High prices, low value

Newsroom 05/09/2011 | 14:00

Villa Rodizio, Caragiale 32, tel 0755 041 481
Michael Barclay

I am sitting in Rodizio and feeling very stupid because I continue to fail to heed my own advice. Specifically: if a restaurant is bad once, it will never improve with time! But I have an optimistic and forgiving nature, so I live in hope that restaurants I have criticized in the past will somehow improve.

Well stupid me, because my hope is as futile as the gesture of rearranging the sun beds on the deck of the Titanic!

So let’s go to Rodizio, a beautiful villa which was a disaster two years ago. It has now changed its menu totally, and has wisely relegated itself to its terrace for the summer. There is nothing whatsoever I can say to praise the terrace; it is simply concrete and shades, no character whatsoever. The only character we had was our charming waiter who made a forgettable meal bearable.

So the menu arrived showing a comedy of errors, indicating that the kitchen was capable of burning water. They offered a ‘carpaccio of bresaola’. It is EITHER a carpaccio (raw sliced beef, OR a bresaola (dried, salted and three-month cured beef). An utter contradiction.

But they were out to impress by means of their menu, so there were lots of Italian-ish names, including: Bolognese (an American tourist name for a dish that never existed in Italy), Milano (no regional authentic dish of that name) and Napoli (the poets say “smell Naples and die”). So I passed on this tourist rubbish.

The greed of the House shines through, such as charging us RON 10 plus VAT for bread which we did not order, nor is it listed as an option on the menu. Illegal. There was further avarice by offering us ‘bruschetta’ (a slice of toast topped with onion and tomato) for RON 16 – we passed as it is normally given free by every other competitive House in town.

Greed continued within their wine list, whereby Romanian brands, instantly recognizable from the better hypermarkets, were absurdly marked up to over RON 120. Prices for beef went skywards with T bone at RON 120, and other cuts (fillet, rib eye, rump, antrecot) around RON 100. To be fair to the House, they are using the high quality breed of Black Angus which they state comes from the USA (why? You can get Angus grown in Romania) but unforgivably they still have Angus from Argentina.

Argentinean beef served in Buenos Aires may be superb, but the Argie beef exported to Romania is crap. It trades on the good name with a flavorless product, and in my considered and well informed opinion, some local Romanian abattoirs are now producing beef which is vastly superior to this low level, hyped up import.

But let’s get down to the food we ordered. To be fair to the House, they had an excellent offer of the usual pizzas together with a free Heineken beer at around RON 20 lei. But when I ordered some, they didn’t have any.

Pizzas were ‘off’ so why did they frustrate the customers by leaving them on the menu? I saw a tempting rabbit steak at a high priced RON 60, but what the hell. I felt like ripping into a fluffy bunny just to upset Blondie. But she won because – yes, they didn’t have any rabbit.

So Blondie stuffed her face with a pasta ‘carbonara’. This simple dish is made in a sauce from nothing more than egg yokes, bacon fried with its fat and Parmesan. But no. It was a failure because the greedy House substituted Parmesan for cheap Romanian branza, and thickened it with sickly local cream so it had no flavor whatsoever.

Our other dishes failed. How can you get ‘mussels in olive oil and garlic’ (RON 24) wrong? Easy. Just burn the garlic… and hey presto, they did it.
Ignoring Blondie’s squeals of protest as she wanted to go home, I had to try a ‘duck breast with foie gras’. Yes, there was a sliver of liver on top of a shard of duck, which instead of being served pink (a universally agreed gastronomic convention) was overcooked , hard and brown.

As I had ordered an extra dish, Blondie simply had to equal me by ordering a ‘pui Rodizio,’ which was a simple roulade of flat, beaten chicken breast, rolled with a slice of beef carpaccio (or was it beef bresaola?) and stuffed with mushrooms. It sounds good, but it arrived overcooked and dehydrated.

They really do have a creative and good menu, which is far too long to list here. Suffice it to say, it is average (but acceptable) Mediterranean. The problem is that the kitchen cannot cook it, at any price!


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