26 February 2015
After a long afternoon in rainy Budapest, I was spent. My schedule opened up unexpectedly but I managed to get a booking at the well-regarded MÁK. This bistro made its name when previous chef Kata Tálas (who has worked at London’s excellent Magdalen) won international acclaim for her take on modern Hungarian cuisine; she has since departed for Singapore to continue her culinary experience, and I was hoping MÁK is worthy of continued praise.
After an interesting tasting meny a few days ago in Kyiv at Канапа (Kapana), I decided to go with one of their tasting menus. Should be interesting. I happily went with the wine pairing, as it was all Hungarian wines. I chilled out and enjoyed the atmosphere.
The restaurant was busier in the front in their cafe section, and the restaurant section in the back was filling up much slower. Then the amuse bouche arrived.
A small tasting of mackerel in cream. Well, it’s not a great piece of mackerel to be honest. I asked them about sourcing, and unfortunately they tell me most of the stuff they get comes from France and not locally. I find that a bit of a shame, but they said they needed consistent quality, so…
The first wine was presented, a riesling from Badacsony…albeit with a light pour. This accompanied the first dish, the sunchoke consomme.
A simple dish with a big slice of sunchoke in the middle, it was full and flavourful. Something you’d enjoy on a cold wet day like today. I’m usually not a fan of this gas-producing root but it was very nice.
Next up was a nice wine from Somló as I awaited the dish… It took awhile, and the light pour again was a little annoying.
This was the beef tartar. Rather plain to be honest, had no depth, and poorly seasoned. They told me the beef was from France…again, why go abroad? Frankly the only thing nice was the mangalica terrine on the side.
They poured the wine for the third course afterwards, and now this was annoying. Took maybe 20+ minutes to bring out the third course in an otherwise empty restaurant. But they at least caught it and topped up my wine. This I complement the FoH for catching it. Usually in Budapest they let you linger, but kudos to them.
The third dish, when it came out, was a nice tasting of Hungarian peppers, accompanied by some gnocchi and sunchoke spheres. Nice, with the sweet but tangy pepper. A nice creation. Despite the delay I am starting to relax, as I have a better feeling about this place now.
They poured the wine for the fourth course, another nice tipple from Badacsony, as we move into fish.
Didn’t take quite as long but the skrei cod was looking good. Fish was solid tasting and flavourful, and the vegetables were a nice set; cream was unnecessary though. A good little dish. And I also noticed the sommelier, who had taken over the wine service for my table, has turned light pours into very generous pours. This was noticed and appreciated.
He then poured me a red from Sopron as that tipped me off that we’re headed to meats. In fact it was saddle of venison.
Wow, this was cooked very nice. Almost rare, it retained all the flavours and characters of venison, no cheating here. A very nice treat, for game lovers. You get the full essence of the meat with this light cooking, letting the meat speak for itself. Excellent.
As I was given a palate cleanser they sat a couple right next to me — in a rather empty restaurant. Why? Just then they brought a nice Tokaji with my dessert — poppy seed dumplings.
This was actually a fabulous dessert, mixing some wonderful flavours. A deep, complex, challenging dessert, but also really tasty. I usually don’t praise desserts but this was real good.
I was told there was a little more, but I asked to move to the bar — so the romantic couple adjacent can have some privacy. The staff actually thanked me, and bought me a drink on the house. Now this you don’t expect in Budapest, so I was impressed. They acknowledge their errors by making up for it; slow food service they poured more wine (and increasingly more generous pours), poor diner placement they give me a free pálinka. I stayed, enjoyed the little snack they brought.
Mmm, nice. I had a few pálinkas just chatting with them about the restaurant scene in Budapest and it was an interesting evening. I like these people, they are on the right track. They don’t just huff or ignore when something doesn’t go right (like so many other places), they actually work to rectify things. Now this place has a lot of potential. It is certainly a place I would happily come back to again when I get back to Budapest.
Overall I like MÁK. Solid food, some dishes were excellent (though some below par like the tartar). Service was good as it progressed. The sommelier is clearly the boss of the place and he really got them working once he took control of things. Overall, again, I think it’s a good place, and I had a good night. I know I stumbled back to my hotel pretty cheery after this.
Vigyázó Ferenc utca 4