The term “modern Hungarian food” has been thrown around haphazardly over the last few years in Budapest. It’s a catch-all phrase that too many restaurants relegate to an excuse for charging higher prices. At its best, however, it’s a delicious coming-together of traditional recipes, local ingredients, visual dishes, and a nod to the 21st century. Thankfully, this is the case at Paletta, a restaurant in Budapest’s District 9, a bit outside the city center.
Let me give you a couple of examples. The catfish soup (€6), a local staple, is made with a nutty coconut milk, rather than the traditional paprika-laced broth. The oxtail stew (€11) comes paired with a creamy mac 'n' cheese, infused with local cheese. If you harbor a purist’s attachment to classics you may wince, but both of these plates were very tasty.
Paletta sources its freshwater fish from fish farms near Lake Balaton (commercial fishing in the lake was banned in 2013). In fact, the restaurant’s objective is to bring produce from the Balaton region - especially its under-the-radar meats, fish, cheese, and wine - to the attention of serious (and finicky) Budapest eaters.
Most of the wines on the menu come from the Bezerics family’s vineyard in Western Hungary, which isn’t surprising as they’re the owner of Paletta (bottles are available for purchase, too). Note that at lunchtime, only a two- or three-course pre-fixe is offered from a shorter menu (€6 / €7).