This Monday, for D‘s birthday, we both received the gift of finding another one of those few amazing places to eat in Bucharest. Don’t get me wrong, this city hosts a lot of ‘above-the-average’ restaurants, but only a few really good ones. Well, we found a good one and as much as I dislike writing restaurant reviews (because I’m only a food lover with no special schooling in the matter), this place deserves all the praising it can get.
First thing’s first, though, it was actually D who found the place as he finds all the great restaurants no matter where in the world we are. The same goes for wines! I’m just the consumer.
Back on topic… The place I’m talking about is called Norma and I’m not going to give you all the boring details about location as you can find that online just by clicking the bolded name. All I’m going to tell you about location is that it’s situated in a quiet, central area, in an old house, remarkably brought back to life thanks to the skills of architect Ioana Viziteu who also sketched the interior design keeping as much of the old house as possible. The result is a warm and calming place where the old is perfectly balanced by the new.
That is exactly what’s going on with the food as well. The kitchen is run by chef Sidia Sissoko (who also owns the place) and for foodies out there, this name should be familiar as he was one of the contenders at the MasterChef title a few years back. I mentioned a fusion between the old and the new where food is concerned because it’s obvious at the first glance on the menu that every dish is based on classic french cuisine but with a very actual twist. Neither of us is really a big fan of the french cuisine, but this fusion with new and exciting cooking techniques definately brought it back into our top 3 favorites. We both liked the fact that, unlike other fine dining restaurants we’ve been to, so far, this one has a wide variety of dishes in the menu. From appetizers to all sorts of meat-based foods, you really have a lot of thinking to do before ordering. Like true foodies that we are, we couldn’t resist and had three courses each. Seeing the menu, I was very thankful that I hadn’t had much to eat that day, because I really wanted to try as many things as possible (seroius drooling going on!).
As a first course, D chose the eggplant appetizer while I went for the tomato soup. What impressed me most about D‘s eggplant salad was not the way it looked (though the plating was amazing), but the fact that it tasted just like my mother’s eggplant salad that she makes out of her own garden grown eggplants following an old recipe that implies them being cooked over wood fire. That way of cooking is like an unicorn where restaurants are concerned, and to be quite honest, I’ve never had eggplant salad cooked this way at any other restaurant we’ve ever been to. All my close friends know that tomato soup is my favourite soup in the world, therefore choosing my first course was easy. Usually, this type of soup is served with mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. What is really unfortunate about most places is the fact that you can actually feel that the tomatoes (or most of them) came out of a can. Well, this one was different! I think that most of the tomatoes used for this recipe are plum tomatoes that were slowly cooked to perfection. Another interesting thing thing about this place is that it serves the tomato soup with goat cream cheese and basil caviar. Yes, I was a bit scared of the whole caviar thing as I wasn’t sure what that meant, but when the soup came I realised that it actually containd small balls filled with basil oil and fresh basil, which gave the soup amazing texture.
As a main, I chose the duck breast salad, while D went for the boneless beef ribs. My salad was perfection on a plate as it contained a lovely mix of greens, grapefruit and orange slices, dried figs and a lot of pieces of duck breast (A LOT!). What I didn’t expect, but was a lovely surprise, were the two mini-toasts on the side with goat camembert which deeply satisfied the cheese lover in me. D‘s ribs were a masterpiece. Everything from the meat quality to the way they were cooked, simply cannot be put into words. As D put it, they topped his number 1 ribs from Bistro Viena in Cluj.
Moving on to dessert. I was really thankful Norma serves only three types of desserts as at that point I really wanted to make an easy choice and start planning our next visit here. We chose the apple tart and the lemon tart. Every time we order dessert, the silent agreement between us is that we share them, that way we both get the best of the menu. The lemon tart was delicious and I honestly have no idea what the green cream on top of it is. Now, about the apple tart… It was heaven in my mouth! And I’m not really a fan of apple tarts, but this one was out of this world! Anyone going to Norma should really give this dessert a try.
Since it was basically late lunch time and D was driving and we had a fine bottle of wine prepared in the wine-freezer (details tomorrow), none of us had any alcohol to go with our meal. However, what anyone crossing Norma‘s doorstep should try is their Refresh lemonade! I’m not even going to put in the effort of describing this drink, I’m just going to say that it’s one of those MUST-TRY non-alcoholic drinks!
To conclude, this place has definately become one of our favorite places to eat in Bucharest right now, if not our number one already… As a price point, I’d say it is on the expensive side, but not very expensive. Our entire meal plus drinks and tips cost about 80€. In my personal opinion this place deserves every cent! We know we’ll come back at Norma as often as possible!