Say what you will about the Aramark or Restaurant Associates-run cafeteria in your office building. And, while I wholeheartedly agree that the monthly soup rotation (that mimics itself, all over again, the following month) and same-thing-everyday salad bar gets tired, those are, for the most part, my only two complaints. Having recently moved from a building whose cafeteria contract was cancelled in 2009, I cannot tell you what a welcome relief it is to be able to quickly run down to the dining hall and grab something when I'm pinched for time or, worse, when the weather is particularly nasty. Which is *very* often in NYC.
Every Tuesday, like clockwork, there's a "Mexican table," where diners can make their own tacos, etc. And I can always count on my favorite rotisserie chicken at the hot station, as well as the soft-serve frozen yogurt that boasts an impressive array of toppings. But, best of all, every Wednesday and Thursday, Restaurant Associates hires a local restaurant/food truck to serve their specialties to hungry diners. At a kiosk-type space within the cafeteria. Cool, right? Think: Chinese Mirch, Mexico Blvd., Food Freaks...and this week's guest, Moldova Restaurant.
I'll be the first to admit that I had no idea what the word "Moldova" meant/was in reference to - the name of the chef's mother, perhaps? Unbeknownst to me, Moldova is a small, landlocked country that located between Romania and the Ukraine. A bit geographically challenged, it took a quick visual on Google maps for me to understand that, based on Moldova's location, the cuisine is influenced by its Eastern European neighbors, in addition to Turkey and Greece.
For a mere $9.95, I chose the "sampler" option, so that I could taste as many savory dishes as possible:
I will describe my meal in a clockwise fashion, beginning with the magenta-hued beet/potato salad: Cubed beets and potatoes, along with peas, made up a chilled, vinegar-based salad that proved incredibly compatible with its neighboring, predominately starch-based plate mates.
Instead of kasha, I chose rice. I can only assume that its lovely flavor was the result of having been boiled in chicken stock.
Coltunasi "Fat Frumos," a.k.a. dumplings: I chose to sample both the homemade meat (pork and veal) and potato dumplings, which were topped with melted butter and fried onions (optional). In a gluttonous effort to consume as many calories as possible, I dipped each bite in sour cream. :)
"Ursuleti," a.k.a. fried mamaliga (similar to polenta) balls stuffed with feta cheese, pork belly, and sour cream.
The "urselti" balls were firm on the outside, and gave way to a moist, polenta-like, savory interior that was dotted with nibs of fatty pork belly. Absolutely heavenly.
"Sarmale ca la Mama," a.k.a. pork and rice-stuffed grape leaves.
The ground pork and rice were enveloped by a briny grape leaf that created a fantastic, salty kick. I really enjoyed this particular item!
Chicken blintz (similar to a crepe)
While I grew up eating sweet, cheese-based blintzes, I've never had a savory version. Normally, I shy away from anything-chicken, but the friendly employee urged me to try this blintz. And I'm really glad I did. The crepe, itself, was the slightest bit sweet, and the chicken filling was bound with buttery, fried onions. Is there anything that fried onions couldn't make delicious?
And, for dessert...a Russian sour-cherry pastry
If I only had a scoop of vanilla or salted-caramel ice cream! Encased by flaky pastry was the most generous amount of plump, sour cherries. There wasn't some gloppy, corn syrup-based binder - just a plethora of the sweet, tangy fruit.
I really enjoyed my Moldovan lunch - at my desk - without having to venture to the Coney Island restaurant. Or Eastern Europe, for that matter! And, since the food was on the richer side, I'm eating leftovers for lunch today! It's the gift that keeps giving. And I can hardly wait...!
I urge you to step out of your personal culinary comfort zone and try something new! Even if it's as small as ordering a different preparation of your favorite meat.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle