This is the one restaurant I was talking about in an earlier post. The one that almost dethroned BARACCA for me. The only thing that really mattered and made a difference between the two is the quality of service, otherwise, for the kid in me ZAMA would’ve been the best place to eat in Cluj. Unfortunately, the service was so slow and at some point we honestly thought that the lady waiting on us did not understand what we were saying. This was the actual deal breaker for us.
Let me tell you a little something about myself and that way you will probably understand better why this traditional restaurant could’ve been more to my taste than the much classier BARACCA. My grandparents on my mother’s side grew up in this area and therefore my entire childhood I’ve been fed everything that you can currently find on the menu at ZAMA and much more. I really wanted to give this place a try mainly because I miss the flavours of my childhood – grandma is a great cook but she is old and I can’t order food like I were in a restaurant – and I could hardly believe someone else could cook quite as good as her. I was skeptical going in, but by the end I was so in love with this place that managed to take me back to my childhood that not even the slow service could’ve annoy me anymore.
When I say slow service, I mean it took us almost 3 hours to eat lunch, with about one hour of waiting for the first course, which, if you are a festival goer, you know that lunch is actually breakfast and basically you are starving by the time you reach any restaurant. I am well aware that traditional Transylvanian food is why the term ‘slow-cooking’ was invented, but this was on a whole different level. However, all that changed when the food actually came and therefore, if by that time I wasn’t sure that I was going to write about this place, that all changed the second I took my first sip of soup – this was definitely, food wise, my favourite restaurant!
The food… I ordered the lettuce soup which is a soup that you will not find anywhere else and I do admit that at first I was skeptical but when I tasted it, I was surprised to see that it tasted exactly like my grandmother’s. D chose the wild mushroom soup that was also done in true Transylvanian fashion. Again, for both soups, the quality of the ingredients is extremely important and, like I said before, from the first sip we knew this place was really special and needed a good, great actually, review on our blog. Since there were four of us that got annoyed by the long waiting time, the upside was that we got to see and taste double the amount of dishes that if it was just the two of us.
As a main course, our table hosted two types of traditionally made polenta, and I have to say that both of them were actually the best either of us ever tasted. Good polenta is not hard to make at all, but in order to get great polenta specialities, it has to be made in a certain slow cooked way – my grandfather used to take about two hours to achieve polenta perfection. To get a clue about how easy it is to make good polenta, it takes both me and my mother 5 minuted max, but we could never compare it with my grandfather’s. If you’re ever at ZAMA, try both specialities! Also on our table, we had the smoked pig leg with traditional cooked beans that, again was amazing and I had the one thing that I was craving for days, ever since I got to Cluj – the spinach puree with fried eggs! This is actually my favourite food ever since I was a little girl and while you might think that this combo is quite easy to make, well, it isn’t. The spinach has to be done a certain way in order to satisfy my tastebuds otherwise I can’t eat it – I’ve tried it in a lot of places. Needless to say that this one tasted amazing!
Dessert was yet again a roam through my childhood! We ordered boiled cottage cheese dumplings, bird’s milk – a better version of ile flottante, that you can find on the menu under the name of somloi galuska, and a traditional cheesecake that doesn’t taste like a normal cheesecake and that really needs to be tried out at least once. To be honest, as with all the other dishes, the desserts were amazing! Right to the point where my whole childhood meal was completed! I am telling you, the wait was well worth it as the food was one of the best I have ever tasted and everyone at the table loved it. This is not just a place to satisfy one’s childhood memories, this is a place that satisfies all those food lovers out there!
The check for me and D was about 30 E, so this is really a very cheap place if you consider that we both ate three courses each, plus drinks. ZAMA is really a must visit restaurant if you truly want to experience traditional Transylvanian cooking, but I am warning you, you will wait quite a lot for your food, but it will be well worth it!