Between Romania and Ukraine lies Moldova, a modest, landlocked Eastern European republic with a knack for winemaking — and a few thousand expats who live in NYC. For those curious about his home country’s cuisine, Radu Panfil created Moldova, the restaurant, which he opened in the summer of 2012 on Coney Island Avenue in Midwood. Though his intention was to build a “casa mare” — a kind of grand banquet hall or meeting room — for Moldovans to celebrate their culture and history while indulging in rib-sticking Balkan fare, the rest of the city took notice. Indigenous mamaliga, a cornmeal porridge that forms the base of several starchy small plates and side dishes, alone justifies the trip. Boiled, formed into orbs, and fried, the fritters hide chunks of soft bacon and feta cheese. Start with cold cuts and house-made pickles — lusciously tender veal tongue takes a proper lashing from horseradish sauce — then turn your attention to grilled mititei pork sausages covered in sautéed peas and onions. Main courses are hefty and include crisp chunks of fried pork neck, whole grilled trout, and rabbit smothered in white gravy. End your meal with sour-cherry crepes or baba neagra, a burnt sour-milk cake flavored with sour cherries.
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