Although Tokyo has restaurants serving food from most of the world’s cultures, provincial cities have until recently had little to offer besides Chinese, Italian, and Indian. This is changing rapidly now, and even in a relatively small city like Matsuyama, we have a growing number of options. We have a Romanian restaurant. It’s very popular, and with good reason.
Known simply as ‘Romania’, it’s run by a Romanian wife and Japanese husband team who offer a warm and familiar welcome. The restaurant is on the third floor of a modern building between central Matsuyama and Dogo. It’s roomy inside and there’s a good view of Matsuyama Castle from the window seats. Some of the furniture is made from driftwood collected on local beaches, creating a comfortably rustic atmosphere.
Lunch is a standard 600 yen with a choice of main dishes. For starter there was a bowl of cabbage and vegetable soup with slices of rich sausage. It was served with two types of bread, one of which is made to a Romanian recipe by a local baker. The recipe includes potato, and the bread is very toothsome with a deliciously nutty-tasting crust. For the main dish, I chose the white bean stew with sausage. This was a hearty bowl of big white beans, cooked to tenderness in a tomato-based stew. The sausages were juicy with a good meaty flavor. There was also a side serving of European-style pickled vegetables. I spotted a few large glass jars here and there, full of cabbage and dill peppers, so these are clearly made on the premises.
For dessert I had gogosi, a Romanian-style doughnut. I’m not a devotee of doughnuts, but these looked so good I had to try one. They come freshly fried with a generous serving of yoghurt and blueberry sauce. The doughnut itself is simultaneously crispy, fluffy, and wodgy, if you can imagine that. It’s also flavored with lemon, which gives it a sophisticated and fresh dimension lacking in run-of-the-mill doughnuts. It went very well with a cup of freshly ground coffee.
After my meal, I wandered around the restaurant checking out the Romanian products that decorate the walls and shelves. These include colorful artisanal blouses, carved wooden love spoons, and enameled eggs. Most of them are for sale. In a little alcove near the window, I discovered a pair of comfy armchairs side by side overlooking the nearby tram station, with the castle in the near distance. This would be an ideal spot for a little afternoon coffee and doughnut break amid some intensive sightseeing. Romania is nearly opposite the very photogenic Rokkakudo Shrine with its crazy fox and tanuki statuary. It’s just a minute from the Kamiichiman tram stop.