In 2010, Costes was the first restaurant in Hungary to receive a Michelin star, and despite the fact that Budapest currently has four Michelin-starred restaurants, there remains a special cachet to Costes. It's also the most expensive of the city's fine dining establishments, meaning that few locals can afford to dine here, leaving most tables to well-heeled tourists - on some nights, there isn’t a single Hungarian patron in sight.
The food? Head chef Eszter Palágyi applies contemporary French cooking techniques to premium, locally-sourced ingredients and turns them into visually pleasing, delectable fine dining dishes. Traditional Hungarian foods are reduced to playful amuse bouches: as part of the tasting menu, guests are introduced to mini versions of the goulash soup, lángos, and Túró Rudi. Dessert arrives inside an oversized Rubik’s cube, as an homage to this Hungarian invention.
The appetizers and main dishes are delightful - if more Hungarians knew that pike perch could be this tender and flavorful, they'd be eating more of it. The foie gras is creamy and tasty. I'd be hard-pressed, however, to call out any of the plates as truly spectacular. That is, until the desserts arrive. They're unconventional and thought-provoking (Palágyi started as pastry-chef). Take for example “Bling,” a lemon cream coated in a round, thin, transparent sugar glaze and sealed by a grey, sculpted sponge cake. It looks so much like a light bulb, including screw threads and electrical foot contact, that patrons need servers’ encouragement to crack open the “glass.”
The 6-course seasonal tasting menu runs €120 per person (€185 with wine pairing). The service staff, similar to other fine dining restaurants in Budapest, is friendly and informed. Note that Costes is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.