Könyvbár is an upscale restaurant in Budapest's Jewish Quarter. Head chef Zoltán Decreceni, who joined in 2019, brings a Michelin experience to this snug, book-lined space, which has become a tourist favorite following praise from the New York Times. The food here doesn't easily fit into any mold: there's a goulash soup and a (vegetarian) stuffed cabbage, both Hungarian classics, but the slim menu, which changes seasonally, also features a risotto with scallops, foie gras, and an avocado salad.
What unite these beautifully plated dishes is Mr. Debreceni's skills, which shine through brightly. Take the fogas, once Hungary's prized fish, arriving on a bed of cauliflower and ringed by crunchy and colorful slices of the vegetable. Or the "marha," which riffs on the carrot and mustard-laden vadasmarha sauce, presenting its components individually in a plate of stewed and grilled cubes of tender brisket.
The wine list includes a curated selection of top Hungarian and regional (Austrian, Slovenian) wines alongside a couple of natural wine producers. The thematic concept of the restaurant — picking a popular book and using its plot as inspiration for the dishes — falls flat for me, but this could be because I'm one of those people who still haven't read Harry Potter. The servers tend to nudge patrons toward the five-course tasting menu, which, for €55 or €85 with the wine pairing, is among the best deals in Budapest, but an a la carte option is also available with mains in the €15-20 range.