It was our first day/night at Chicago and we were quite tired from all the traveling and business we had to accomplish. We also got lost a little and walked about a mile from the train station because we were unsure of our destination. We got there eventually and a little late; in fact, we had an appointment at 7 and we were 30 minutes late. Oops. Good thing Little Bucharest was gracious.
3661 North Elston Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60618
Little Bucharest was one of the restaurants featured in Groupon when I went groupon-hunting for places to dine in Chicago one random night. I was looking for something we hadn’t tried yet, and Little Bucharest seemed to be a good option. I scheduled an appointment for dinner at this place and dove head-first into the realms of unknown.
Our Groupon’s value covered pretty much just the main entree so we used our pocket funds for an appetizer. We were going to skip it initially but I was a little too hungry. I wanted something to prime my stomach for what was coming because the slices of bread they provided weren’t doing the job. My eyes were on the Calamari and “Mitetei” Charbroiled Sausages but Wade was aiming for the Saganaki. We ultimately decided on the Saganaki, hoping that it would be better than what we had previously somewhere else.
I got so used with the un-flaming Saganaki that I was quite startled when they ignited it right in front of us. A big flame whooshed for about a second or two while our waiter exclaimed “Oppa!”. As you can see from the picture, the Saganaki is still sizzling with lemon juice after using it to extinguish the flame.
The Saganaki was about a 2-3 inch long rectangle, fried to a golden brown and topped with liquor to achieve the instantaneous flame. The cheese was chewy, creamy, tasty, and had a zesty kick from the lemon juice. It definitely tasted better and fresher than what we had at another place!
- Main Entree
I chose the Bucharest Signature Braised Short Rib Goulash. I had no idea what a goulash was so I didn’t know what to expect. According to the description, it contained “tomato stew, green bean and pearl onions, potato gnocchi” and that’s exactly what I got to accompany the beef. The green beans were a little soggy at times but were crispy most of the time, its taste complimented by the blackening. The pearl onions were very soft and sweet which made the blackened spots seem a little out of place. The meat, on the other hand, paired up really well with the starchy potato gnocchi. Pulled pieces of beef soaked up the balanced tomato stew which gave a taste play with the other ingredients. I just kinda wished that they were consistent with the meat; there was a huge chunk of meat in the middle of the plate and it was drier than the rest. The outsides got enough juice from the stew to give it taste but once I broke into that chunk, the meat was bland and borderline dry. I would have expected having pulled meats throughout instead of having a huge chunk in the middle. (Forgive me if it really was designed like that; I wouldn’t know better).
Mr. Wade-o chose the “Award Winning” Sausage-Stuffed Chicken Thigh. It was served on a rectangular platter and definitely looked interesting, but here’s his say about his dinner that night:
If the meat was one-half of the dish, the gorgonzola polenta was the other half. It had a nice fluff to it, but not big on the flavor department. Forgive me, though, as it is my first time tasting a cheese like this.
As for the sausage and chicken, it was an interesting concept to wrap the two together; however, it didn’t have a lot of power in terms of taste. I guess you could say it tasted quite “meaty” but that was about it. The quality was very good though.
The whole dish came with rustic tomato sauce, which was a very nice sauce. It met the balance between sweetness and sharpness.
Overall, I think that the dish was nice; however, I wouldn’t quite call it “award-winning”.
Little Bucharest also served dessert which they offered to us after eating our entrees. Our waiter suggested the apple strudel, which would have been our choice had we not been quite full. They had four items on their dessert menu, written on a smaller laminated paper separate from the main menu.
Before I forget, let me talk about the bottle of water they provided for us. The bottle reminded me of 1-liter olive oil bottles. I thought that was cute and creative at the same time, eliminating the need for frequent water refills.
The building itself looked old yet interesting, definitely standing out if you were on the road. The path to the host’s stand was lined with framed pictures from different times that featured a prominent figure, oftentimes together with the owner. The format of this restaurant is triangular, with the tip being at the entrance and the base being the dining area. The dining area during the nighttime is very dim to allow the little candle tarts on each table illuminate the night for diners. This little table candle-light is especially pretty if you sit at the raised section of the dining area which happens to be by the windows, providing you a view of the road outside. I should also note that each table had a fresh rose dipped halfway in a little jar of water.
We had a wonderful experience here at this place. The owner greeted us when we entered and seated us as well. He was very apologetic about the little confusion we had regarding groupon-related reservations. He also interacted with customers a lot and always found a small topic for him to converse you with. For some of his more familiar customers, he stroke up a longer conversation and even sat with them while they waited for their food to arrive.
Our waiter was also very attentive and polite. He was always around to make sure everything was alright and was polite in asking whether he could clear empty plates (“May I…?”). He was quick to make a recommendation from the dessert menu and never forgot to tell customers that it was his favorite.
Although I must say I was taken by surprise when they informed me that my bill had an extra 18% automatically added for gratuity because we used our groupon.
Any other thoughts