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From Russia with love – Pelmenyiző No.1 opens in Budapest

What are pelmeni? What many think of as Russian ravioli, these stuffed pasta pockets are found in many forms around the former Soviet Union, but actually originate from Siberia. Like Hungarians, their roots are Finno-Ugric, natives boiling up pots of these dumplings long before the Slavs came and appropriated their cuisine. Now, thanks to one globe-trotting entrepreneur, they’re making an appearance in Budapest – right on Nagymező utca.

László D Kelemen is a kind of quarantine entrepreneur. Before Covid, he toured the world, living in Russia, Malta and London as a chef and gastronomic consultant, but he was also behind the 1000 JótEvő restaurant, where the Russian customer base could become acquainted with Hungarian cuisine, and domestic diners enjoy Slavic gastronomy.

This is particularly close to his heart, inspiring his work as a chef and expanding his knowledge of kitchen tradition.

Before last year’s quarantine, he said he was after a small bistro or street-food spot, with only one or two people were responsible for everything. In addition, the pelmeni – herein referred to as dumplings for simplicity’s sake – should be Magyarised to suit local preferences. The plan was ready. Then came spring 2020.

László didn't despair. He started making dumplings for his friends, at home, for entertainment. Then he created a Facebook page, Pelmenyi Király, ‘King Pelmeni’, where you could order. They became so popular that they soon sold out before the day had really begun.

With success all but assured, László looked for a place to produce dumplings in really large batches. We’re not talking full mechanisation – both the stuffing and the dough are made locally. Stretching the dough isn’t done by hand, that's all. Where the finished product was delivered to your home frozen, in packages, from now on you can also pick up a portion while you’re out, from Pelmenyiző No.1 on Nagymező utca.

The number correlates with László’s determination to bring a little variety to the fast-food hegemony of ​​burgers, kebabs and pizza slices. The genre should work, since this Siberian speciality is a rarity in these parts. This first franchise is being overseen by Ádám Hegedűs and Róbert Szűcs, both with catering experience.

Pelmenyiző No.1 is a small room where a maximum of three or four diners can sit at any one time in post-Covid times. There’s no coffee, no extras – the focus is on providing the maximum at relatively friendly prices over a range of products – and it works. 

In addition to the dumplings, you find three types of soup on the menu, one borscht (990 HUF), and two enriched with dumplings (690/790 HUF), as well as three types of derelye, Hungarian pierogies. These are more akin to Russian vareniki, with cottage cheese-and-peach (590 HUF), cherry-and-poppy (690 HUF) and plum (590 HUF) fillings.

The pierogi themselves are made with sour cream and powdered sugar, slightly lighter than the traditional version.

Pride of place still goes to the pelmeni: six varieties, tasty and reasonably authentic, if not as vinegary as if you asked for the same in a St Petersburg pelmenya. You can ask for small or large portions of 400g of dumplings, so bring an appetite, and you can vary the fillings. The Siberian dumplings come in a three-meat version (1,290/1,890 HUF), with chicken, pork and beef. 

László reckons they're pretty authentic, you won’t find the bear version, popular in Siberia, on Nagymező utca. But you can also choose chicken (990/1,590 HUF), pork (1,190/1,790 HUF), beef (1,890/2,790 HUF), fish (1,690/2,390 HUF) and mushroom (1,490/2,090 HUF).

The recipes are not over-complicated. In addition to the filling, slightly sweet steamed onions, salt and pepper are hidden in the dumplings, and served with butter sauce, vinegar, sour cream and dill. Those more au fait with dumplings could add a little vinegar. Always cooked fresh, they arrive steaming in butter and sour cream, keeping their shape and flavour nicely.

Pelmenyiző No.1
District VI. Nagymező utca 36
Current opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-7pm 


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