Elegance, sophistication, and playfulness - these are the best words we can pick to summarize the culinary experiences we gained at the newly reopened Babel Delicate the other day. After a three-year break, this innovative restaurant again awaits lovers of fine dining in a new location.
It is easy to spot Babel's black portal contrasting against the light facade of Piarista Passage. As we step inside through the glass door, we are welcomed by a sleekly beautiful interior: exposed brick walls, natural wood surfaces, Tom Dixon chairs. The interior is the brainchild of the owner, Hubert
Hlatky-Schlichter. Except for the chairs and the silver cutlery, everything is the work of Hungarian designers and craftsmen; our favorites are the dark and light purple custom-designed crystal glasses from Ajka, and the Hollóházi porcelain plates.
As the management proudly proclaims, Babel is a restaurant offering cuisine of the Hungarian region, with its kitchen led by executive chef György Lőrincz. Its gastronomy is inspired by the flavors and dishes from the cultural territory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
While the old Babel mainly featured more degustation menus, the new concept is more á la carte, mainly so that guests could come back multiple times and try the different dishes of the seasonal menu. The restaurant also has a tasting menu with a matching wine list, but we can also try the menu with cheeses. The 130 available wines mainly includes Hungarian selections, but we can find some Austrian nectars; the Champagne selection is worthwhile as well.
First we received fresh homemade breads: we can choose between slices infused with seeds, sun-dried tomato, and beer, as well as crisp little salty crescents with homemade butter in a black basalt bowl. Soon we are given an amuse-bouche from the kitchen named "Babel Bloody Mary": it's a vodka-filled hard candy on a silver teaspoon, which is doused with some raspberry-tomato essence arriving in a small jar. The next unexpected delight is cucumber-wasabi concasse with zander ice cream, mint powder, and grapefruit – a real treat for those who like fish, and a forgettable nibble for those who do not. However, the following peach compote with goat-cheese mousse and lime is guaranteed to awaken and refresh our taste buds.
As for appetizers, our favorite was the green pea panna cotta with cod caviar: its beautifully lush green colors reminded us of fresh summer days. The pressed pig snout with jam and homemade pickles was a slightly more serious, manly dish.
From the soups, we chose a light and fresh soup made with green apple and turnip. On the plate we found small green apple cubes, cucumber balls, pepper, and – best of all – tapioca, which made this soup an instant favorite of ours. From the warm appetizers, the pigeon breast with sweet potatoes and forest mushrooms is really beautiful, a true Babel dish.
Before the main course, we received a surprise of mint-Unicum sorbet; we did not really like this treat, but it probably belongs to a more subjective genre. However, the main dishes were fantastic – we just loved the St. James clam with blood pudding and sour marrow sauce. The latter might sound absurd at first, but its taste and texture is divine.
The pre-dessert was pale pink melon with candied celery pieces and habanero pepper – not only nice and fresh, but salty and sweet at the same time. The hardest task was deciding which dessert is the best. We loved the classic Rigó Jancsi, which was excellent at last year's Gourmet Festival as well, but the Rákóczi túrós was beyond delicious too, not to mention the dessert made with raspberry and white chocolate. As a farewell, we receive a small cart of a petit four selection, and we can choose from colorful macarons, bonbons, and homemade chocolates.