In the early aughts, chef Balázs Pethő was one of the people who pioneered Hungary's food revolution at a time when comically backward communist-era practices still reigned supreme in many Budapest kitchens. A whole crop of younger cooks, many of them established head chefs now, cut their teeth under Pethő's tutelage. The family-owned Csalogány 26 is Pethő's long-standing fine dining restaurant, located on the ground floor of a Buda residential building near the Danube.
Unlike comparable establishments, Csalogány isn't furnished from the latest design catalogues; here only the food takes center stage here. Instead of using the priciest proteins, the dishes are a study in how to extract rich flavors from reasonably priced meats and fish, pairing them with seasonal vegetables and light sauces. On any day, there might be a suckling pig terrine, a guinea fowl with squash puree, a gilt-head bream with peas, or tender and crispy chicken thighs 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 competent in Budapest — you'll be in good in hands.