Since summer is here and our European getaways have come to an end for now, we decided to run to the seaside for the weekend and try and find more great, safe places to eat there. It’s very important if you decide to come to Romania for a seaside adventure, to be very careful where you eat, as a lot of places tend to be mediocre at best with prices as high as a Michelin star restaurant. It’s also best if you try and steer clear of beach restaurants. There are a few that we’ve tested throughout the years that are both excellent food wise, offer a very nice atmosphere and are conveniently located on the beach so you can grab a quick lunch or dinner.
One of those places is the newly opened Zahana 33. I say newly opened because they just opened one restaurant in Mamaia at Hotel Lido, but they have a few years of experience in Bucharest – where we first fell in love with their food. This is a traditional Romanian restaurant that has its own meat preparing secrets and basically what you get in your plate you won’t be able to find anywhere else as the chef keeps his tricks very well hidden. Since we brought the chef into our discussion, his name is Catalin Jernoiu and everyone that actually knows something about gourmet food will know right then and there that this restaurant is a must try. Usually you can find the chef at the seaside during the weekends and in Bucharest during the week, so my recommendation is to visit the two restaurants accordingly. I will not spend anymore time on the Bucharest restaurant as we want to review that one as well, so from this point on we’ll only going to talk about the one at Hotel Lido in Mamaia.
First and foremost, it’s best if you call ahead and make a reservation, especially during the weekends when it tends to be quite full despite the very big terrace. Even though they do have an indoor restaurant where you can enjoy your dinner, let’s be serious, if you’ve come at the seaside, you probably do not want to spend a minute inside during the day, so it’s best to call ahead. The overall atmosphere is not of a gourmet type restaurant, even though the food is, and everyone should feel quite comfortable there, especially since you don’t feel like you are either overdressed or underdressed. That was achieved thanks to the very casual, very beach appropriate design that combines the feel of the old classic Romanian restaurant – wooden furniture, with the beach feeling you should get while on vacation – various marine elements, including a full burlap rooftop. The staff is very friendly and professional which brings the whole experience to perfection.
Getting to the food part of this review. We went there several times and the one time we did take our camera with us, we were 8 at the table which is why we got to photograph as many dishes as we did. First of all, this being a meat specialised place it’s a pity to not have a meat based dinner, however, they offer quite a wide variety of courses that elegantly avoid meat if you decide that meat is not your thing in the evening. As you know, this is one thing that is a must for me in order to actually put together a restaurant review because, despite the fact that I am not a declared vegetarian, I do enjoy vegetable or cheese based food more that meat based ones. Despite that, knowing how well the meat is prepared here, I ordered something meaty to eat. You should not miss the appetisers as all of them are delicious. As you can see from the photos, you can find a very wide variety of dishes, as well as some of the chef’s specialties, and I have to say that everyone at our table was absolutely ecstatic and full at the end of our dinner. Besides the amazing appetisers, meat and fish dishes – that everyone that ordered fish said it was amazing, but as you know, I didn’t try it – you can’t leave without trying one of their amazing desserts that do not need any description as the pictures speak for themselves.
The wonderful thing about all the food is that, as you can spot from the photos we took, each dish has a certain type of plate which always keeps you guessing an gives the place a very original feel to it. The whole evening, our dinner was accompanied by live music sand by a Greek band which completed the whole experience and made us want to return the next evening. Price wise, I’d say that you pay a lot less than what the food is worth, but on a greater scale, this is a medium priced restaurant, therefore you get the services and food of a very expensive one, but when the check comes you start wondering why you tried other restaurants thus far. This is one of those rare safe places to eat on the beach in Mamaia, so I suggest you give it a try!