I don’t know why, but it’s the Middle Eastern restaurants in Budapest that seem to get it right — following the spectacular successes of Mazel Tov and Dobrumba, now TLV, which is also located in the old Jewish Quarter, managed to create the type of buzzy and approachably hip restuarant that's so easy to like. You know, with dim lighting, booming music, crammed tables, and a fashionable service staff. Unfortunately, I also have some serious warnings for you, but let's start with the positive: the open-fire grill.
Because the best things at TLV are the smoke-kissed dishes arriving straight from the charcoal grill. For example, the crunchy cauliflower (€8), first cooked tender then coated in splotches of char over fire. Also good, though undersized, are the spicy grilled vegetables (€4) — zucchini, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms — and the chicken thigh skewers (€6).
Now the bad news: The other foods are unremarkable at best, like the indistinct mezze plates and the bland malabi milk pudding. The wine menu is unusually slim and without the types of top Hungarian producers you'd expect to see in a place like this. I also find the musical selections weirdly out-of-style, featuring a motley assortment of completely tired and cliched songs (heavy on Beatles covers during the Tuesday-night live music sessions). Lastly, TLV is not cheap; portions are tiny, so expect to have to cough up around €30-40 per person for a couple of mezze, a dish from the grill, and one drink.