Sunday, October 19, 2014

Borkonyha Wine Kitchen - Budapest Hungary

Generally speaking we do not dine at Michelin starred restaurants when we are in Europe. The local food is so good, local delicacies have to be eaten and then there is that matter of being appropriately dressed. Also, I see no reason to say go to Hong Kong and eat at Joel Robuchon when it is so much simpler and cheaper to do this in a London or Paris. So we stick to local food at local restaurants either researched in advance or recommended by concierges or simply found during wandering.

During our wanderings we came across Borkonyha Wine Kitchen, we noted the name, looked at the menu and said we must eat here. On returning and researching it turns out it has one Michelin star. And, after asking the concierge to make a booking, it turns out that this place is very popular and was full and sold out for weeks. Some grief, but we said what the heck, so much good local food, no matter if we miss this meal. Then on our further wanderings, we simply walked in at a slack time, post lunch and asked very nicely if they could give us a table any day for dinner between 6.30 pm and 9.00pm. After much humming and hawing, and flipping pages in a thick register and exhaling loudly, Norbert the manager said yes he could squeeze us in at 6.30 on Saturday night, provided we gave the table back at 8.30. We accepted the table and the condition. We noted that the dress code was casual.

On arrival at the appointed time we were greeted, coats whisked away and seated. It had been a hot day; we had been walking in the bright hot sun the whole morning. So instead of water and aperitifs we had a couple of glasses of some very cold local Hungarian beer. Most refreshing. Our waiter was most unfortunately named – Attila – very pleasant guy who spoke fluent English. The menu was short and enticing but the daily specials were even better. A wine was ordered, don’t ask me the name, I know it was a Hungarian Pinot Noir, a choice made from the perspective of the meat and fish that we had ordered. We did not want to get one white and one red.

The bread turned up. Very intriguing. One was a delightful Cranberry and Pistachio bread and the other was with Squid Ink. Most unusual. Both excellent. One thing the we have noticed is that whenever I  have whipped out my camera - a very nice one I must say, a recent gift from Her Highness to me - and start taking photos, people look at me. I cannot tell what they are thinking. Soon, magic happens. All those who had looked at me, soon whip out their Iphones and start taking photos of their food and their dining companions. Hilarious! I guess photo taking is less common in Hungary.

For starters HRH the Queen of Kutch had the special, which was seared Scallops with Nori and a Miso Broth. Yes, in a Hungarian Restaurant! In the broth were tiny black balls which when pressed burst. They did not taste of Caviar so HRH the Queen asked Attila what they were. Balsamic Vinegar treated with Sodium Alginate to make this faux Caviar. When eating, these tart balls exploded in your mouth in a burst of flavour. What a delightful idea. I support the minimal use of gimmickry. An absolute knockout of a dish. This was as well conceived as the dish we had at One O One Restaurant in London some time ago.

 Scallops with Nori and Miso Broth. Note the Balsamic Caviar in the picture

Yellowfin Tuna Tartar with Crispy Soft Shelled Crab Tempura, Sushi Rice and Wasabi Sorbet, Wakame Salad. This was at One O One Fish Restaurant London

I had the Goulash. Yes, I have had the Goulash in 3 meals, each time it has been different. Here it was refined. I got a plate of cubed carrot, parsnip and Steak. On top was poured a Goulash broth. This was quite nice, nowhere in the league of HRH the Queen’s starter. But very tasty.

Mains were equally diverse and interesting. HRH the Queen had Monkfish with Tomato and Celery. The description sounds very ordinary. It was almost Mediterranean in looks and flavour. It had lashings of Olive Oil and some Samphire too. The Celery she said was very crunchy and fresh tasting. She declared that it was excellent and raved about the good food.

I had rolled Pork Belly on Le Puy Lentils. Lovely. The Pork Belly was meltingly tender, the Lentils just cook and not mushy. The Baby Courgettes were, well, boring. Nice dish, totally satisfying.

By this time the last bit of wine was being poured out, and as often happens, one glass got a bit more. It was HRH the Queen of Kutch’s glass that got a drop less. The waiter was so apologetic and promptly got a fresh bottle and poured out some more for her and a drop more for me for good measure. This was done totally voluntarily. This is why restaurants get stars, waiters go the extra mile.

One of the desserts stood out. Lemon Cake with Gorgonzola Ice Cream and Crisp Cottage Cheese. I had to order it. Excellent. The balance of the Blue Cheese and the Sugar was beautiful. The Strawberries you see were dehydrated. Not very pleasant. Though the dessert as a whole I did quite like. The Lemon Cake was passable.

A wonderful evening and a wonderful meal. Excellent value for money. Well worth repeating. We came back smiling, happy and with full stomachs.

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