Bucharest has come a long way in terms of its restaurant scene. The days when the city was overlooked because it had too few good restaurants are long gone. With new restaurants building reputations for quality cuisine and great experiences, Bucharest is becoming a wishlist destination for foodies everywhere. Here are the 10 best restaurants in town that cater to the city’s knowledgeable and increasingly demanding crowds.
Le Bistrot Francais
Restaurant, French, Romanian, $$$$$
Hosted by the residence of the late French architect Albert Galleron (the man who designed the Romanian Atheneum), Le Bistrot Francais is a landmark for refined taste. Serving French dishes with Basque influences and a Romanian touch, it has managed to seamlessly integrate high-quality local ingredients, such as black truffles foraged from the woods of Transylvania and Mangaliţa pork, into local tradition. A favorite dish is the “crispy-fondant” Mangaliţa pork belly created by Chef Sébastien Gravé, who spent his childhood in Basque country. It is served with parsnip and coffee purée, parsnip chips and ham croquettes. Another must try is the roasted Brittany lobster served with butter and garlic sauce, crunchy fennel, and creamy polenta, a staple Romanian dish.
It’s reassuring to know that every dish on Yuki’s menu is carefully constructed using the best ingredients, ensuring a true Japanese home dining experience. Proving that simplicity is a key characteristic of ultimate sophistication, the owners of Yuki Japanese Home Dining have managed to bring to Bucharest a taste of Japan. Chef Makoto, who did his training in Tokyo, prepares fresh tofu and noodles every morning. While the menu includes classic dishes, visitors can expect to be surprised with a unique take on something they know and love.
Also located in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Floreasca, a few doors down from Yuki, Tuk Tuk brings to Bucharest the refined flavours of Thai cuisine. Only the second Thai restaurant to open in the Romanian capital, it carries its mission well, guided by the motto ‘home is where your stomach is’. Order your curry with pan roasted sea bass fillet or chicken. If you’re in the mood for something spicy, pair the green curry and seafood for a mouthwatering combo.
At Maize Farm to Table, fresh locally sourced ingredients from farms in Romania are the highlight of the menu, which is inspired by the season. Moreover, the restaurant aims to rediscover hidden flavours in everyday ingredients by preparing them according to ancient cooking techniques — a favourite technique involves open flame. With dishes such as organic rainbow trout sourced from Valeputna in Bucovina, cooked with truffles, bacon vinaigrette and broccoli over an open flame, you’ll be in foodie paradise. Another great dish is baked white root risotto with Romanian goat camembert from Preotescu. If you are a fan of burgers, try an all-Romanian version with special local ingredients.
This restaurant is closed for one hour, from 4 to 5 pm, so make sure you plan your visit around that time.
Zexe is the place to go for a fresh take on Romanian cuisine. Already an established name, it has taken on the mission of redefining classic Romanian dishes and adapting them to contemporary preferences. A funny detail, the name Zexe comes from a code word used by the interbellum-era underworld to signal the arrival of outsiders. This restaurant chain has several locations spread throughout the city centre’s most charming spots. You can try fish roe salad, a Romanian favourite; Boeuf salad, a mix of vegetables and meat cut into small cubes and held together with homemade mayonnaise; and any other Romanian cuisine staple (Zexe will most likely serve it).
How does one keep the local crowd on its toes, wondering what’s next? The chef behind The Artist restaurant, located in a beautifully restored palace on Calea Victoriei, seems to have the answer. His artistry focuses on combining traditional recipes with surprising ingredients, creating a fresh take on Romanian dishes, and sometimes coming up with something entirely new. You can find Mangaliţa pork, served as an aspic, alongside roast pigeon, rabbit wellington and roasted duck leg. The desserts are inspired by Romanian favourites, so make sure to save room for the vişinată parfait and the cozonac. Between four o’clock and five o’clock in the afternoon, the restaurant is closed, (keep that in mind before making a reservation).
Located near Park Herăstrău, one of Bucharest’s most popular green spaces, Isoletta caters to Italian food lovers, be they recent converts or devotees. The latter category in particular will delight in sampling dishes from all over the country brought to the table by the restaurant’s expert chefs. If you enjoy the restaurant, make sure to check out the Isoletta Lounge, located by the lake in Herăstrău Park.
French restaurant La Cantine de Nicolai has a numerous and loyal following. Serving classic French dishes with a quirky touch, the restaurant is one of Bucharest’s favourite venues. Try their exquisite crab tartar, creamy duck confit ravioli or basically any dish from their menu under the classification of ‘the sea’ or ‘the farm’.
A new addition to the list of restaurants in Bucharest, Nicolai is the younger sibling of La Cantine de Nicolai, and can be found on Calea Dorobanți 67-65.
Caju by Joseph Haddad is a downtown restaurant with northern African influences that takes on the challenge of delighting every sense. Serving international dishes with a personal twist, the restaurant welcomes guests with two ovens that bake aromatic, herbal, Moroccan bread before your eyes. Its desserts — highlights of the menu — are so interesting, guests can’t take their eyes off them.
Meaning ‘cloud’ in Romanian, NOR – Sky Casual Restaurant aims to feed not only your stomach, but your soul as well. Its menu is very organized, comprehensive and varied, and includes Romanian specialties, grilled dishes and international cuisine, such as several pasta dishes. It is a friendly place for groups that have different tastes. Whatever you pick, make sure you save room for a light, cloud shaped dessert. Located on the 36th floor of a sky tower, NOR offers stunning views over the city’s business district.