Restaurant Romania - Romanian
Reviewed by Alan Hulse
Address - Tokyo-to, Nakano Ku, Hon Chou 1-32-24
Opening hours - 11:30 14:30 and 18:30 to 22:00
Telephone - 03-5334-5341
Menu - In Japanese and English
I often ride my bicycle along Omekaido Dori to Shinjuku. Along the way, near the Marunochi Sen’s Nakano Sakue Eki, I pass Restaurant Romania. Once, I was even invited in by a charming waitress, but had to decline. Today, there was time and I did stop and did have a very nice lunch.
The place seats about 25 at the tables. The bar seats four more and I was shown the last empty seat in the place at the bar when I entered at 12:30. The office crowd was having a set lunch for the whopping fee of Y1000. That is quite a deal considering there were three different choices of lunch sets available. Restaurant Romania offers about 20 different lunch choices the availability of which rotates to keep the clientele guessing what is available for their next lunch.
Of the three, I zeroed in on a choice of chicken with a white cream sauce with mushrooms or the grilled, salted pork (salted with salt from Romania, supposedly). I chose the pork.
First delivered was a German-style cole slaw and a bowl of chicken soup. The soup was a clear orange, in color with bits of very tender chicken in it. This was served with a basket-full of crispy baguette. The main course then came. The generous portion of boiled potatoes seemed somewhat bland, yet nutritious with its boiled beans and peas all liberally sprinkled with chopped parsley. The pork chop, though, caught my attention. It was attractively seared and I noticed the distinct aroma of charcoal wafting from it. Indeed, it had been barbecued. Quite a yummy dish.
The Romanian waitress, after eating, tempted me with a choice of coffee or tea, which I declined. This was an inappropriate response, and she gave me a refreshing glass of apple, juice instead: all of this along with a small scoop of ice cream for dessert.
Attractively decorated in Romanian-style setting, the place had a bright, colorful look. The waitresses, too, were decked out in national clothing. I noticed, though, that the kitchen staff was Japanese, I think.
Within 45 minutes, I was again on my bicycle riding slowly, due to my full tummy, the rest of the way to Shinjuku musing my return to Restaurant Roumania to test the place at dinner time. However that turns out, I will report on later. Meantime, a great and tasty lunch-time deal of great variety is to be had at Restaurant Romania.
Directions : Station: Maruuchi Line, Nakano Sakaue Station
Just east (toward Shinjuku) of Omekaido & Yamate Dori intersection.
Go the Koban, continue 10 meters after MacDonald’s, on your right.
Meson Madrid - Spanish *****
Address - 1-22-18, Higashi Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours - 5:00 pm to 12 AM. Closed on Wednesdays
Telephone - 03-5389-6002 or 03-5389-6040; Fax - 03-5389-6045
Menu - In Japanese and Spanish on a blackboard
Credit Cards - No
Meson Madrid is an excellent place to go to if you need to relax, a piece of Southern Europe that magically appears as soon as you open the door. I know that it sounds trite, but in this case it happens to be the best description of the interior I can find. The decor isn't contrived at all and made me feel right at home. The place is staffed by a mother and (cute) daughter team who never seem to be in a hurry. The former, who used to be married to a Spaniard, when the phone rings picks the mouthpiece up and starts yelling in really fast Spanish while washing the dishes or turning omelets. The restaurant is the Mecca to many Spaniards who live in this sector of Tokyo, hosts many cultural events, especially music, and sells Spanish products of various kinds.
We ordered many Tapas and all turned out to be very good. I enjoyed immensely eating sliced "choriso" (Spanish coarse-grained salami) with Jamon (Spanish raw ham, harder and less sweet than the Italian one) and hot, home-baked bread. The rest of the stuff, that is Pulpo Alioli, Calamares en su Tinta, Tortilla Espanola, Empanadillas and Acetunas, is probably tastier at Tio Danjo (see above), but you can't beat the atmosphere and the Cherry wine you get here.
The wine list contains, as usual, only Spanish wines, among them twelve reds from all over the country.
Pao - Afghani
Address - 中野区東中野2-25-6
Opening hours - Open from 6:00 until 11:00 Booking is mandatory and food must be ordered in sets from 2500 to 4000 yen
Telephone - 03-3371-3750
Menu - In Japanese
Credit Cards - Amex
At long last, the truth about Pao. The tent has nothing to do with the yurts of Mongolia: it comes from Northern Afghanistan. What I find most amusing is the fact that apparently all these reviews, articles, and guides have been quoting each other for years without anybody ever visiting the restaurant. Otherwise they would have not have been all so consistent in describing the tent as a Mongolian yurt.
First annoying factor: Booking is mandatory
Second annoying factor: food must be ordered in sets from 2500 to 4000 yen
Pao is worth visiting though if nothing else to take a look at the tent (which incidentally is invisible from the outside: a building has been built around it). It is a gorgeous piece of work with a great atmosphere. The name of the restaurant itself, Pao, means (besides many other things) tent in Chinese. This multicultural approach seems to be the mindset of the folks there: sitting in an Afghani tent, you listen to Kurdish, Indian, Pashtun, and Afghani music while eating food from the same peoples. The guys do not seem to be in it for the money: there were just eight of us, but the owners, who are young hippie-looking Japanese, sent away everybody who came to their door saying the place was full.
Food is good, at times very good, always interesting; but here we come to the huge, irreparable, tragic problem with Pao: portions are diminutive, little more than snacks, so much that four of us, me included, went straight from Pao to another restaurant to eat something. A 3000 yen meal includes just some excellent salad, two skewers of meat, one samosa, and a chapati with some meat and vegetables in it. So, while too interesting to be given right away a reject slip, Pao is not a restaurant I can light-heartedly recommend. What you get is good, but you pay dearly for it.
Directions : Assuming you are arriving with the Chuo Line from Shinjuku, get out of Higashi Nakano Station from the left exit on the Nakano end of the platform, go straight, after 100m cross the main street, walk 100 m more and you will find Pao on your left.