Budapest’s Urban Tiger is a new Asian eatery with speakeasy style


4/5/2016 3:56 PM

Tucked within downtown Pest between the National Museum and Váci Street, Egyetem Square has a unique spirit: because of the ELTE campus here (the square’s name means “university” in Hungarian), this charming District V plaza is surrounded by student-friendly pubs, franchise coffee shops, and street-food units. Fortunately, “slow” food and service isn’t absent either: a new place recently opened with Southeast Asian flavors and a professional bar. This is Urban Tiger, and its unique ambience of mysterious lights and retro style is so intriguing that we had to check it out.

After housing Közhely, Atelier, and Tip Top Bar, the retail space at Kecskeméti Street 3 became full of life quietly, modestly, and without huge fanfare at the beginning of March. Hotel Rum will open in this building during the first half of the year, but for now this locale already houses the sleek new Urban Tiger Asian bistro and bar. While this fledgling dining destination is more of an upscale setting than most found in this neighborhood, the area is eclectic enough that the newcomer blends in with its neighbors well, which is exactly why we like Egyetem Square and its surroundings.

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

The bar looks pleasant enough from the street, and as we step inside, we are greeted by a more elegant interior, reminiscent of a speakeasy. There’s something mysterious about it, with many copper surfaces, red velvet, and atmospheric lighting. The long bar counter resembles American taprooms of the ’20s , while the shapes and materials take inspiration from the ’70s. This style is not yet widespread in Budapest, featuring a strong Western influence and grandiose implementation, so it’s safe to say that the interior of Urban Tiger is quite innovative. There are many beloved elements, but the main emphasis is on the tiger. The owners had a healthy design budget, and stretched it as far as they could. The bar will cooperate closely with the hotel, as this will be the main location for breakfasts and evening cocktail nights alike.

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

The kitchen is almost completely open, and the Southeast Asian specialties are prepared under the leadership of chef András Berényi. He got close to Thai and Malaysian cuisine during his travels in London, in Spice Market, and through his own experiences. At Urban Tiger, the focus is on dining together: dishes are served immediately after they’re cooked, and the portions are small to focus more on providing flavor than on merely filling bellies.

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

It’s important to note that in addition to a well-defined kitchen, Urban Tiger also functions as a top-notch bar with a professional team and a wide assortment, including 30-50 types of hard liquor. They follow current trends and also adapt to the Asian line, using a lot of passion fruit, coconut, and spices. The cocktails go well with the dishes, but are great on their own, as well. For those who choose to drink cocktails instead of eating, we recommend either sitting at the bar counter or the elevated table by one of the windows.

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

The appetizers and main dishes are practically inseparable, and we recommend ordering a few dishes to share, in order to experience more flavors. An important feature of Urban Tiger is the lack of sweat-inducing, fire-spitting spiciness. Everything is subtly spiced, so diners don’t need to study the Scoville scale before ordering; the selection is spicy, but not overwhelmingly so.We received crispy petals with sesame and pickled cucumber and radish as appetizers, then assessed the selection, starting with the salads. The salmon tartare (2,790 HUF) arrived with avocado, ginger, and radish, while the miso tuna Caesar (3,190 HUF), which is tuna wrapped in baby romaine-lettuce leaves, was served with salmon caviar, crispy vegetables, quail egg, and a great dressing. It turned out to be one of our favorites, just like the crispy wonton (2,290 HUF), which were succulent dumplings stuffed with chicken and wood-ear mushrooms, and served with sweet chili sauce. We couldn’t miss out on the satay (2,290 HUF) either, with a characteristic, nutty sauce. The beef cheek and tongue curry with cashews and pineapple (2,290 HUF) was an exciting dish with particularly tender sous-vide meat, just like the pork ribs (990 HUF/pc) served in steamed buns, with Sriracha sauce and mustard leaves.

For dessert, we ate Asian panna cotta with passion fruit (990 HUF), and enjoyed it with thai tea (990 HUF) made with condensed milk – although we would have been glad to drink half a liter of it instead of a shot.

Urban Tiger will undergo some fine-tuning for a while longer – nevertheless, we enjoyed our time here, liked the food, and see serious potential in this new restaurant of Egyetem Square.

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