UPDATE: Restaurant Now Under New Ownership, And Quite Frankly, I Avoid It At All Costs.
So I said to myself “Crap, I just wrote an article on where to find a great burger in Bucharest, and what I feel that did was lead me to a place that makes a better burger”. Well, I suppose at the end of the day there’s nothing wrong with having options – this simply demonstrates the rate at which Bucharest is continuing to grow. Here’s a true story; Some time ago, I was walking down the street – hungry – and decided I’d try a cheeseburger at a restaurant claiming to have something like “the best steaks”, or meat, or whatever. Well, I was pleased; as I recall, I did enjoy one of the best burgers I’ve had up to that point in Bucharest. My experience prompted me to write an article for Bucharest Expat, so that others could enjoy the very same meal. Well, with two and a half million readers, I can only assume that some enjoyed the story and also visited this venue. BUT what surprised me, is that this article prompted “MasterChef Baz” from “Buffalo Baz” to reach out to Bucharest Expat; a message that was then passed along to me. Simply put, this was just an “I’m here too” message. Well, I went ahead and Googled his venue, looked up the details, went to their Facebook page, looked at the photos, and then silently said to myself “pheww…. finally. It’s about time I find a place that looks like this”.
I was born and raised in New York; more upstate. The food there was good. Really good. We had submarine sandwiches (or hero – whatever you wanna call it) with ingredients that ought to be held in place with vice-grips. We had pizza that one had to fold in half for a reason; street food to die for, backyard bbq’s that I never really cared for all that much but would kill for now – you name it, we had it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to claim that NY has the monopoly on good food, but we did invent it. After being outside the US for such a long period of time, I find myself craving (and demanding) these “foods-of-days-gone-by”. Romanian food is great, but I’m so sick and tired of trying to assimilate how many different ways Bucharest restaurants can cook me polenta, cabbage, mici, and pork fillets (not to mention how many different ways they can bill me for it).
Anyway, I remember as a kid me and my family would always go to the New York State Fair. This was a pretty massive showplace for both little and big agriculture (as well as everything in between). There were two areas of the fair that I always gravitated towards (actually I didn’t gravitate towards them – I ran towards them) – this was the “chocolate milk barn”, wherein you’d be greeted by a two story tall copper vat filled with fresh (for American standards) chocolified cow’s milk (in my memory I always envision something more along the lines of the chocolate river from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, but I can see how that may be a bit of a stretch to say now) – AND the Bison Burger stands lined up in an adjacent “barn” where everyone from around the State was competing for “the best burgers in NY” title, or something like that. Now these burgers that I ate at the fair, pretty much set the bar for every burger I would eat thereinafter. I don’t actually recall if what I was eating was a bison burger – I’m not sure if the cow that I was eating was big, small, spotted, horned, hairy, or just a little fuzzy, but I did know that it tasted friggin amazing. As time passed, if I’d have the chance to go somewhere to have a “great burger” (as advertised) then I’d always try to take the plunge. Nearly 99% of the time I’m disappointed.
If I was to try to describe, and summarize what makes a perfect burger, I’d say that first, you need the right cut of meat. Now by this, I don’t mean that you need a prime cut of meat (quite the opposite actually), but you need the proper cut of meat that will produce the right chuck (mince) for the burger you’re inevitably about to prepare. In Bucharest (obviously not exclusively limited to Bucharest) the majority of the restaurants seem to feel that what makes the best steak will also make – when ground and flattened – the best burger (how very wrong). Second, you certainly need fresh meat, and it needs to be seasoned properly. Failure to season your meat before preparing your patties is not only a waste of your time, but your resources as well. Third (and this is a BIG third) is your bun. The bun is vital – for this represents an entire third of your sandwich. Your buns should be firm, but not to firm; airy – not heavy, light, but not too light, melt in your mouth creamy, full of flavor (properly seasoned of course) and be warmed slightly to a nice golden brown on top prior to plating and serving. The bun should never be an afterthought, but a critical ingredient in the process of burger making. Finally, there’s the toppings. I personally prefer my burger with a simple slice of tomato, lettuce, some ketchup and just a little brown mustard. Simple. I really don’t like any “detractors” from the taste of the meat and the bun. However… that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate a burger that includes the entire kitchen sink in it’s ingredient roster. So this is how I like my burgers. I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about burgers, but I do know when I like one.
So now that I’ve set the stage – introduced you to my taste buds, let me introduce to you Buffalo Baz – for this is the restaurant in Bucharest that taught me just how much I DIDN’T know when it comes to great burgers and an amazing “culinary experience”. The restaurant itself sits along Calea Floreasca – just past the medical center near the Stefan cel Mare intersection. As you can see in the photos, it’s rather small – there’s bar-type seating for around seven. At the time of this writing, they’re actually expanding into an adjacent space – business is booming enough to warrant the move. Even with the limited interior space it didn’t seem to impact my overall experience there. It’s such a breath of fresh air to walk into a casual dining atmosphere where the focus is clearly on the FOOD and, of course, the eating of said food. Baz welcomed us and we found a place to “settle in”. Around 8pm on a thursday night this place was bustling. A near constant stream of people were walking in, placing “to go” orders, and heading back out. It’s almost as if this place needed its’ own revolving door. Right there, we knew the demand was high – so now it was time to test the supply…
Baz, originally from Greece, lived and worked for a stint in the US. Surely you’ll notice the big American Flag out front – or the Statue of Liberty mural emblazoned across the facade. Baz, having been featured on Romania’s MasterChef, artfully and effectively combines the Greek skill-set of sourcing fine, fresh ingredients, with the American skill-set of creating hearty, flavorful “food-bombs” to introduce to Bucharest what – in my humble opinion – great food is all about. I’ll tell you more about this in a moment…
I went with two additional people, which gave us all the opportunity to try a vast selection of items (actually quite close to all the main items on the menu). As a side-note I’d like to mention that if you’re one of these people that feels that a menu should be more of a “novel” or “encyclopedia of food” then you’re probably going to be disappointed – best to stick to your local Trattoria where you can find the finest frozen food selections in town. At Buffalo Baz’s, you’ve got a simple menu with simple choices. There’s zero confusion here – they keep it simple and streamlined. I asked for a brief overview of the menu; I wanted the chef’s perspective on the dishes he’s serving. Ultimately, we wound up ordering a cheeseburger (simple, like I like), another burger – this time with some grilled mushrooms, an order of chicken wings, some tzatziki sauce, onion rings, BBQ pork ribs, and of course the accompanying garnishes.
After placing our order, I wandered around a bit – which is quite easy to do as the kitchen area is open to the dining area (a funny story to interject here, there’s actually a TripAdvisor comment on the Buffalo Baz restaurant review that talks about how this is a downside. I laughed aloud just reading that. The downside, as this person had put it, is that you may leave the restaurant smelling of food. I suppose this was amusing to me as we’re within a city where nearly all the restaurants leave you wreaking of cigarettes – to the point at which you have to immediately wash your clothes when returning home. I couldn’t quite tell if this was a sarcastic comment or not). Anyways… having this nice open floor plan allows you to view the finely-honed system Baz has got going on behind the counter. I watched as they prepared a fresh batch of buns. I watched as they took their freshly ground meat (I want to reiterate that his ingredients our soured locally and from suppliers that know their trade) become the “piece de resistance” right before my eyes. I watched as Baz removed his pre-salt-water-bathed chicken wings and helped to ensure that each and every one of them was properly breaded and seasoned before delicately introducing them to the fryer – all of this ran like clockwork. Despite the veritable onslaught of customers – each and every person received their order in a timely fashion. Baz’s attention to detail, clear experience in management and operations – both abroad and locally, all helped to make it possible for us to have our plates of food in front of us and the new customers served within the time it takes the average McDonald’s cashier to scream “next please”.
I will not bore you with the details of proprietary recipes, I won’t tell you this is the best Tzatziki sauce I’ve ever had. I will not tell you the fresh cut french fries were worthy of being their own centerpiece, nor will I tell you the the chicken wings and pork ribs were silently begging me to order them for each and every meal, seven days a week. I won’t tell you that the burgers would stand their ground at the New York State fair… I’m simply not going to sell-out to the crowd that demands a laundry list of bullet points as to why I feel each dish is the best dish of its’ kind in Bucharest.
What I will tell you is that this is damn good food. Each of us that dined here initially planned on eating bits and pieces from each others’ plates only to decide about halfway through our meals we’d go ahead and finish off each and every dish.
You see, when I walked into this restaurant, I knew – deep down – that I was in for a treat. I knew this would be a restaurant I’d return to regularly just from the fact that when I walked it, the scents, the ambiance – the full package – just reminded me exactly what it was I missing and why I’m craving it over and over. For me, this restaurant brings back those “foods-of-days-gone-by”.
Oh, and by the way… don’t even try to tell them how you want your burger cooked – as any good chef knows that a burger can only be prepared one way. You won’t find any overcooked charcoal patties here!
Buffalo Baz American Restaurant Bucharest
Calea Floreasca Nr. 47
0736 368 335