Located on a serene side street surrounded by grand residential homes in Budapest’s Palace Quarter, Fülemüle feels a world away from the boisterous party town that its neighbor, District 7, has become. There are things to like about Fülemüle, most of all the snug place and offbeat location of this family-run restaurant founded in 2000 and specialized in Hungarian-Jewish cuisine. The cholent, this knockout of a Shabbat dish is advertized as the specialty of the house. If it wasn't for the stuffed goose neck (helzel) perching atop the slow-cooked beans and pearl barley, it wouldn't leave much of an impression. The cholent comes in a variety of permutations, some with goose leg, others with foie gras, and fiery chili heat, but the classic version is the one to go for. Beware, portions are huge.
The other standout is the matzo ball soup. At Fülemüle matzo crumble, ground ginger, and goose fat give the matzo balls a solid texture and a distinctly punchy flavor (the soup has earned raves from the New York Times too). The “Jewish eggs” salad is a bit too heavy on goose fat, but when spread on the toasted bread and topped with red onions it becomes a fine appetizer. For dessert, the signature of the house is a fried matzo cake filled with walnut spread beneath a glaze of biscuit crumbs and rum-infused hot chocolate. That’s right.
It’s not entirely clear whether the ‘90s post-communist furnishing is a tourist bait to create some lingering nostalgia, or the owners just prioritize the kitchen over interior design. Whatever the answer may be, expect an eclectic style with PVC wall paneling, swarms of family and celebrity photos on the walls, a glass cabinet with ornate seder plates, and oversized “free wifi” signs. The diners comprise a cross section of middle class (Jewish) locals mixed with tourists who found Fülemüle in Lonely Planet’s Budapest guide.