Happy Valentine’s Day!
The Boy and I celebrated early while I was in Budapest with a meal at Onyx Restaurant, which earned its Michelin star in 2011. I have always wanted to go to a Michelin restaurant and thought that it would be more affordable in Budapest (compared to the ones in NYC or France for example). I’ve been to a couple fine dining restaurants, but this was my first Michelin star restaurant and I had no idea what to expect.
Budapest is actually home to two Michelin start restaurants: Costes and Onyx. It was just my luck that Cortes was closed during my visit, so we went with Onyx. Onyx, located in the heart of Pest by Vörösmarty Square, opened in 2007 next to the famous Gerbeaud Cafe. The restaurant gets its name from the onyx stonework around the restaurant. The restaurant is under the direction of executive chef Szabina Szulló and sous-chef Tamás Széll.
We were greeted at the door where our coats were taken. The inside of the restaurant was decorated impeccably. I was surprised at how small the restaurant was (only 55 seats). There were two rooms, but they were relatively small, giving it a cozy and intimate atmosphere. The restaurant was also quite busy the night we were there with almost every table in both rooms filled as the night went on. I’m kicking myself in hindsight for not using my proper camera. I had even brought it with me – it was in my purse – but I felt too self conscious pulling it out. So you all have to deal with under exposed, grainy and slightly out of focused images from me.
Because we were in Hungary, we opted to go with the Hungarian Evolution Menu. This menu uses “the freshest, highest-quality domestic ingredients and new technologies … in the preparation and presentation of renewed and updated versions of traditional Hungarian cuisine.”
The first order of business was getting our bread basket. They wheeled over a large selection of breads (see the 2nd photo in this post) that were baked in house and we had our pick. I love bread and pretty much wanted to try them all, but of course I wouldn’t be able to eat anything else. I ultimately decided on a slice of a chive and potato bread (so soft and delicious), a slice of squid ink bread and a couple of pogacas. The bread was served with a side of three different spreads: a mangalica pork terrine, lard (?) with paprika, and some butter.
Shortly after, the chef sent out an amuse bouche. I don’t remember exactly what it was as our waiter spoke too quietly, and too quickly in English that I could barely understand him. From what I remember, it is a yam with chestnut shavings served with a ginger chestnut puree.
The first course in our tasting menu was a water buffalo steak tartar with oxtail, oysters and mushroom carpaccio (aka raw mushrooms). It was served with a crostini. I actually really quite liked this dish. I normally don’t enjoy the texture of raw meat, but this felt like it was cooked. It had a slight chew to it, not too tough, and paired well with the crostinis.
Next up was a trio of goose liver pate served with a sweet bread, similar to brioche. This was probably my least favorite of all the dishes. I’m not the biggest fan of liver and while I know goose liver is a specialty of Hungarian cuisine, I could only eat about half of it. The liver pate was incredibly rich. The Boy absolutely loved it though.
The next course was probably my favorite of them all. Why? It was like breakfast and I LOVE breakfast. A free-range egg served with potato foam, mangalica pork and truffles. Essentially ham and eggs!
The final starter was the famous Goulash soup which placed 10th at the Bocuse d’Or Lyon in 2013. This goulash soup was different from any other goulash soup I’ve had. The meat and veggies were served inside of a dumpling. While it was presented very nicely, I found the whole dish to be overly salty and I couldn’t finish it. Disappointing.
For our main course, we had venison served with a black pudding toast, and a cabbage roll of walnut and apple. I really enjoyed the venison and it was cooked really well. What was a bit strange was the cabbage rolled with walnut and apple.
Dessert was the famous Somlói cake which consisted of layers of sponge cake with pastry cream, raisins, walnuts, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. I’ve had the traditional version before and didn’t enjoy it, but this modern take was delicious.
After dessert, they wheeled a cart full of petite fours for us to select from. They all looked SO delicious and I wanted to eat them all, but I was completely stuffed. I did get a macaron though. I can never say no to a macaron.
As a parting gift, I was given a small box and in it a macaron and a chocolate. I like that final touch – a sweet treat for the road home. If only I could have taken that petit four cart with me. And maybe the bread one too.
The meal was a long one – our reservations were for 8:00pm and we ended up leaving at 11:30pm, just after the metro closed for the night. I felt a bit out of place the whole time I was there though. The food was okay. It was very rich and intense, but presented beautifully. Maybe I should have gone with their other tasting menu. Would I go again? Probably not. Perhaps I’ll try Costes next time.
Our bill came to a total of 87 000 HUF or about $423 CAD. The tasting menu itself was 22 500 HUF ($110) and wine (for the Boy) was an additional 16 000 HUF ($77). There is also an automatic 15% gratuity that they add to the bill. They certainly give you a lot of food and the service was impeccable. They easily jumped from English to Hungarian depending on if they were addressing me or the Boy.
Regardless, the meal was an interesting one. It was incredible indulgent and every once in awhile, it is nice to splurge and do something new. I’m glad I went and experienced it all. A life experience if anything else, and a great way to experience classy Hungarian cuisine beyond home-y meat and potatoes.
1051 Budapest, Vörösmarty tér 7, Hungary
+36 30 508 0622 – Reservations recommended
Have you been to a fine dining restaurant? What was your experience like?