Bucharest Burger Crusade

So... somehow I managed to find myself in Bucharest. The notice I had to travel here was very short so I really had no idea of what I could do here and the places to go, although the local taxi drivers had alot of ideas I decided to opt for the less sleazy side of things and use the trip to sample some of what Bucharest has to offer in the burger department, it was a crazy four night stay with treks around the city to try out what the internets had to say were the best burgers in town, I also sampled some of the staples, and even managed sneak in a butter chicken trial! So get your fangs ready for a virtual feast around Bucharest.

Pullman Hotel Burger

The obligatory hotel burger. I've never stayed at a Pullman before and was intrested to see what they'd put up, besides that, it's perfect to try out on your first night.

Yeah I know what you're thinking, that it looks pretty good, and yes, in that first picture it does look quite nice, however that's more down to the 'food' mode on the Samsung S7 rather than the beauty of the actual burger, it did however surpass my very low expectation. I was happy to see the good ol' golden American cheddar and a classic sesame seed bun, also the fact that it seemed to be put together quite well and achieving a decent height. The fries that came along with them were very nice, despite being obviously the frozen variety.

As I dig deeper I can see the lettuce was probably past its due date and the tomato wasn't far behind, both being anything but fresh, what was interesting and quite nice was the crunch of fresh cucumbers, unfortunately though even the juiciness of a cucumber couldn't hide just how dry this beef was, this was far passed well done, to the point using the adjective 'well' seems quite ridiculous. Despite these very obvious and glaring flaws you can still pick out that the bun, despite looking ok, was also on it's way out, slightly stale and bit crumbly the only good thing you can say about it is that it kept with the overall theme of this burger. Bizarrely there was also no sauce of any type on the burger, which of course added to the fact it was so dry, and as none was provided on the side either I decided to call up for some mustard and ketchup to lubricate it enough to swallow. In the end, the only thing that was decent on this burger was the cheese. A terrible and somewhat worrying first experience of a burger in Bucharest.

Verdict - Filth

McDonalds - Bucharest, Romania

Another usual when I'm in a new city/country for me is to try the local offering of the classic Big Mac. I selected the McDonalds on Soseaua Virtutii as it was the closest to where I was during lunch time.

Happy to say the Big Mac lived up to exactly what it is, could have been in any Australian Maccas from a taste perspective, absolutely identical and satisfying for what it is.

Verdict - Factory line predictable taste

Aria Gourmet Burger - Bucharest

Okay, time to get serious and head into town in the evening for a burger even if it meant risking a gypsy mugging. About 4kms away from the hotel I decided to cab it to save time and possible pavement robbery, the taxis certainly don't feel that much safer but anyway I got to Aria with all my belongings on me. A small but hip looking joint, with a semi open kitchen and staff that while weren't 'Hi!! Can I take your order please?!" were decent enough. I predictably ordered their cheeseburger...

Seriously, I liked the look of this burger, standing tall with clearly identifiable ingredients, I checked under the hood to reveal some nice red onion, the bun to me felt like it was getting close to stale, that wasn't going to stop me from getting stuck into this beast, neither was the fact that the meat wasn't cooked to my liking... if you read my blog you'll know that I insist burger mince be well done when I'm having it from a random place especially in a new country where I know nothing about standards and regulations.

While waiting for the preperation a few beers helped lower my concern about the less than well done unknown mince. I have to say this was an enjoyable beef sandwich, I like the unique sauce they used, creamy and tomatoey with a hint smokiness, I also loved the thick pickle slice, when it was included in the bite added a nice sweet sourness to the experience. The beef itself, while slightly under, was still a decent beef patty, nothing out of this world, but certainly not disgusting or dry, the cheese was interesting, a processed cheddar but not your typical triple processed American cheddar slice used on burgers, seemed like a eclectic mix of real cheese and filth, either way it was ok. The supporting salad did it's job well providing freshness and crunch, the only drawback was the bun, it was indeed stale however they did a reasonable job of hiding this with a decent toasting of it. Overall I'd probably eat this burger again when in Bucharest but request the patty be cooked a bit more.

Verdict - Not as disgusting as you'd think

KFC - Bucharest, Romania

Zinger break... after three beef burgers a KFC refresher was much needed. I headed to the neareset KFC outlet for a Zinger, my go to KFC burger when freshness is required.

As you can probably tell from the pics I went for the Zinger tower, which of course has the addition of a hash brown. In typical fast food fashion the real burger looks nothing like it's neon brother on the menu board, this was hardly a tower, more like an ancient temple ruin from southern Sri Lanka, so yes everything looking normal, apart from the hash brown, this one looked different.

Didn't taste different though, the crispy, oily exterior gave way to soft mushy imitation potatoey goodness, the chicken itself was fried very well for KFC standards and was surprisingly not as dry as expected. the whole combination of the disgusting mayo, the wannabe classy sesame seed bun, a few bits of lettuce from the floor, fast food bright orange cheese with the tower mainstays of fried potato and zinger chicken left me thinking 'it is what it is'

Verdict - About as fresh as KFC gets

Burger Bar - Bucharest

While researching burger places to go to in Bucharest I came across this... an establishment called 'Burger Bar' an amazingly simplistic name that basically sums up everything I love, burgers and bars. Located in a small alley way conveniently located across from a wine shop, a bar called the drunken lord and near some massage parlours, so yes another classy part of town where I was watching my belongings closely.

Inside was quite nice, an urban sorta vibe, the waitress told me to 'sit' so I found a table and ordred a Tuborg while I peruse the menu, for ceremony sake only, we all know I'm going for their cheeseburger. After ordering it and ontion rings I have another Tuborg and wait... don't wanna fill up on beer and not be able to eat my burger properly.

After about 15 minutes a pretty smart looking burger arrived, or so it looked. First thing I did was look under the hood, the cheese was particularly interesting looking very whitish and milky and very thin, the bun was cold and didn't look like it was toasted or warmed, the meat was cooked well done, perhaps a bit too well done, looking quite dry, the salad was definitely the best thing here, fresh and clean. From the first bite to the last, I can confirm it tasted as it looked, I mean it wasn't vomit inducing, but it was dry, the cheese had a very different weak taste, the salad was crunchy and the bun was cold and boring and a bit much, at least it wasn't sweet. It was edible though, unlike the awful onion rings... didn't even managed to finsh the one I bit into. Overall for a place that calls itself the burger bar, they need to pick up their game with the quality of the meat, how they treat the bun and definitely work on the cheese.

Verdict - Edible

Kumar's Agra Palace - Bucharest

What burger festing crusade is complete without an Indian pitstop feasting extravaganza? Well pretty much all burger review pages apart from mine. I love trying an Indian restaurant in different cities, espescially to see what their take is on the single most popular non-indian curry is of all time, the butter chicken. I did a little googling and found Kumar's Agra Palace, amazing name that conjures up all kinds of wonderful imagery, but I've learnt my lesson, this only set my expectation in the downward direction, Ive seen plently of restaurant names like 'Guru's Tandoori Ashram' or 'Temple of Hindaloo Feasts' that churn out the equivalent of what would be ejected into the sewers of Mumbai.

Again from the relative safety of Bucharest taxi I navigated the driver to the restaurant, it was pretty hard to miss the huge sign at the gate. I have to say I was somewhat alarmed and confused by the neighbouring property which at a quick glance looks to be HQ for some kinda neo nazi white supremacist outfit called 'SWAT'. Anyway I headed on in to what seemed a house, it was empty and I couldnt see anyone, I called out a few times and finally some lady comes to greet me with a look on her face like 'what are you doing here' I peered further into the house and saw a dining area and asked if I could have some dinner, I was seated and ordered a JD and coke.

Several minutes later, I think Kumar himself came in with my wine glass of coke and tumbler of JD, asking me if I was ready to order, which of course I was. I had the veg samosa and lamb seekh kebab for entree and butter chicken with jeera rice and a garlic naan, before he left I asked him for another JD and a glass of wine... he didn't get my attempt at humour so I just asked for another coke, which he promptly delivered along with an assortment of sauces and roasted papads, nice touch that they were actually roasted, a small glimmer of hope is emerging.

During the wait for the entrees I polished off a few more wine and JDs and before you know it they were here. Two little samosas and few pieces of lamb seekhs on a sizzler plate with a bit of salad. The glimmer of hope was changing to a realisation that the cooks in the palace have somewhat of an idea... the samsosas, where actually a decent medium size with pastry that had sesame seeds through it and the inside potato definitely had a good masala flavour. The lamb seekhs were plump, fresh and juicy, you could see the different additions to the lamb mince like onions and coriander and chilli, they were very tasty and didn't have a hint of lamb rotting stench that you sometimes find in restaurants that have low turn over of orders. Also the fact it was served on a sizzler didn't change that these were roasted in the tandoor, so far big thumbs up.

Being so happy with the entrees I decided more JD and wine was necessary so after a few more the main even arrived. Initial thoughts on the butter chicken was that the colour seemed right and the splash of cream ontop is usually an indication they've prepared this dish right, the naan looked ok, bit heavy and puffed up but I was really keen to try the butter chicken so dove straight in with the nice enough looking rice and the sauce. Even when spooning this sauce on I felt it was going to be a hit, and I have to say I was again surprised, this was a rather well balanced dish, good tomatoey flavour, decent spice, not too sweet at all and slight notes of tandoor from the chicken, it went beautifully with the jeera rice. The chicken in the dish was treated with respect as it roasted away in hellish like temperatures in the depths of the tandoor and was nicely done, not dry and just delicious with the creamy sauce around it.

Even the ordinary naan was elevated by dipping it into the very nice BC sauce. Overall I was delightfully surprised at my experience at the Agra Palace, I think Kumar was a great host with a great style of serving coke in wine glasses. I highly recommend heading to this palace next to the SWAT house for a north indian feasting fix when you find yourself in beautiful (but sometimes dangerous) Bucharest

Verdict - Pretty classy

Vacamuuu - Bucharest

I mentioned my burger quest to a colleague at the office and he was good enough to mention Vacamuuu to me, guaranteeing me a meaty feast and a huge burger that I would forget. I immediately googled it and found out where to go and got my friend to organise a taxi straight from work to the restaurant.

This was one classy joint, a proper upmarket steakhouse with dark wood walls, lots of glass and metal fridges storing the different cuts of meat that were festering away for more flavour, a huge wine selection and very well dressed, friendly staff, I was early so the place seemed a little empty, I knew this was no indication of what the food was like as you could just smell the goodness in the air. I sat down and asked for a glass of house red, I felt the need to loosen up those arteries in case this was one serious beef fix which I suspect it was going to be.

Honestly looking at the menu I was so tempted to ditch the burger and go for a quality bit of steak, but I'm on a mission so had to stick to the plan. I ordred their cheeseburger which comes with fries and slaw. During the wait I walked around the store looking at the meats and noticed the establishment filling up all the while having my glass of red topped up. When my food arrived at the table the first thought was 'wow' this looked like a classic old school proper big burger, a hamburger bun toasted perfectly, nice slices of tomato, a bit of lettuce on the bottom, raw onion and a couple of juicy pickles, the main event, a thick big round burger glistening from the grill with melted milk bar style cheese on top.

Straight down the middle of this beast you can see the well done mince, cooked very evenly and the layered ingredients sitting perfectly and playing very well with each other, all held together nicely by the big bun with edges that were ever so slightly crisp, and not big enough to eclispe the more than adequate patty. This thing tasted as good, if not better than it looked... not sure what blend (if any) they use for the mince but despite being well done it was a juicy burger that had a great real burger taste, so burgery that without the salad and pickle here and there to cut through with some freshness it would have been overwhelming, you also got the subtle hint of cheese in each bite and while it looked like it was lacking sauce it wasn't a dry burger the thin mayo type sauce on the bottom did it's supporting job excellently. What made this powerhouse of flavour even better was the incredibly simple and refreshing side of slaw, crunchy, fresh and not a hint of mayo this beautiful side salad was dressed so well and it complimented the burger better than even the very good fries. If you are ever in Bucharest you must visit Vacamuuu, even if your a level 5 vegan... you will be converted.

Verdict - Ooooh yeah

Burger King - Bucharest, Romania

Yeah well I went to Maccas didn't I? So finding a Burger King at the departures area of the airport I thought why not, might as well see how a Whopper is before leaving.

Ordering a whopper with cheese meal was surprisingly difficult, but the chap behind the counter eventually got it and I waited as they assembled my burger from the precooked patty and other ready ingredients. I should note that the bun was freshly toasted.

This whopper experience was just like the Maccas one... churned out in remarkable consistency, it had exactly the same flavour as one from Australia which is made from Aussie beef, I don't suspect this one was though. I should also mention that it was a rather neat whopper, they have the propensity to be quite sloppy, but apart from uncentred cheese it was quite decent looking, particularly under the hood.

Verdict - Standard issue

Posted 08.04.2017

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