Balázs Pethő, the executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant, was one of the chefs who pioneered Hungary's contemporary food revolution. A whole crop of younger cooks, many of them established head chefs now, learned the ins and outs of haute cuisine under Pethő's tutelage at a time when comically backward, communist-era kitchen practices reigned supreme. Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in his eight-course dinner tasting menu at Csalogány 26.
Csalogány eschews fancy imported meats and fish used by other high-end Budapest restaurants, instead extracting the most of more reasonably-priced ingredients and pairing them with seasonal vegetables and light sauces. On any day, dishes can include a suckling pig terrine paired with crunchy vegetables, minced guinea fowl with squash puree, gilt-head bream with peas, or crispy and tender roasted chicken thighs. The dessert are inventive and delicious. Csalogány 26's eight-course tasting menu for €50, or €75 with wine pairing, is among the best deals to be had in Budapest for discerning diners. The restaurant also serves a wallet-friendly three-course lunch prix fixe on weekdays for €8.
Csalogány, which is located in an unremarkable Buda neighborhood, isn't furnished from the latest interior design catalogues like some other fine dining venues on the Pest side. But there's something endearing about the relatively simple interior: perhaps it's their way of saying that food takes center stage here. In fact, the restaurant's two long-time waiters are among the most knowledgeable and professional in Budapest - patrons are in good in hands.