Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Budapest Restaurant and Palinka Bar

For something different to our usual Melbourne dining adventures, I organised dinner at Budapest (273 Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick), situated in Melbourne's Jewish and Eastern European heartland. (I'm tempted to make a bad pun about feeling hungry for Hungarian food, but I won't... or maybe I just did.) For a group of us (me, Sheree, Carpell, Carissa, Ching and Ava) raised on Asian cuisine, this was a new experience indeed. The first thing that stuck out here was size - the main portions are massive. The meal required a dogged determination from us to finish everything we ordered, and after cleaning our plates there was a feeling of pride for having accomplished such a feat. It's not cheap here (mains average around $23), but it would be hard to argue that its not value for money.

Calorie counters need not bother to turn up. Our appetizers consisted of crumbed mushrooms stuffed with dill and goats cheese, and crumbed and deep-fried camembert cheese. Continuing the crumbs-and-cheese theme, the Sajttal Toltott (Veal Schnitzel stuffed with Cheese - photo right) is the kind of thing you expect only Americans to eat. It came with cheese sprinkled on top, just in case you missed the fact that it was stuffed with cheese; so it was kinda like one of those cheesy-crust pizzas, only made with meat instead of dough. My fellow diners informed me it was pretty darn good. If you like cheese. Ava got another traditional Hungarian dish, a veal-stuffed cabbage roll (Toltott Kaposzta), which she also gave the thumbs up.

My Mushroom Crepes (right) were a revelation - filled with a powerfully intense mushroom ragout and topped with a creamy paprika-infused sauce, it was a very satisfying dish. A number of sides accompanied the meal - creamed spinach, braised red cabbage, lecso sauce (roasted capsicum & onion), fried potatoes with parsley and onion, and nokedli (tiny flour dumplings), garden salad - but none of them really set our mouths alight.

Desserts (right) were a mixed bag. The Gundel Palacsinta is a crepe filled with walnut and dried fruit, topped with chocolate sauce and set alight with flaming alcohol - it didn't really work for me. The Sweet Cream Cheese Dumpling was the size of a baseball, flecked with cottage cheese and topped with a cream-cheese sauce. In case we hadn't eaten enough cheese so far. Not bad, although my fellow diners found it a bit odd. The Apricot Dumplings from the specials menu were wonderful, coated in sweet breadcrumbs, stuffed with apricot and with vanilla sauce on the side.

One last word must go to the Palinka, which is a kind of Eastern European fruit brandy, of which several types appear on their interesting beverages list. Carissa ordered the Miskolci Golden Pear liqueur (44%), which was very sweet but wonderfully fragrant. I tried the Miskolci Silva plum liqueur (also 44%) which I figured would taste of plum - I was mistaken. One of those drinks that puts hairs on your chest (and I could use a few), it gave me little pleasure aside from the feeling of being tipsy after one sip.

This was one of those meals where you feel like you've eaten a lot, but not stuffed yourself too much - until you get up and try walking to the car, upon which time you start groaning ("urgh...cheese...") and realising what a pig you are.

Rating? I give it three and a half cheeses out of five.


  1. marcus is NOT related to rae dawn -- at all.

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  2. Thanks for your correction! You are right - sort of... I looked into that one and it turns out that Marcus was adopted by Tommy Chong, while Rae Dawn is Tommy's actual daughter. So they are siblings by adoption, but not by blood. So is Marcus still blasian? I dunno.