September 9, 2009 | 7:03am
Truly, I looked positively delicious that night in a gray cotton sundress, so it was no surprise my clean-cut date greeted me with a big hug outside the restaurant. But wait: Did he just try to smell my hair mid-embrace? Weird.
Right outside the door was information about the most famous Romanian, Vlad III the Impaler
, Prince of Wallachia (otherwise affectionately known as Dracula), so we took a moment to read some background info. What I discovered, not surprisingly, was that our caped friend was more a connoisseur of hemoglobin than schnitzel, but I thought it was worthwhile to taste his regional grub anyhow. So in we went.
I found the décor inside rather underwhelming. The entire restaurant floor is covered in off-white tiles circa 1996 (the year the restaurant's website claimed it opened its doors) and select tables and shelves were embellished with dusty tchotchkes
. But since I'm a lover of kitsch, I have to admit I got a kick out of touches like a golden life-sized statue of, I presume, our friend Vlad and the various artifacts hanging on the walls.
This place gets downright raucous on Saturday nights with belly dancers, singers, and various instrumentalists, the hostess told us, but on the Sunday night we were there, the 150-seat space was empty, save for two couples who wandered in later. Thankfully the staff sat them away a bit so my date and I could chat. We got the formalities out of the way, and I soon discovered he was a filmmaker. Not just any filmmaker, mind you, but one who actually wrote his own flick and coproduced it with none other than Quentin Tarantino
. Boy, this night was getting more interesting by the minute.
Nearly too impressed to even think about food, I encouraged him to order whatever sounded appealing. He went for what the menu claimed was "The most famous Romanian dish," AKA mititei and a plate of Gypsy chicken schnitzel. The mititei, it turns out, were tasty, spiced, ground-beef sausages. And the "Gypsy" treatment meant our thinly pounded, perfectly coated and fried piece o' poultry was surrounded by sautéed onions, red peppers, and mushrooms. Thankfully, the latter also arrived with a mound of salty, buttery polenta that I worked with my spoon like a Desmodus rotundus
would a cow's hair until it found the sweet spot.
Though our stomachs were about to burst, curiosity got the best of us and we ordered some buckwheat-style crepes stuffed with farmer's cheese and raisins for dessert. Our little bundles of joy arrived with a side of whipped cream and a vivid green glaze, which the server claimed was made of kiwi and lemon. The whole thing looked a little odd but tasted super-yummy.
My date and I chatted endlessly about an incredibly diverse range of topics, but I'm sorry to say I didn't get the feeling he and I would be costarring in any romance flick anytime soon. After all, this Bella Swan
is looking for nothing less than my very own Edward Cullen
, and I could tell the scent of my blood wasn't making my date swoon. That's cool, I thought. If he ain't biting, I'm sure the mere sight of my flesh will make some other prince want to dive in fangs first someday soon.
Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try to eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens, and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.