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MÁK bistro reopens, bringing back a little bit of Balaton to Budapest

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  • Jász Annamária

06/10/2020 12.51pm

A key player in Budapest’s contemporary gastro revolution, the MÁK Bistro set up a successful pop-up food truck by Lake Balaton for the summer. Now it’s autumn, this famed dining destination has returned to its downtown base with new recipes and culinary experiences to offer – even something involving lángos, the fried-dough snack usually sold at basic Hungarian food stalls.

When lockdown hit Budapest, the MÁK bistro packed up and created a huge summer sensation at lakeside Balatonakarattya. The location was no coincidence. Hungary’s favourite getaway lured in a number of Budapest businesses this summer, MÁK (‘Poppy’) settling in right next to the newly opened delicatessen of Hungarian celebrities Nóra Ördög and Pál Nánási.

Together, these two new locales established a real buzz, MÁK offering beach treats created with their own bistro kitchen approach. The tiny food truck might have given off the initial appearance of roadside street food, but it was anything but: exquisite new-wave catfish paprikás, lángos, egg noodles and more.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

The team’s Balaton excursion was only meant to last until the end of the summer, with the aim of going back to something approaching normal when autumn came. Their renowned restaurant on Vigyázó Ferenc utca reopened in September, with a revamped menu.

The pop-up menu at MÁK contains many the flavours of their summer adventure, so those who missed out get the chance to experience them. On our visit, our unconcealed ambition was to taste as many of their new items as possible.

Thanks to the modern kitchen equipment and technology found in the downtown bistro, the recipes have been refined somewhat since the summer: as a welcome snack, the cheesy lángos, a deep-fried dough devoured at lidos, is smaller, almost the size of a doughnut, and is topped off with sweet ramsons, all of which help to redefine and give a new twist to this classic Balaton delight.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

Due to supply issues, catfish was no longer to be found within the catfish paprikás. It was replaced with redfin perch, which has similar properties. After the confit process, it is stuffed into wonton noodles, and garnished with dill, yarrow (a kind of Transylvanian cheese) and fish sauce, as well as a crispy bell pepper-and-buckwheat combo to jazz it up. The flavour is familiar to the classic dish, complemented with exciting, unusual harmonies.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

MÁK Bistro’s floating island dessert, madártej, is also excellent, with a light and creamy poppy-vanilla custard and plum compote, which gained a lot of followers at Balaton as well as in Budapest. The dish that stole our hearts, though, was the egg noodles (tojásos nokedli) – seemingly quite simple, you have to unpack it like a matryoshka doll to find the good stuff. It contains two types of eggs: one confit in beef fat, one marinated in brown beer, while the middle is filled with soured baby lettuce to complete the experience.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

Their philosophy of serving classics in a modern form was quick to win the minds and hearts of locals, and the prices are also friendly for a fine-dining bistro of its kind. A few items from the Lake Balaton pop-up locale are included both on the à la carte and the four-course menu, but you can also try them within the framework of the lunch menu. Now, guests have a lot more freedom when it comes to combining their own meals, an important aspect when reopening the bistro.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

Only their signature dish comprised of carrots, lump-fish caviar and elderflower, as well as their unmissable mákos guba (a popular Hungarian poppy-seed bread-and-butter pudding) are still served from the old menu. Chef János Mizsei has invented new and unique courses for the reopened locale, although he admitted to being nervous about coming back – he barely visited Budapest during the summer, and didn’t know what to expect from the autumn period.

Photo: Szabó Gábor - We Love Budapest

While the going’s good, we encourage you to visit MÁK at least for one quality lunch: the two-course menu costs 3,900 forints, the three-course one 4,500 forints. Celebrated Balaton delights await.

MÁK Bistro
District V. Vigyázó Ferenc utca 4
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Open: Tue-Sat noon-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm

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