Alpar utca 5., Budapest, Hungary

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This curious little restaurant changed hands in 2013. Formerly a basic Greek taverna, it was taken over by a young chef who wanted to bring more ambitious fare to this quiet side street in a residential area with a somewhat seedy reputation. Lacking investment, even the restaurant sign and name remained unchanged, though the cooking style is now a long way from Greece.

The current head chef Csaba Adam took over the restaurant May 2013, He started his career in Alabardos restaurant (1995-2000) where there is a well-established chef called Attila Bicsar who has trained a lot of young cooks. Mr Adam’s first head chef position was at Apetito in 2007 (now closed).

At lunch there is a short three-course menu for just 2,550 Ft (£6). At dinner a fixed tasting menu of around eight courses costs around 5,000 Ft (£15) to Ft 9,200 (£21), a price that would barely buy you a couple of drinks at a smart hotel in central Budapest. The simple dining room has a bar at one end and has a casual feel to it.

Our meal began with some nibbles. Duck liver terrine with mango, hazelnut cream and smoked sturgeon was very pleasant, the texture of the terrine smooth and the fruit providing some balancing acidity (13/20). A little jellyfish salad with shredded radish and sesame seeds found the jellyfish a little lost amongst the radish (11/20). Better was pork cheek with kimchi and pineapple, a combination of sour and sweet that worked nicely (13/20). Bread was made in the kitchen, and the walnut bread in particular had very good texture (14/20).

Marinated mackerel with dashi granita and oyster leaf worked less well, the mackerel a little flabby, the dashi flavour (kelp and bonito) rather too subtle in the form of granita (12/20). I preferred ham hock terrine with peppers and a scoop of garlic ice cream, along with a "Sichuan button", an Asian plant that provides a numbing sensation to the tongue. Here the ham hock was well made and the peppers and spice worked well with the pork (13/20).

Coconut flavour cabbage soup came with veal brain and ginger. This was quite interesting, the pickled cabbage providing an enjoyable punchy flavour to the soup (13/20). White and green asparagus with miso marinade came with lemon cream and tomago, the Japanese sweet egg omelette traditionally served at the end of a sushi meal. The asparagus was quite good, and I liked the marinade, but the tomago was not particularly good in itself, nor did it make any obvious sense to me in combination with the asparagus. Just leaving it out would have improved the dish (13/20).

Tofu made in the kitchen with wild sorrel was next, the tofu having quite silky texture and the sorrel flavour reasonably intense. This dish will divide opinion I suspect, but it was well made (13/20). I really enjoyed quail with gai lan, served with a squash coated with Japanese paprika. The quail was precisely cooked, and the squash with the quite spicy paprika nicely lifted the meat (14/20). This was followed by sirloin of black Angus beef, curry flavoured crumble and carrot variations (cooked, purée, foam). The beef was cooked carefully and the assorted carrots had good flavour, though the crumble did not have enough punch, the spices so subtle they barely registered when the dish could actually have done with a bit more kick (13/20). 

Goat cheese with raspberry vinegar flavoured endive ice cream was an odd affair, the cheese fine but the flavour of the endive obscured by the raspberry, so you ended up tasting goat cheese with raspberry vinegar ice cream, a strange combination (10/20). A traditional Hungarian dessert analogous to floating islands was next, the vanilla soup pleasant enough, and although the egg whites seemed rather soft and soggy to me. I am assured that this is what was intended. I will leave this particular dish to the Hungarians, as it seems to be a childhood memory sort of dish that is tricky for a foreigner to really appreciate. More enjoyable was a dessert of strawberries and marinated rhubarb, with Japanese yoghurt ice cream, Thai basil and yoghurt crisps. This was pleasant and refreshing, the fruit having reasonable flavour and working well with the yoghurt (14/20).

We drank just water and paid a mere 5,000 Ft (£12) per person. With wine a typical bill would be higher, but it is absurdly cheap nonetheless. The full meal price here would not buy you a starter in a mid range London restaurant. Not every dish worked equally well, as is normal with tasting menus, but certainly the best dishes showed some ability in the kitchen, and a considerable amount of work is going into the food here for a price that is crazily low. This is worth a short taxi ride from the centre of town if you want to experience some interesting local cooking. At this price what do you have to lose?  


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