Romanian Garden has been on my to-do list since I started making to-do lists. Since that time, they have renovated and expanded, and with the passing of nearby Bucharest Restaurant and Ridgewood's Romanian Coffee, they are now the standard-bearers of Romanian food in all five boroughs. What brought me back finally was football, of course, and the Euro Cup game against Switzerland that they nobly tied.
As I walked in, I first thought they had the game tuned to Univision, as Romanian can easily be mistaken with other romance languages when not heard clearly.
The menu here is quite large, so my solo visit does not come close to exploring much of it. A bigger group could take a nicer stab at the cuisine, which can be influenced and shows hints of all of its surrounding neighbors through history. I will update this post when I have the chance to come back with friends.
Per mL, Romanian beer and sparkling mineral water are about the same price. They each satisfy their job admirably, on this hot day with football on the television, I needed both.
Under the heading of "soup" on the menu is a list of items that almost exclusively are called ciorba, but this Romanian word is a bit more specific than just soup. It actually denotes a soup that is made sour by using lemons, sauerkraut juice, and/or bors, a bottled liquid ingredient consisting of fermented wheat or barley bran. Still interested? Try the delicious ciorba de fasole ($6, below), which simply goes by "bean soup" in English. Vegetarians beware though as the main ingredient is actually chunks of smoked ham. Perfect.
It was only in the city's Moldovan restaurant that I have ever tried mamaliga, so I decided to see what the similarities were as I retained fond memories of that meal. Here the appetizer mamaliga cu brinza si smintina ($8, below) is the yellow balls of cornmeal, or polenta, served hot underneath white cheese and dollops of sour cream.
While the dish goes well with beer, I sort of missed the bits of fatty ham that were present in the previous version. My decision to make it a main dish was probably an error, but by no means should take away from this being a part of your meal. Just by comparing the menus, mamaliga does not seem to be as strong a focus as it is in Moldovan cuisine, but it should definitely be a part of anyone exploring the food of Romania.