2012: new restaurants keep opening up in Budapest, from burger places to fine dining restaurants and sourdough bakeries. During this hectic period, a restaurant opens on the corner of Dob Street and Kazinczy Street. Cosy since the first day, it has seen a lot in 10 years. Now it's back with new energy and lots of ideas, but also a strong sense of tradition.
Walking the streets of Paris or Rome, it's easy to stumble across restaurants that are more than a hundred years old and gastronomic businesses that span generations. In Budapest it's not so easy, unfortunately, besides some more prestigious restaurants, there is a high turnover, so it's a pleasure to see a place and an idea that has successfully stood the test of time for 10-20 years. Macesz Bistro will celebrate its tenth anniversary this December. In ten years, it has seen the transformation of Dob and Kazinczy Streets, and the rise of party tourism, but it has always been a stable point for the fans of Hungarian-Jewish cuisine and those who long for a nostalgic, but not a bit outdated atmosphere, with the all-time favorite duck consommé & matzo ball, cholent, flódni, and just enough retouching that never stole the originality.
With a slight detour, Ákos Tasnádi has almost always been in charge of the kitchen for the home-style, yet generous dishes, and he still is. With a great routine, knowledge of the area and foreign guests' needs, and relentless love for Hungarian-Jewish cuisine, he manages the kitchen team and shapes the menu which has turned quite seasonal lately.
„Things have really changed a lot in these 10 years, but I'm at home here in Macesz, there's no doubt about it. When I was called back, I don't think there was any question in my mind that it would be nice to cook here again, in this not-so-big but very practical kitchen. Of course, we must keep up with the trends and the current demands, but we would never lose our original mission to offer home-style Hungarian-Jewish food, we just apply the best kitchen technologies and small changes. We also strive to be as seasonal as possible, as well as to use local ingredients. This autumn, there are more mushrooms, venison, and root vegetables. We never abandon our favourites, and why should we? They're popular, they're loved, and we love them, too,” says Ákos.
We arrived for lunch at Macesz Bistro, which is somewhere between turn-of-the-century Budapest and a French brasserie. It's nice to see no forced-funny neon signs or accessories tuned to the latest trends, as I sometimes miss that kind of atmosphere.
Besides the carefully choreographed starter-soup-main dish-dessert line, they also have a grill section, which means that the meat/fish/cheese you fancy is grilled and you can order a side dish or salad, which we left to the imagination of the house. This grilling is quite democratic, but who would skip the roast lamb? Right. A season's addition is the tasting menu, which means that an all-star menu is prepared in advance, with meat and vegetarian options, and you can also ask for wines to go with it. But back to our lunch!
The traditional, home-style duck consommé with matzo ball is warming and hearty. The duck liver pâté with marinated apples might as well be an ordinary starter, but the apples and lime simply burst with freshness and make the dish special. Served with sourdough bread and kalach, we of course preferred to spread the pâté on the soft, flaky, challah-like kalach and pile the apples on top.
Although the 'macanya', a vegetarian lasagne with matzo was also tempting, we opted for the even more substantial main courses, for example, the duck breast with cabbage strudel and orange jus. It's a very good idea to wrap the classic, well-peppered braised cabbage in the thin, crunchy strudel, which makes it almost not a side dish, but the star on the plate. We also tried the roast lamb with spicy tomato bulgur, creamy labneh, and spinach. This was not a heavy dish either, the lamb was great: crumbly, yet succulent.
“Ludaskása” (duck and goose liver with vegetable risotto), cholent, Wiener Schnitzel with parsley potatoes, and beef stew with red wine and buttered noodles are also available at Macesz, and it's these dishes that make it the perfect venue for family birthdays and anniversaries. There's no one who can't find their comfort food, be it the grilled T-bone steak or the venison with roasted matzo ball.
And, of course, the Somló-style sponge cake.
A dessert, made by Ákos and his team, exactly the way we've always wanted it: with three types of sponge cake (plain, cocoa, walnut), boiled vanilla syrup, smooth bittersweet chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and... raisins. Or not. Your choice, you can skip it if you want. You wouldn't even think, but it's a highly controversial issue: it's just as existentially debatable as túrós csusza (cottage cheese dumplings) with or without sugar/salt and bacon crisp. Fans of Somlói, you can get your liebling without raisins here! Next time, we'll have to order a Kaiserschmarrn with jam and fruit. Not often served in restaurants, but it's a lovely delicacy.
So, there you have it, Macesz Bistro is still a fair place to go for a date, a family lunch, or pre-theatre drinks and supper.