or Italy, with kitchens in different parts of the country reflecting the tastes of the various ethnic populations. Though Romania is a Latin country in the heart of Europe — it was part of the Roman Empire and Romanian is a Latin language — the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires both had major impacts on its cuisine.
In Transylvania, Saxon cooking, which is not easy to find in restaurants, makes frequent use of dairy products and bacon, sausage and charcuterie. The Ottoman imprint is found in the local love of ciorbă, or soup (the Turkish word for soup is “çorba”), as well as a taste for pickles and sweet desserts. Paprika was brought by the Hungarians, and spices like cinnamon are said to have arrived with the gypsies.
Wine has been made in Romania since the time of the Romans, and the industry has recovered well from Communist-era collectivization. Truly excellent wines include the Crama Cepari 2016 private collection white, which I shared with a friend at The Artist restaurant in Bucharest, and the outstanding Davino Flamboyant Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlotc-Feteasca Neagra, which I sampled in Sibiu.
Here’s a selection of favorite restaurants from my recent trip.
Located next to the staircase that leads to Biertan’s famous fortified church, this restaurant is perfect for lunch. The menu runs to hearty Saxon-style sausages and grilled meats.
Strada Decembrie No. 1, Sibiu. Tel. (40) 742-024-065
This Serbian grill perched on a hillside overlooking the resort town of Sinaia, site of the famous Peleș Castle, is a good choice for lunch when traveling between Bucharest and Transylvania. Look for delicious salads and grilled Serbian sausage patties wrapped in caul fat.
Calea Codrului 39C, Sinaia. Tel. (40) 726-353-353
A variety of salads and vegetarian dishes leads off the menu at this very good restaurant that also offers a number of sturdy specialties, such as Transylvanian stew (pork neck seasoned with cumin and tarragon and baked in pastry with onions and tomato paste), pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and served with beetroot purée and horseradish sauce, and mutton pastrami with polenta. All the dishes are appetizing and generously served.
Casa Georgius Krauss
Strada Bastionului No. 11, Sighișoara. Tel. (40) 365-730-840
Both addresses of this popular restaurant serve superb homestyle Romanian dishes, including an excellent sour mushroom soup, Hungarian beef stew, and stuffed cabbage. Finish up with the apple strudel, or plum dumplings.
Piata Sfatului No. 11-12 and Strada Michael Weiss No. 27, Brașov
With a dining room reminiscent of a Bavarian beer hall, this popular restaurant serves a variety of Saxon dishes, including spätzle in cheese sauce, and hearty platters of pork with cabbage slaw and potatoes. For anyone weary of meat-heavy Transylvanian fare, this spot also serves brook trout. The inexpensive house wines are excellent, and there’s a great selection of beers.
Strada Filarmonicii No. 2, Sibiu. Tel. (40) 755-055-999