Wander often, wonder always.
Whilst wading through the gene pools of Hungarians, I did manage to secure a hot spot in the remarkably named Onyx, and marble and onyx decorated interior gilded with gold and mirrors aplenty. Situated next to a touristy but tasty confectionary, it was a quiet but seductive, traditional but innovative interior, with tasting menus inspired by two things: “within the borders” and “beyond the borders”, hinting at Hungarian ingredients with a global flair. Chef Ádám Mészáros’ ensured a vegetarian legacy of 12 courses for yours truly, meriting its two Michelin stars already, a first for Central Eastern Europe.
Of all things first, the breads. For what could be more indulgent than Parmesan and thyme bread, purple potato bread, black olive bread? From a range of salty to colorfully starchy to sea-salty briny, it was an ethereal combination with the freshly made, melting butter.
Marrow Noodle and Soup
The marrow portion of the soup comprised of a spring roll style filo wrapped in noodles and stuffed with vegetables and glittering with florets, asparagus, veggies and fritters, devoured by a creamy buttery marrow liquid soup, which magically made a symmetrical pattern of the oils and vegetables. Hearty, warm, fibrous and a tad sweet with bitter undertones, it was a crackly and slurpy bite to commence the meal.
The roasted bell pepper was served artfully on bell pepper spicy jelly with tomato concentrate, a clear liquid and petite fried onions. The essence of pepper could be found in the spicy scent, and the uncharacteristic spice of the otherwise innocent looking pale liquid. The result was a spicy bite, eased by the temperate chillness of the plate. A red lover’s delight.
Carrots in Soil
A take on food art via gastronomy played with my love for Bugs Bunny, what with black soil aped via cashew lentils, served with carrots done four ways: purée, candied, jelly, and roasted. My favorite was the warm carrot purée juxtaposed with cold carrot jelly, thought the sliver of cooked carrot with carrot rice was a satisfying bite, much like a carb heavy portion but without the guilt. The sweet and fresh carrot taste retained itself across the cooking, giving me the toothy grin I lived for.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
What’s the best way to elevate a soup? Make it from real butter, fresh wild mushrooms, top in with lavender and infuse it with asparagus oils for color, depth of flavor and a fibrous finish. The result was a creamy but satisfying sip that put me in the mood for a wintery day in a cozy city.
A southern staple in Budapest? Truly globalization and inspiration was at a new high, what with a classic polenta topped with edible roses of the romanticism of the East, with grilled asparagus and Parmesan cheese fritters. The taste palette was simple, but rich with heavy butter and balanced with the salty texture of cheese fritters.
Many Italians can quote that gnocchi is my favorite Italian dish, far above everyone’s staple pizza or risotto. This was a gastronomical variation, with egg yolk noodles in their vibrant gold hue! The wild garlic oil was laced with asparagus oil, giving this star vegetable yet another feather in its culinary cap. While delicate to eat texturally, what with my sloppy dynamic, it was a tasty, rich and satisfying gobble.
The vegetarian carpaccio was architecturally erect and sound, with black garlic drops, caramelized onion marmalade, mushrooms and truffled frisée. Fresh with taste and undercooked ingredients, it let the smoky flavors do the magic, balanced by the juxtaposition of pungent garlic and onion with sweet marmalade, a combination that tasted much more dynamic to the tongue than it did to the ears!
Elderflower ice was quite the combination – I anticipated a frothy, soapy, bubble bathy style rendition, but to my surprise this was an ice and foam refresher that tasted rather gin-like. Flavorful, and cleansing my palette for the cheeses, wines and desserts to follow.
Cheese is so intrinsic to my existence that I have often felt my stomach would be lined with mozzarella! The cheese tasting was an elegant finish of goat cheese brûlée, goat cheese and garlic noodles, tomato berry jam, walnut purée, aged gouda host cheese, and a tangy orange marmalade. Flip flopping between cheese and dip, the combinations were limitless and divine. With a salty, smoky cheese and an unusual sweetness from fruity tomatoes and berries, it was a playground of sorts for those adulting with cheeses.
Lime Panna Cotta
While not a fan of custardy desserts, what with my chocoholic fantasies, Italy taught me that lime and lemon desserts are truly a work of art. The lime panna cotta was itself an architectural dome of fantasy, with lime foam, orange ice cream, yuzu ice cream, lemon curd and grapefruit jelly, looking like a real plate of sunshine! The tangy fruits were offset with the yoghurty flavor of the cream components, balanced nicely by the meringue crunch and a hint of bitter. Truly a satisfying dessert, and one that was oh too pretty to gobble.
Before we were whisked away to back home, the staff came to help with a box of mini truffles, mini pastries, and candies for a happily ever after. Between the lavender macarons, grapefruit jellies, praline pastries and more, I let the handsome and helpful Hungarians make the choice for an sensual finish.
To nights well lived, hungry in Hungary and besotted with Budapest.