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Ever toasted with pálinka and tucked into chicken paprikash in a Hungarian home? Hungry for Hungary offers this experience.
We've got you covered with the go-to spots to ease those post-night-out munchies.
If you've been wondering what Budapest looks like from the 28th floor, wonder no more! Instead, book a table at VIRTU Restaurant! Nestled atop the Mol Campus, Budapest's latest culinary gem promises not just a dining experience but a visual feast. The panoramic view, stretching from Nagytétény to János Hill, surpasses even the most renowned rooftop bars. Whether under the slightly grey slushy skies or in optimal visibility, especially at night, the cityscape is captivating. And while the breathtaking view alone would make it a hotspot, VIRTU goes beyond the unparalleled location: the efforts of the VIRTU team ensure that the food is as unforgettable as the scenery.
Finally, VIRTU has one more room, a spacious area with a show kitchen overlooking South Buda and Csepel Island, which is intended for returning regulars and aims to provide a high level of service, similar to English members' clubs.
VIRTU's kitchen is led by 26-year-old Levente Lendvai, who has transferred from Arany Kaviár Restaurant with a focus on Hungarian and regional cuisine. If you think it's your average Hungarian bistro restaurant, you'd be wrong: it was very important for Levente to present regional cuisine without the 20 or so hackneyed dishes common in Hungarian bistros. Looking for the goulash soup and the chicken paprikash would be a waste of time, but they feature Tafelspitz broth with bone marrow, Palóc-style goulash (similar to goulash soup but made with pork), vadas (spicy pork traditionally served with spaghetti), or stuffed dagadó (pork belly).
At VIRTU, the conventional dining experience is challenged. They embody the spirit of a fine bistro by taking the service to a higher level. So instead of a fine dining place, they are a bistro with the service, the concept, and the environment being at a fine dining level.
It was not easy to choose from the tempting à la carte menu. Most of the people who have grown up in the region have some childhood memories of most of the dishes, so it is difficult to decide between vargabéles (a sweet curd-based dessert made with vermicelli) or pancakes, Fishermen's soup or Wiener schnitzel. As an amuse bouche, we are immediately treated to several small regional tastings: a korhelyleves essence representing the ubiquitous cabbage soup of the region, and a cabbage scone, which, according to legend, writers Gyula Krúdy and Sándor Bródy had on Margaret Island.
And speaking of Krúdy, we had to taste the Tafelspitz broth bearing his name. This dish originates from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but there are very few places that make it. The hot, flavoursome beef broth for two comes with cooked pork and soft beef tongue, semolina dumplings, parsley roots, carrots, green peas and leeks, and is accompanied by a wonderful marrow bone with a tender centre – this as hot as a summer day, with toast and raw garlic. It is served with creamed spinach, horseradish beetroot, mustard, fondant potatoes with Jerusalem artichokes, and two kinds of hot peppers if you want to spice it up. The whole act is perfect, from the first spoonful of soup to the last bite of horseradish beef tongue; what can we say, probably even Krúdy would be very pleased.
For the main course, we couldn't resist trying the dagadó – a dish so familiar from Hungarian grandmothers' kitchens and old country feasts that we had to try it 120 metres up. The chef's father was a butcher, so using every part of an animal comes naturally to him. And this home-style roast, which peaked between the two wars, would have been a crime to leave off the menu of a restaurant specialising in regional cuisine. The perfect, crumbly dagadó comes with silky mashed potatoes and a fresh vinegar salad, and for all its bulkiness, it blends in like Eliza Doolittle at the embassy ball.
For dessert, go for a modern take on one of Vienna's iconic cakes: the VIRTU Sachertorte (chocolate cake). It comes in a smaller cup and is a pretty impressive dish despite its size, thanks to the fact that they spared no expense on chocolate and apricots.
VIRTU's bold traditionalism, innovative ideas, and professional craftsmanship would make it worth a visit even if it did not offer one of the city's most beautiful panoramas – but it's highly recommended as part of a holiday, a special day or well-deserved celebration.
(Cover photo: VIRTU Restaurant)