Somehow my request for an inexpensive quick bite to eat went unheeded and our guide took us to Trei Sarmale, prefaced by the declaration that this was the best food in Iasi. Who am I to argue with such accolades?
Trei Sarmale is a 17th century inn south of town serving up Romanian dishes with waitresses in peasant costumes. It's a large well decorated restaurant but there were few patrons (us and one other table), it appears by the size of it that it probably receives tour groups fairly regularly.
The bill for the four of us was high by Romanian standards, I think the tab came to 1 million ROL or about $35 US. Our guide, in one of his first of many unprofessional acts, declared that he didn't have enough to cover his share, I presume he expected me to gamely say that I would pay for it but instead we agreed to take it off his fee.
Favorite Dish: Our guide insisted that we try the soup, some kind of meat and vegetable soup that I could have done without.
By now I had tried sarmale, spiced meat rolled in cabbage, and elimated the namesake dish from potential lunch options so I settled on the Romanian standby dish of grilled pork and french fries which was fine but nothing to rave over.
David did try the sarmale which came with a very happy smiley face which can be seen in the attached photo.
Somewhere in Copou Neighborhood, on a street with poetry taste... intimate atmosphere, wonderful french specialities, and carefull chosen wines...
The "Casa Bilius" restaurant bears the name of the Biliuses, winemakers from father to son, who have turned along the years the skill of making wine in tradition.
The three dining saloons of the restaurant invite you to spend unforgettable moments in refined ambience.
Also the terrace offers you the opportunity to enjoy a romantic dinner in the serene area of the Copou neighborhood.
The Royal saloon, dominated by meissen terra-cotta stove, offer the setting wonderful stained glass, also you can admire inspired paintings of the master Ovidiu Ciobotaru from Iasi, and also furnishings made from cherry wood. The lights and the shadows that flow from the watercooler paintings of the same artist warm the Radinschi saloon, and the works of Mircea Ispir and Adrian Podoleanu lights up the atmosphere in the Arcada saloon.
Favorite Dish: Apetizer: Surprise Rolls (wonderful flavour, with egg plant and other magical things in it)
Main Course: Zander File with Mushrooms and Roquefort (this really makes your mouth water. The Fish is so wonderfully done, a perfect mixture with the mushrooms, the white sauce and the Roquefort Cheese. TRULLY DELICIOUS).
Desert: Pears in Chocolate ( Pears made with wine, chocolate sauce on top, and cream, mmm)
There are many others...in fact everything is just delicious.
Try the House wines.
This cafe is a very different place from the usual. Located in the building of the Eminescu Library at the base of Copou boulevard, it serves a large option of cafes and teas. In some nights they have live singing/recitals.
Everyone can go play an instrument or sing, or exhibit their works...
The atmosphere is fantastic.
Opening hours: 8:00-23:00
One of my favorite restaurants in all of Romania is here: Bolta Rece. It specializes in traditional Moldavian food in a comfortable atmosphere. Somehow they have managed to avoid the sterile, stale feeling that I have had in so many restaurants throughout the country. How? I don't know. But the service was quick (if not the warmest I've ever encountered) and polite. Prices very reasonable.
If you're in the mood for a snack--although you could easily come here for lunch or dinner--try Metro Pizza on the right-hand (west) side of Bulevardul Stefan cel Mare. It's fast, clean, and very popular. The pizza is quite good, very reasonably priced (cheap, actually), and they offer a wide selection.
There are many places where a tourist may eat the delicious Romanian meals. For example BOLTA RECE restaurant (look at the inside aspect seen in the picture). You must know that this place was already known in 1786... but become larger and more famous during the past 200 years.
Another interesting restaurant is 'Hanul Trei Sarmale' . Here you can listen to traditional Romanian folk music while eating our good looking food.
Favorite Dish: Try to ask for 'mamaliga' and 'sarmale' with sour cream on them! I am sure you will never forget the great sensation!
Ok, so I always knew it might be difficult being a vegetarian in Iasi, and my reviews will be coloured by this! I travel to Iasi several times a year on business, but as my time is limited have only tried a few places out as they need to be near the Unirea hotel
A few general tips, however
1. Cascaval Pane - the fried cheese - is available in many places, even if it's not on the menu. It's dull, fatty and heavy, but you can only eat so many potatoes and vegetables!
2. Ciorba and Borsch - even when they say they are vegetable, are often made with meat stock. In most restaurants they will tell you they are vegetarian, even when they turn out not to be
3. Always tell them you are vegetarian, otherwise you may find they have put bacon on your peasant's potatoes, for example
4. If there is no vegetarian option, ask. Sometimes they have one. Usually it's grilled vegetables and potatoes
5. Go in the summer. Most places have fresh local deliveries of salads and vegetables and they are just gorgeous! I spent 3 weeks here in the summer, and just ate salads and hot breads. Absolutely wonderful.
6. Don't ask if the cheese is vegetarian - they will look at you like you are a freak. Accept hard cheeses are made with animal rennet and avoid them if you are a strict vegetarian.
7. The new large Carrefour has a vegetarian section (tiny, but there) if you are going self-catering
8. If you are vegan go self-catering, or you really will go hungry or get bored of the same meals everywhere
Favorite Dish: Favourite meals in Iasi in general are the salads in summer. Just lovely
The food here is, at best, bland. The service is also poor although this has improved over the past year. You may still get your meals in pieces rather than all together, and we have had the starter come after the main course! The only thing really going for the place is the amazing views. It is on the 13th floor of the hotel and you can see the entire city - particularly pretty at sunset.
The main area is often booked out at weekends for weddings, but they do have smaller seating areas available. There is also a proper non-smoking area!
The food is often not fresh - the mushroom and cheese pancakes had tinned mushrooms and were so vile I had to leave it.
Favorite Dish: As a vegetarian there is limited choice. The Unirea Baked Apple is delicious though, and I would recommend coming here at sunset for coffee and desert only.
La Pergola is in the middle of the Iulius Mall and so not a quiet place to eat but lively and nice background of running water fall. It gets very busy at the weekend so worth booking in advance or you will wait for a table
Italian style pizza and pasta, and plenty for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Service is friendly and fast, and the food is generally excellent.
Favorite Dish: All the pizza here is excellent, and the Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli is also delicious. Try the Limonada - fresh lemons pressed and mixed with honey.
Lovely Casa (a house made into a restaurant) split into small sections so it feels private. Very friendly and helpful staff, and truly gorgeous food. The most expensive I have been to (£20/ $40 a head for 3 courses including wine) but absolutely worth it.
Again, proper non-smoking area!
Mix of french and local cuisine, all superbly presented and cooked.
All in all, the best place to eat in Iasi and one worth going out of the way for
Favorite Dish: I asked for a vegetarian meal and got gorgeous veg filled pastries in tomato sauce.
My colleagues got the Chateau Briand - a meal that came with a speech! I didn't try it, but I am told it was the best beef ever.
A little out-of-the way from the city center, the place is not crowded and offers a lot of romance. The service is excellent and mostly English-speaking. Though it's oddly listed in some tour books as an Irish restaurant, the menu is traditional and nouveau (western-inspired) Romanian.
Favorite Dish: As a cheese lover, this is one of the places that you can get an excellent Cheese Plate. Also had a stuffed, rolled, fried chicken (piu) cutlet that was fantastic.
Located on the top floor of Hotel Unirea, Panoramic Restaurant has fantastic views of the historic center of Iasi. I dined there on my first evening in Iasi, and was totally amazed by the great service. Truly, in seven weeks on the road Panoramic Restaurant stands out for how friendly and accommodating the servers are. As a vegetarian I was offered a main course of country-style mushrooms with polenta (in Romania, polenta is pretty much a national dish and is called magaliga). The food was great, as was washing it down with a strong capiroska. The restaurant is warm and chic, and would be a great place for a romantic dinner, business dinner or family lunch.
I lived in Mexico. It's surprising, then, that my notes about my dinner at Iasi's Casa Lavric say, "BEST FRIJOLES REFRITOS EVER!" It's true... the refried beans at Casa Lavric were much, much better than any refried beans I ever ate in Mexico. Just one of the many Mexican-inspired options served at Casa Lavric, the refried beans were made from the gorgeous local beans that have a distinct purple tinge. Along with the beans I had their vegetarian tacos, which lacked an authentic Mexican flair but still tasted great (especially with some salsa verde on the side). The drink menu also featured a tequila-infused variation on a cosmopolitan, which I ordered, and when it was served the waiter said to me, "Ummm... we have no idea how to make this drink. Tell us if it's not okay." It was fine, however! I'm a die-hard fan of traditional Romanian cooking, but I also think diversity should be celebrated and it's great that Iasi has a Mexican restaurant. Oh, I forgot to mention that it's owned by Laura Lavric, one of Romania's most famous singers! And there is a guest house on site too!
The interior of Trei Sarmale was actually very nice, I guess the guide was making me a little cranky :-(