My first ever article is officially published in this week’s e-newsletter from Edible Queens magazine. I am still in complete shock, and I couldn’t possibly be more excited!!!
Check it out here.
Or read it below (although it’s so much better to experience it live in digital print)!
A culinary guided tour of two of Queens’ best Romanian restaurants
Written by Andrea Branchini
SUNNYSIDE — Harmony Terrace and Romanian Garden serve Romanian food ca la mama acasa (like at mom’s house) — the same home cooking you would encounter in kitchens across the Danube, Carpathian Mountains, and bordering the Black Sea. Similar to my own mother, it’s the local Romanian women who give the food a genuine touch.
Authenticity abounds at both restaurants. After walking in, a Romanian waitress greets you with a polite, “Buna ziua,” or, “Buna seara” (good day/good evening). The terrace seating at Harmony is cozy and inviting, the kind of place where you won’t feel rushed out. Similarly, the warm, garden-like feel of Romanian Garden is well-suited for a leisurely feast. And with so many calories to consume, you’ll be grateful for the chance to take your time.
The menus are set up to mirror the courses of a traditional Romanian meal. Light eaters take note — you need to come prepared for a marathon of eating. Appetizers include dips made from white beans and garlic (fasole batuta), charbroiled eggplant (vinete — similar to Turkish baba ghanoush), roasted vegetables (zacusca), and even caviar (icre).
If you’re ambitious, you can also start with chiftelute, pan-fried meatballs like my grandma used to make. No sauce needed, these bite-sized appetizers are flavorful and fluffy, with a subtle crisp around the edges. Or indulge in a Romanian staple, mamaliga cu smantana — when the cool tang of the sour cream combines with salty feta to top off warm polenta, it’s hard to resist licking the plate. And that’s only round one.
At any Romanian dinner table, there’s always soup. Served with sour cream and a whole jalapeno, the soups draw a crowd, especially in the colder months. Dip your spoon into options like the popular ciorba de perisiore (meatball soup) or ciorba de fasole (bean soup), both dill-infused and filled with vegetables. The ciorba of choice for many Romanians is tripe soup (ciorba de burta) served with mujdei (garlic puree) and a splash of vinegar. This creamy soup is pure, unfussy and yellow, but it will make you feel like an honorary Romanian.
The appetizers and ciorba alone could satiate an average appetite, but that’s the calm before the stuff-your-face storm. Classic dishes like sarmale, a stuffed cabbage dish made with beef, pork, veal and rice, and tochitura, a Transylvanian stew made with chunks of pork, are cooked until the meat nearly melts. At Harmony, the tochitura is dotted with sliced kabanos (a dry Polish sausage) for a pop of salt. Like a moat, the stew surrounds a tower of mamaliga with a perfectly fried egg perched on top. Break into it, and the yolk oozes to happily mingle with the sauce.
Mititei, or skinless Romanian sausages, served with crispy fries pair well with salad or pickled vegetables (muraturi). They are juicy, aromatic, and brimming with amounts of garlic so excessive, you’ll ward off vampires and possibly spend the night snuggled up to a bottle of Listerine.
For dessert, try papanasi, Romanian donuts doused in jam and sweetened sour cream, or leave room for my personal favorite, clatite (crepes with jam). Round out the meal (and help digest it) with a strong Turkish coffee, triple-boiled with loose grounds and a hint of sugar.
Although you won’t find four-star chefs behind the sauté pans at these Romanian restaurants, you’re not here for exceptional wine lists and halibut cooked sous-vide. You’re here to to pop open your top button and stay awhile. Chances are you’ll feel so comfortable, you may even wonder why they are bringing a check.
WHERE TO GO:
Harmony Terrace, 47-57 41st Street., Sunnyside, 718-784-4651, www.harmonyterrace.com
Romanian Garden, 46-04 Skillman Ave., Sunnyside, 718-786-7894, www.romanianmall.com/romaniangarden