As I wrote in my review last week of Kyoto, posting has been light as of late in part because of a general sense of “blahs” about the local dining scene I have recently been experiencing. Another reason is that I keep going back to the few places that do manage to get me excited. One of these is Wang Mester Konyhája (click on link for contact info, map and user ratings), which opened up earlier this year, and as of today is being elevated to the “Top 33,” the list we keep of (mostly higher-end) Budapest restaurants that we reckon offer the best dining experiences in town.
The restaurant was the subject of a long profile back in the summer by one of my colleagues, so I don’t need to give you the whole story about the place. Instead, I’ll just add some additional observations, and my rationale for putting it on The List.
Aside from the fact that I just can’t get enough Chinese food, what really cooks my noodle about this place is the wide variety of regional dishes proprietor Wang Qiang keeps the menu stuffed with, mostly from (I assume) the areas of Sichuan and Lanzhou in the west/northwest part of the country.
Here are a few of the yummies I have had on my recent visits, pictured top to bottom: cumin-flavored mutton (Ft 1,680/€6); sour cabbage and duck soup (Ft 1,980 for 4-6 people, or Ft 3,880 for 6-10); “Chaun dong” red cooked pork (basically stewed bacon with tasty “yard-long” beans, Ft 1,880); cuttlefish with pickled peppers; and calamari with celery (both 1,980). I can’t vouch for the regional origins of all these – I don’t reckon they have much squid out in western China – but it’s all very thrilling, as are the various dishes based on innards, if that is your thing. (One recent special, called “Old crock,” was advertised as being made from pork ear, chicken feet, duck gizzard and “etc.”; I can only imagine what the “etcetera” would be in a dish like this.)
As always, I can’t claim it is perfect. The service seems to be variable, with one friend reporting that he was unceremoniously exiled to the back patio in the cold even though not a single table inside was taken. More disturbingly, on my last visit I and my companion both got that distinctly unpleasant sensation usually associated with acute MSG-poisoning. (My guess is that if you make it clear that you really don’t want MSG, they will comply.) Finally, this kind of Chinese might not be for everyone.
But even taking these very serious reservations into account, I really think the place is a must-go for anyone interested in interesting Asian, and a legitimate addition to the T33, at least until something even more exciting comes along. Wang’s other Budapest restaurants – the bare-bones Lanzhou in District VIII and the more fancy Új Lanzhou across the river – are both good as well. But this one just seems to do a better job of beating back my current case of Budapest restaurant blahs. If you haven’t already, be sure to give it a try.