In the early aughts, Balázs Pethő, the executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant, was a pioneer in improving Hungarian restaurant food. A whole crop of younger cooks, many of them established head chefs now, learned under Pethő's tutelage at a time when comically backward, communist-era practices reigned supreme in Budapest kitchens.
Csalogány, located on the ground floor of a Buda residential building, is a modern Hungarian restaurant but it isn't furnished from the latest design catalogues. Here, the food takes center stage here. Instead of using pricey meats and fish, Csalogány extracts rich flavors from more reasonably-priced ingredients and pairs them with seasonal vegetables and light sauces. On any day, a suckling pig terrine, guinea fowl with squash puree, gilt-head bream with peas, or crispy and tender chicken thighs might be on the menu. Desserts are inventive and delicious.
Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in the five-course dinner tasting menu, which at €50 (or €70 with wine pairing) is one of the best deals in Budapest for discerning diners. There's also a wallet-friendly three-course weekday lunch prix fixe for €12. The restaurant's two longtime waiters are among the most knowledgeable in Budapest — you will be in good in hands.