Restaurant Review: Greed, greed, greed!

Newsroom 01/11/2010 | 14:53

Osteria Giola, Mihalache 16 (Unu Mai) tel 021 311 3750

I raced down to this new eatery as soon as I heard it was an Italian chophouse that did not have the usual boring, tourist trattoria menu which dominates this town. So well done, House! In fact, the menu is vast, and is simply the largest and most comprehensive Italian menu in the land. Again, well done, House! And as for the beverages, there was a huge selection of 71 different wines and 42 different brands of spirits. OK, this is the last bravo I will give to the House, because it all went downhill as soon as we sat at our table.

We picked a table downstairs without realizing that downstairs was the smoking area. So you have to walk through the smoking section to reach the non smoking section upstairs. My table and I are all confirmed non-smokers, so you can imagine that this was not an auspicious start to our meal. Furthermore, since the non-smoking area is open plan to the downstairs, you can guess where the smoke goes. That’s right. UPSTAIRS!

But we were hungry and curious about this, Bucharest’s newest eatery, which was beginning to fill up. And now the unashamed, greedy rip-offs began. We were presented with tiny finger-sized mini pizzas to chew on whilst we perused the menu. But wait. They came at a price of RON 5 per person, and we had not asked for them. Presumably, we should be intimidated and pay. But, oh boy. They chose the wrong table! We refused to pay, but that was just the beginning of a forgettable experience.

So off we went to a starter of alleged goose liver pate. We were in shock when we tasted it, for there was no liver flavor whatsoever, and I am convinced it was a pate made from PORK. Bear in mind that in Europe where Trading Standards are enshrined in the laws of each country, if I had taken a sample of the offending pate for analysis and it was determined not to contain goose liver, this would result in either a massive fine being levied on the House, or even it being closed down.

But this is third world Bucharest, the capital where there are no standards, and cheating the public is considered to be an art by a population which does not understand the meaning of ethics. So in their greed they charged us RON 60 for this dish, which I doubt would have cost the house any more than RON 8.

We pointed out that this was not goose liver to the Patron, who dismissed us with a smile and told us we were wrong, before walking away from our table.

But the greedy insults continued. Our next dish was “fish soup with red mullet and sea scorpion”. Oh give me a break, it was nothing of the sort. At a whopping RON 50, the chef had made a basic fish stock by correctly boiling down fish bones. That should be the beginning of the dish which he should build up, but he did not do so. There was no identifiable fish in this bowl of fishy water, just the residue of a few flakes which had floated off the fish heads and bones during boiling.

Dammit, at this price I could eat Bouillabaisse in Lyon, resplendent with crayfish and prawns… or a classic thick creamy French fish soup with cognac and topped with a rouille in a quality restaurant in Paris. But I am not in France. I am in third world Bucharest being laughed at by a House which is taking the financial piss out of the customers. And did it get better? No!

For next I saw “St Jacques (scallops) with Béchamel sauce”. I don’t like Béchamel, so I asked if my scallops could be fried in butter, garlic, Parmesan and white wine. And why not at RON 63? Beyond belief, they refused to accommodate my simple request. Please bear in mind that in every quality restaurant I have been to, the chefs will ALWAYS help a customer with a bespoke change to the menu. Most chefs come out to the table with a smile and discuss it with you. I say most chefs, for here they didn’t care. But my misery was just beginning.

Just look at your thumb whilst you read these words. My baby scallops were a mere three in number, each one much smaller than half your thumb. And yes, that is for the greedy price of RON 63.

But we were determined to find something good about this place. And we did with their pastas of spaghetti, ravioli, tagliatelle etc. They were made in house and were perfect. The menu was adventurous, with seven dishes containing porcini mushrooms and four expensive dishes containing truffle sauce, which owes more to cheap truffle oil than fresh truffle. Also, their desserts were excellent.

I cannot fault their décor, which was bright and contemporary stylish. With 62 dishes on the menu, I have no doubt that they must surely be able to get some of them right. Sadly, we did not find anything praiseworthy on our visit other than their pasta and desserts.

But I am not going to pay Paris, London and Milan prices (from the House price RON 120 to 220) for seafood or RON 80 plus for mains which I could eat in those three fine, sophisticated European cities at a lower price than in this dump of a city.

I wish the House well, and they will doubtless get a lot of attention from new, curious customers in this, their opening year. But will people continue to pay these outrageous prices after the dust has settled down? I doubt it.

Michael Barclay


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