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May 25, 2008 01:09 PM

Prague and Budapest

Will be in both cities in July and looking for a few good restaurants in each city - beautiful ambiance - good food - maybe ethnic - maybe off the beaten path - not too touristy and not too expensive - thanks hounds!

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  1. Try Café Kör --- Hungarian/French.

    Margitkert for traditional Hungarian food with gypsy music.

    See this comment of mine here:

    Good resource here:

    1. Vlad's post cited in his reply above is much on point, as are several of mine (search on farago within Chowhound); our tastes diverge a bit, but by and large we seem to be working off more or less the same stomach. Search on 'zaelic' as well for some older but very helpful posts...

      In Budapest, Segal and Cafe Bouchon top my list, both not far from the Opera House (Segal on O utca near the ring road; Bouchon on Zichy Jeno, off Nagymezo). The former is more upmarket, more daring, fusion food and modern decor (the chef, Viktor Segal, is the driving force behind the Budapest food renaissance). Bouchon is more bistro, cozy, romantic, lots of locals, the vision of its owner Alajos Tisza from the food to the light fixtures and mirrors he designed and the antique breakfront he had converted into a cooler. Staff started their careers at the Cafe Kor, I believe, and there's a good bit of similarity between the two, but the welcome is warmer, the food more nuanced, and the meal less rushed at Bouchon in my view. The various recommendations at:

      are current and hit some of your other criteria (

      5 Replies
      1. re: farago

        I posted on prague in another post, and basically I wasn't very impressed.

        In Budapest now, and very surprised at the quality. Ate at csalogany 26 and it was excellent in service and food. Food was inventive without being crazy. Foie gras was perfect. Duck nearly perfect, and trout excellent. Salmon ok, and the turbot standard. Cold soup was excellent. Chef clearly applying advanced techniques like sous vide to complete the foie gras. There is simply no other way for them to make a duck liver so evently cooked without it.

        Service wonderful, and suggested wine pairings were very good.

        Check for reviews. Seems like good service, especially when coupled to

        Looking to go to cafe Kor.

        1. re: willtrymostthings

          Cafe Kor turned out to be highly disappointing. Food was mediocire at best. Service rushed. Had to turn the goose liver special back, too tough. steamed veal was "tough" and barefly edible. Duck breast overcooked. Salads turned out well.

          1. re: willtrymostthings

            With Budapest, recommendations should always come with the following qualification: Even at the best restaurants, they have some problems with consistent service and food prep.

            Cafe Kor may be over-recommended and always seems to be full, which may lead to some slippage from its current status as a "no-fail" restaurant.

            You may want to try Klassz.

            1. re: willtrymostthings

              Ugh! Sorry to hear that.

              As aeroflotanc notes ---- Bp. restaurants definitely have issues with consistency.

              1. re: willtrymostthings

                Hate to say it, but you heard it here first...Cafe Kor is a mixed bag at best. Service can be distant and unavailing even for locals/regulars, though other times it can be warm. Hi or miss. The food is usually a solid intro to Hungarian cuisine with some more modern fillips, but it too can slip and is never inspired. On a good day, without a crowd, it can be a very pleasant meal in a very central neighborhood, but that's about a one in four shot. More often the feel (mostly from the guests but partly from the place) is of genteel tourbus (the sort that accommodates about 25 upscale tourists on a university-sponsored trip that features lectures by doddering professors and struggling PhD candidates).

                Cafe Bouchon, on the other hand, to my tastes continues to nail what Cafe Kor once captured: a central European bistro with distinctively Hungarian accent and comforting, somewhat parental, service...kind of like Rick's Place in the film Casablanca. The owner's presence and authority suffuses the place, and the food is far more consistently satisfying. One never feels rushed and one seldom feels unattended to. While I have long since lost my objectivity about the place and am treated more or less as a regular, we rent apartments out to tourists and recommend Bouchon regularly, and many of our guests wind up giving it a try. I debrief them to see whether it's losing its edge, and thus far at least the returns have been almost 100% positive (one guest had a disappointing meal during a week when I have to admit I did as well).

          2. Am in Budapest now and ate at 2 great places recommended by our B&B owner. First one is Menza. It is located not too far from the opera house. Great food with outdoor seating. I had traditional Hungarian fried bread stuffed with chicken and others in the group had steak/eggs/green beans combo, salads, Hungarian soups.

            Second place is Tom George. This is a located close to the Bascillica. To date this has been the best meal of our trip. We started with sushi which I wouldn't think would be very good in Hungary and it was great. Meals included mint lamb kebab, curries, chicken tikki masala and Argentinia steak.

            1. In Budapest, we ate two meals in the Castle district, near our hotel. The first was Cafe Pierrot, possibly the best meal of our entire trip to Central Europe. Not cheap, but sublime food, essentially lighter versions of traditional dishes. The second meal was at Cafe Rivalda, again a restaurant serving a lighter version of traditional food.

              Duck is usually a reliable choice in either of the two cities you'll be visiting.

              In Prague, after a ghastly experience at Kolkova, we were very leery of traditional Czech food. The word "ghastly" is a bit misleading. The service was appalling and the "roast" leg of lamb -- one of the waitress' two recommendations for traditional food -- was pot roasted with a wet, mushy mouth feel. In contrast, the roast duck was among the best ducks we ate on the trip. My husband wasn't bothered by the texture of the lamb so I gave him most of my dish and I ate the breast from his lovely duck. Leaden dumplings and service issues were serious enough to put a meal with stellar duck into the extreme negative column.

              Later in the visit, we dared to eat traditional food again -- at Tre Solti (not sure of the spelling without looking at the business card) located in the Lesser Quarter. The duck was lovely, the dumplings significantly less leaden -- although far from light -- and the red and white cabbage sides were better than those at Kolkova. Incidentally, we ordered the Jewish duck which we learned meant breast only with a garlic sauce but requested the cabbage sides from the regular roast duck.

              Otherwise, we ate Belgian (Les Moules), French (La Provence), and Italian (Ambiente). The mussels at Les Moules were staggeringly delicious. Huge portion; I joked that I developed carpal tunnel syndrome from opening so many mussels. Classic French bistro food at La Provence, but definitely on the expensive side. Exquisite house-made pasta at Ambiente. Great grillled calamari, too. We had that dish twice in two separate visits.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Indy 67

                I enthusiastically second the recs for Cafe Pierrot and Cafe Rivalda. I would also add Aranyszarvas, which is at the foot of the Castle hill, and serves a wide variety of game dishes. The decor is a bit dull, but the food makes it worth a visit.

                1. re: rrems

                  In Prague, a little out of the way but a place called Zlaty Klas-they brew their own beer and have traditional food, (meat meat and more meat) in very large and delicious portions.

                2. re: Indy 67

                  Correction to my recommendation in the Lesser Quarter in Prague: The name of the restaurant is Tri Stoleti. Address: Misenska 4.

                  Incidentally, our meal at Tri Stoleti belies the generalization about running away from a restaurant that prints its menu in every possible language. The menu board outside and the menu inside is printed in seven languages: Czech, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian. Had friends of our not recommended this restaurant, we would never have tried it based on the menu generalization. At least there was no tout outside the restaurant!!

                  Clarification to my recommendation for Ambiente in Old Town in Prague: When you enter the restaurant, you'll see a rather non-descript long narrow area with some cafe tables. At the end of this hall way, you'll see a sign with the word "ristorante" pointing down. Follow the instructions and persevere to get to the ristorante. That means going down two rather long flights of stairs and a couple of short additional flights. That further means passing through a section of the trip that is hot enough to make you think you've stumbled into the boiler room of the building. All I can say is keep going in spite of your skepticism.

                  The ristorante is a lovely place with heavily stuccoed walls, contemporary furniture, and wine bottles in racks on the walls. There is a separate non-smoking room. (Of course, in the way of many non-smoking situations in Europe, you'll have to pass through the entire smoking room to reach the non-smoking room.)

                  FWIW, no one was eating at the cafe tables during the late lunch we ate at Ambiente. Several of these tables were filled at the end of our dinner there. I don't know if the menu at this cafe section is the same as that of the ristorante, nor do I know anything about the prices.

                  The pasta dishes and antipasti choices were Ambiente's strong suite. For dinner, we split the calamari antipasti and the tortelloni with butter and sage. Then, my husband ate costaletta fiorentina, an entrecote cut of beef treated in the traditional Florentine way. I ate the salmon wrapped in pancetta. Mine was quite nice -- better than my husband's -- we both agreed that the antipasto and pasta courses in our lunch and dinner were better than our mains. Folks on a budget could avoid any of the meat main courses and stick to pasta. In fact, our late lunch consisted of those two courses. (We were planning on skipping dinner so we could make an early curtain at the National Theater.) My husband had lovely tomato bruschetta and a fantastic veal-ragout filled canelloni. I had the grilled calamari and tagliatelle with Prague ham and fresh asparagus. All delicious.

                  Ambiente's address: Celetna 11
                  Reservations essential at dinner!!

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Just returned from budapest and had several really good meals. As noted by several others, Cafe Bouchon was excellent. Another place with modern, minamilist interiors and excellent food and service is Fausto's Osteria, Dohany U. #5. A very nice, upscale italian menu and wine list at quite reasonable prices. The third "find" was Indigo Indian Restaurant, located at Jokai U. #13. Reasonable prices for both food and wine, very nice service and a great break from Hungarian food.

                3. 'Ive eaten at cafe Kor several times over the last couple of years when I'm in town..... The service has ALWAYS been great and the food amazing.. The pate de fois gras and steak Rossini are beautiful as is the Hungarian sponge cake desert.. Excellent wine list as well... Sad to hear that some folks have had a bad meal... Skip the lunch rush and ,make you reservation for 1:00 p.m..
                  The fois sushi at Tom Geroge is to die for!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: krakshebab

                    I'll say it again: Cafe Kor serves a decent meal but the service varies from excellent to exceedingly rude, unpleasant, and you-can't-get-there-from-here; the food is no better than at many places, including several nearby; the meal is always rushed and crowded and almost no Hungarians eat there. The food is good enough still to consider it, but it is very far down on my list of detination restaurants or chowhoundish venbues in Budapest (see

                    It is, in short, a very good tourist restaurant and no more and no better than that.