Thursday, June 29, 2006

Best of Budapest - the Baraka menu

Best of Budapest

Just to make you salivate all over the keyboard, here is the menu from Baraka on the very last night it greeted Budapest gourmets in Magyar utca for ever....
don't panic!

Baraka once again entertains and enchants foodie visitors in the swanky new premises of the Andrássy Hotel in Budapest's VI district.
For more on Baraka's new home click here

STOP PRESS: It appears that the chef Tzadok Levi, who delighted us so much with his creations on the last evening of Baraka in Magyar utca, is no longer the kitchen supremo.
That honour now goes to Shani Prusman, a USA-qualified chef with Irish-Israelic roots and interesting inspirations and influences. All the more reason to revisit Baraka and try out the latest culinary delights.

We had a truly splendid meal and here's what we enjoyed.

Self-taught kitchen maestro Tzadok Lavi created for starters:

Roasted beetroot served with goat cheese brûlée, orange soy glaze and pistachoi purée.

Seared goose liver with butternut squash ragout, red wine sauce and tomato-shallot emulsion.

Red mullet with baby spring vegetables and black olive oil.

Seared scallops on a bed of lentils and bacon with truffle kaffir lime sauce

Green salad with asparagus, pomegranate and ginger balsamic vinaigrette.

The main dish delights included:

Mangold wrapped Atlantic cod with Jerusalem artichoke purée and truffled, home-made ravioli with aduki bean white wine sauce

Salmon fillet served on home-made fettucini nero, asparagus, sweet peas, Shiitake mushrooms and apple wasabi sauce.

Seared wild duck breast with sweet and sour pineapple salsa, home-made spätzle noodles and curry foam.

Argentine beef tenderloin served with cream of white beans, smoked teriyaki sauce and cilantro paste.

For dessert, we could barely squeeze in another mouthful but managed to force down:

Passionfruit mousse on milk chocolate ganache with caramelised peanuts and banana Malibu rum caramel....

I bet you wish you'd been there...
Now wipe the dribble off your chin.

A FourBees gourmet gloat.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Budapest's Deep Water restaurant

The stunning renovation work on the Deep Water (Mélyvíz) restaurant in the lower depths of the New York Palace cafe in Budapest.
Divine Italian cuisine, with an emphasis on fish, fresh pasta and wicked desserts, is served in the opulent surroundings.
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Budapest's New York Palace

Budapest's new New York Palace at night,
Quite a spectacular sight,
Beautiful effects of light

Haiku pathetique by FourBees
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Monday, June 26, 2006

Budapest's best restaurant - Baraka

The Andrássy Hotel was designed in the 1930s by Olympic swimmer and architect Alfréd Hajós (1878-1955).
It was originally intended as an orphanage for Jewish boys.
A new plaque, in both Hungarian and English, placed on the hotel wall by the Alfréd Hajós Society (HAT), reveals that Hajós was Hungary's first Olympic champion, a great achievement.
He won gold in the 100-metre and 1,200-metre swimming events at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1986.
Hajós also designed the Nemzeti Sport swimming pool on Margit-sziget.
The Andrássy Hotel building is a Bauhaus design, with elegantly curved corners and smooth lines.
This is the new venue for Baraka restaurant which takes over the ground floor from previous inhabitants, Zebrano and prior to that, the Mosaic Cafe.
Baraka leaves the narrow, claustrophobic Magyar utca in District V and moves up a number.
It also gains a fabulous terrace and garden dining area which will be wonderful this steamy summer.
STOP PRESS It appears that the chef Tzadok Levi, who delighted us so much with his creations on the last evening of Baraka in Magyar utca, is no longer the kitchen supremo.
That honour now goes to Shani Prusman, a USA-qualified chef with Irish-Israelic roots and interesting inspirations and influences. All the more reason to revisit Baraka and try out the latest culinary creations.

Baraka moves to District VI
I recently had the good fortune to dine at Budapest's very best restaurant, Baraka, on the last occasion it offered sublime cuisine and expertly chosen wine on Magyar utca, before David, Leora and sommelier Sándor closed up shop and moved up in the world to the swanky premises of the ground floor of the Andrassy Hotel, near Hôsök tere (Heroes' Square).
That final evening was too much of a gorge-fest for yours truly to sit there with the notebook secreted under the table.
We were wowed with such delights as self-trained wizard of the kitchen Tzadok Lavi's seared foie gras accompanied by Sándor Papp's choice of a wonderfully syrupy Tokaj, and some sensitively prepared sea bass and delicate slivers of duck.
So that you don't feel neglected, here is a review I compiled for a dreary local paper in 2002.
Of course, I will return to review the new look Baraka once they have settled in.
Especially as I have to check out details for a New York magazine and restaurant guide, who appreciate such sophisticated delights, unlike the afore-mentioned dullard rag.

Essence of Life
Sublime cuisine, expertly selected wines and personal service make this the best dining experience in Budapest
A FourBees review

For many years, I had an apartment in the centre of Budapest just behind the Astoria Hotel, on the narrow and dingy Magyar utca.
I ventured into the uninspiring Talk Talk café only once, despite it being only two paces away from my front door.
On that depressing occasion, my friend and I went in, sat down, were studiously ignored for 20 minutes, then stood up and left in a communal huff.
How ironic then that soon after I moved away, that same premises should change hands and transform into one of the best restaurants in town.
Baraka had been recommended to me, enthused over and raved about on so many occasions, that I felt deeply sorry - and also stupid - to have left it so late before trying it out.
Anyway, I’ve put that right now, and will doubtlessly return again and again.
Baraka has a solid fan base and those who enjoy healthy, taste-filled dishes with imaginative combinations - it’s called 'fusion' cuisine these days - come back time after time.
Co-owner Leora Levi moves about the room, greeting guests like old friends, suggesting dishes and wines.
She even advises against some dishes, with refreshing honesty, when she feels that the ingredients aren’t up to scratch.
Decorations in the tiny room are sparse and stylish.
Gorgeous white lamps hang down from the upper balcony and the plum-colored walls recall the warmth of the Middle East.
Leora said, however, that she had not quite captured the atmosphere she wanted, so she will redecorate in March.
The menu is a tasteful square containing just the right number of dishes.
The entrées and main dishes were all described in such a mouth-watering manner, and the taste combinations so unusual and tempting, that we spent a long time deliberating.
Then Leora advised and we had to start all over again! I chose a mixed salad (Ft850) which was an inspired and artistically arranged mix of lollo rosso curls, sharp spikes of carrot, raw mushroom slices, toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds and a tangy dressing involving Balsamic vinegar.
My carnivorous companion selected a vegetable quiche (Ft1,500) from the daily specials chalked up on the blackboard by our side.
This appeared as an individual baby quiche, served upside down with a light, fluffy, cheesy egg and vegetable blend inside an unusual almost cakey-spongey pastry crust.
The wine list contained a good selection of quality reds and whites.
Leora advised on the best wine - an Etyek Sauvignon (Ft2,590) to accompany the selected dishes.
We sipped from huge four-deci red wine goblets balancing on elegant thin stems.
For her main course, my companion selected veal in a sun-dried tomato and coriander sauce (Ft2,350). The tomatoes were full of flavour and she remarked on how delicious and tender the meat was.
This was served with three ice-cream scoops of excellent mashed potatoes, dense and comforting with a liberal swathe of Dijon mustard whirling through.
I tried a fascinating salmon filet in a piquant coconut cream sauce and vodka lemon risotto (Ft2,850).
I had never imagined salmon with coconut, but it worked extremely well.
The risotto was perfection, served in wafer-thin courgette tubes.
The vodka was not immediately apparent but added a hot after-taste.
Leora’s partner David Seboek is a trained pastry chef from New York so we just had to try the desserts, listed on a separate menu.
The chocolate volcano (Ft900) is something of a favourite at Baraka and I can see why.
Another upside-down casing of chocolate sponge lets out a thick, gooey lava when attacked viciously with a spoon.
Scoops of vanilla ice cream cool the passions down a little and the dish is covered with grated Sumac, a dried berry spice from the Middle East with a lemony tang.
My companion demolished the cranberry, almond and caramel tart (Ft850) in record time, only slowed by the fact that she hit the jackpot and actually got two puddings; a divine snail of lemon meringue pie appeared first and then received a second, bonus dessert when the mistake was noticed by our ever-attentive but never-intrusive host.
Baraka is a Sufi word meaning 'breath' or 'essence of life'.
Eating food prepared with care, attention, love, imagination and inspiration is one of the pleasures of existence, and Baraka has found the key.

Budapest - District VI
Andrássy Hotel
Andrássy út 111
Getting there: Metro 1(little underground - kis földalatti) to Bajza utca
Tel: (+36 1) 483-1355
Open daily noon-3pm & Mon-Sat 6pm-11pm
Baraka website

Décor 9/10
Cuisine 10/10
Service 9/10
Wine List 9/10
Ambience 9/10
The Bees' Knees 10/10

POZOR! Baraka is the first - and I can confidently predict - the only Budapest restaurant to receive a Bees' Knees 10/10 rating.
Restaurants of Baraka's calibre appear in Central Europe with the frequency of Haley's Comet, so I recommend a visit to Budapest includes this venue - or regret it forever...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Budapest: neon or porn

I was in Budapest recently and I nearly broke down and wept on the street when I saw that yet another of my favourite neon signs had disappeared.
The Mignon lady drinking a cup of coffee in a most perky manner that adorned a presszó coffee house has gone.

The little row of one-storey shops on Károly (formerly Tanács) körút near Deák tér has been demolished to make way for a foofy garden in front of the Városház (City Hall).
This is both scandalous and depressing.
The saddest news of all was the disappearance of the Fôz süt fűt (cook, bake, heat) sign, perched high on a roof on Deák tér that the Fôvárosi Gázművek (City Gas Company) decided, in their almighty wisdom, was not worth the price of a few lightbulbs to bring joy and enlightenment to Budapest's streets.

The use of neon in the sixties was innovative and artistic with swirly handwriting announcing mundane outlets. The banally named cipôbolt (shoe shop) and fodrász (hairdresser) were given a szocreál flourish of style and creativity with just a few flicks of neon gas.
Legendary presszó bars such as the Alkotás (Creation), Fény (Light) and Májas (Liver sausage! what a name) all had beautiful neon signs. Now, only a few like the Bambi, see below, hang on in there.
But for how long?

As Budapest dissolves into just another bland Euro city, crammed with shopping malls, pimps and slags, it's desperately sad that nobody seems bothered about the hurried blotting out of history, not to mention an art form that the Magyars did with characteristic panache and verve.
Now, the only project they use their creative juices and energy for is making Budapest the porn capital of Europe, with the sound of bollocks slapping against buttocks echoing around historic locations like the Fisherman's Bastion and the Gellért Hotel.
'Progress' - great, huh.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bravo Beautiful Banská Bystrica !

A big-up to Banská Bystrica, a beautiful, buzzing town in the heart of Slovakia,
and the now-legendary venue where Big Bee found out some fantastic hot-off-the-press news about one of the best little Bees.
It's a bloody big, buggering secret at the moment -until the details are finalised- but you can always email La Grande Abeille to find out more.
The honey-sweet streets of beautiful Banská Bystrica have now entered the annals of apian history.
If you don't know BB yet, you are missing a bejezus of a treat...

A FourBees snap
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Monday, June 19, 2006

Bugger Bognor

Király gyógyfürdô on Fô utca in Buda.

'Bugger Bognor' were allegedly the last words of King George V, spat out after he was told by his doctor that he should go to the Sussex seaside resort of Bognor Regis to recuperate.

He should have gone to Budapest's royally-named baths, the Király, and had a life-lengthening soak in the thermal waters, first discovered and developed by those wily Ottomans.
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Budapest's Bambi presszó

The local where Queen Bee and all the little bees discuss Kertész, Esterházy and the shocking rise in price for szalonna and Kadarka. Must get those net curtains...
A FourBees snap
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Bem rakpart in Budapest

Even the iron gateway is having a rough morning.
A FourBees snap
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Blinding headache in Budapest

Yet another night on the tiles for Four Bees.
Atlas on Andrássy út.
A FourBees snap

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