A Michelin starred experience obviously calls for factors of sublime taste, ambiance, value for money and the entire experience as it is. It so happened that my very first experience was at tanti, on the Buda side of Budapest, Hungary. The only thing I can say about it (to summarize) is that it was “Heavenly Dining”. Of course, for many reasons heavenly dining is a loosely used term nowadays. It is a tag that comes only when a plate of dramatic Nitrogen is served on the table. Or maybe even a mason jar that’s overflowing with a billion different versions of chocolate. That my friends, is pleasing to the eyes, yes, and probably to a stomach that can accept the billion different versions of calories. But Michelin-starred dining is for someone who know what food is, who knows what to look for, who can appreciate the passion that goes behind plating up food.
On my recent trip to Budapest (and other parts of Europe that I will post about soon), tanti came up on my radar thanks to a really good friend who advised me to check it out. Now for everyone thinking that Michelin dining means spending hundreds of Euros on a meal, it isn’t true. Without exaggeration I spent around 5000 HUF or AED 70 for a three course lunch meal here. Now after the conversion it seems like a steal, especially for the type of experience I was in for!
Reaching tanti was a bit of challenge. Located on a street called apor vilmos tér 11 on the Buda side of Budapest. Far off from where one would usually be staying (in Pest), trying to direct the cabbie could seem difficult – especially if you don’t know the language, Hungarian. So getting off the cab and doing a bit of exploration on foot was mandatory, however, in time I did find the place!
tanti, which is derived from the words “benevolent aunty” (yes I know it means egg in Konkani), sort of draws this connection as being ‘the person’ who is one of the best cooks in the kitchen (after mom). Now in Hungary, I believe it is a traditional thought that that aunty is the real connecting link between the younger and older generation (as described in their website). Thus the cuisine you can expect is more of comfortable food with traditional and modern techniques. Also, when you enter the restaurant, you see a good modern chic type of setting but you still have colorful “Picnic-style” seating that still gives out vibes of comfort and familiarity. This is explained on their website as “guests visiting an old friend”
Greeted by very warm and friendly staff, my host explained the concept of the restaurant and how Chef Dániel Eszenyi (Head of chef of the restaurant) incorporates traditional and modern techniques to present a “Vibrant, Loving, Supportive and Comforting” experience on the plate! Now unfortunately I had forgotten to bring in my credit card (haven’t we all been there), but I luckily had only 5000 HUF with me which would suffice for their 3 course Lunch Meal offered that day. The menu was handed to me along with a mocktail (a sort of Mojito if I remember clearly), I had glimpse of how exciting this lunch was going to turn out!
Without losing any more time, I ordered the lunch meal with the options that seemed to interest me the most…and well, as always, the photography and looking around the restaurant continued…
The First Course – Csicsóka Leves (Jerusalem Artichoke with Mackerel)
Quite plain and simple – or so it may seem. To be honest, I quite had that disappointing look on my face too, but my host just smiled and said “Taste it!” Now before I get into details of the dish, I must let you know that the Hungarians are absolutely crazy about Soup. Yes, soup! In all forms and all varieties, soup is something that’s had at any time of the day. I remember this restaurant called Bors (sort of hole-in-the-wall café) I visited for breakfast, and I picked up a sandwich along with an amazing Mexican-style soup! Exactly! Soup at 10am in the morning..sounds crazy right? But it definitely works out – considering the weather there!
Anyways, back to our boring-looking soup. Essentially a blend of perfectly seasoned Jerusalem artichokes with a slice of Smoked Mackerel and parsley oil. Now a spoon of this, at first impression, might seem a bit bland (considering if you only have the artichoke soup). But with a bit of the mackerel and that hint of parsley, oh boy! That’s a match made in heaven!
Why am I ranting about soup so much though? – you may be wondering. Well to be honest, it wasn’t just soup! It was the combination of a (merely flavorless) artichoke combined with a salty, strong helping of Mackerel and that hint of freshness that the parsley gives was pure ingenious! Whichever Chef was plating this dish up definitely knew the ropes and kept me anticipating more and more! The below picture may not exactly be “beautiful”, but I hope you get the idea…
The Second Course – Rizotó (Risotto with Beetroot and Veal Liver)
Now you may be thinking, why am I having a Rizotó in a Hungarian restaurant! Well, from the option given of a zucchini chicken, a sour cabbage and a beef lasagne, this was the only combination that seemed quite interesting to me. Now before I go any further about the dish itself, I must tell you that I’m not a big fan of beetroot. Maybe cause the only way I’ve taste it before was raw in a salad and it put me complete off! However, this Rizotó changed it all…
Quite evidently the most perfect risotto I’ve ever taste, it was perfectly season and just the right consistency of being ‘smushy’ and still al dente (just the right bite of rawness) in the center. If Gordon Ramsay can make a version of risotto that uses pumpkin purée, surely a risotto with beetroot purée doesn’t seem “barbarous” at all! Served elegantly in this “pot-style” plate, this dish was everything that reminded me of how natural and comfortable it was to dine at tanti.
Did I say the risotto was perfectly cooked? Yes! Imagine this warm spoon of creamy risotto assisted by grated Parmesan, and this element of beetroot to complete the dish. Oh it was heavenly! But wait there’s more…Topped with perfectly seared Veal Liver, as well as wedges of roasted and slices of pickled beetroot. This was definitely the most wholesome meal I’ve ever eaten! The sweet, creamy and buttery texture of the rice paired perfectly with the strong “meaty” flavor from the liver (using foie gras would just overpower it!). Along with the sweet caramelized roasted beet along with just the right amount of “vinaigry” touch from the pickled beets. I could go on and on on how much time it took me to savor this plate. Needless to say, it was perfect in every way! Again, this might look a bit ugly…but hey…
The Third Course – Fehér Csoki (White Chocolate with Almond and Sour Cherry)
Well, it has to be time for the last course of the meal eventually yea? I’m quite sure I was already there for over two hours until I reached the last course. No, I’m not a slow-eater, the quality of food served was just too good to gulp down in haste. I, honestly, felt compelled to respect every bite!
So with a bit of confusion from deciding between the brioche option or the cottage cheese, I opted to go with the white chocolate. I’m not much of a dessert person unless I’m served tiramisu or a flan. However, this completely took me by surprise! The sour cherry sorbet was freshly made in-house, and was not icy at all! Just the right amount of cooling to keep its quenelle shape, and a generous dusting of crushed almond all over. The star of the plate was obviously the sponge-type of milk and white chocolate, topped with spirals of white chocolate, if i’m not mistaken. And obviously topped with more shards of white chocolate. Now I’ll give you this, nothing was icey at all! Everything felt like a cool ice cream sort of texture. Rich and flavorful, while everything complemented everything else in terms of flavor, the textures were in fact buttery, rich, creamy and smooth. Picture this if you will – a spoon out of a box of London Dairy’s Tiramisu ice cream, 10 minutes after it’s taken out of the freezer. Understand what I mean?
tanti surprised me that day. Keeping up to the ranks of its Michelin Star, I clearly saw why this restaurant was awarded one in the first place! Rich, wholesome food in an Urban, sort-of Modern seating with a comfortable vibe that’s reflected in the ambiance, the friendly staff as well as the food all at a very reasonable price! I don’t see why this shouldn’t be on you’re next ‘to-visit’ places, if you do happen to go to Budapest!
I was greeted by a beautiful sky on my exit out of this beautiful restaurant…
No, not that…this…And yes, it did rain minute after I got out…
You can find tanti by visiting their website on – http://www.tanti.hu/en/