One would be hard-press to believe that in the first half of the 20th century the streets of District 7, today the party central of Budapest, were swarming with Jewish people. Macesz Bistro, a Jewish-Hungarian fusion restaurant, pays homage to the neighborhood’s history (the edifice across the street is still home to the Hungarian Orthodox Jewish Community). The menu at Macesz Bistro includes most Hungarian-Ashkenazi Jewish staples alongside classic Hungarian food offerings (in Hungarian macesz means matzo). The culinary highlight and the most economical choice in this slightly overpriced bistro is the “Jewish Traditional” tasting menu for HUF7,990 or €27 (€40 with wine pairing).
The bread basket arrives with three types of bread including slices of challah sprinkled with poppy seeds, and matzo. The egg salad starter is underwhelming both in terms of taste and portion, but the obligatory matzo ball inside a rich goose stock and accompanied by pieces of beef shank, carrots, and parsnip is excellent (annoyingly, they serve only a quarter of a matzo ball). Next comes the helzel, which is goose intestines stuffed inside the bird’s neck skin. It’s tastier and prettier than it sounds and comes with pearl barley. The main attraction of the tasting menu is the famous cholent, the Shabbat lunch staple. Even if it’s a toned-down version without the standard beef toppings, the flavors are distinct and wonderful. The final serving is flódni, a Hungarian-Ashkenazi layered pastry with walnut, poppy seeds, apple, and plum jam. The standout dish outside of the tasting menu is the “Ludaskása”, which is a goose leg confit with a side of schmaltz-rich risotto, pan-roasted foie gras, and pieces of duck gizzard.
All in all, Macesz Bistro is an outstanding restaurant with a skilled chef, but due to its tourist-heavy location and unusually high prices, it lacks exactly the local atmosphere it’s trying to project (being featured in Lonely Planet may help business but it tends to spoil the ambiance).