CHEZ DANIEL - UPS AND DOWNS - LIKE A MARRIAGE REALLY


Valentine's Day dinners have embedded themselves slowly into the Budapest dining scene with scores of fancy restaurants offering 3-5-7 course menus for those madly in love. I took a thorough look at what was being offered and where and made my choice based on the creativity of the menu and value for money.

I was immediately taken with the His & Hers menu at Chez Daniel, a lovely little French restaurant in a not so lovely little side street of Andrássy út, called Szív utca. Now where else could Valentine's day be celebrated more fittingly than in"Heart Street"? Chez Daniel is a place that I frequent in boiling Summer heat, when I sit out on its small, quaint outdoor terrace and cool down with a pitcher of Rosé wine. But this time -the terrace not being an option - we reserved a place in the restaurant. The decor has faded a little: the huge number of wood/metal/brass french cocks in the restaurant have some cobwebs on them, but the ambience overall is very friendly and cozy.

Taking a glass of pastis in hand we kissed (as valentine's couples usually do) and started browsing the menu, which was laid out on a very nice little heart-shaped red paper. We chose the three course prix-fix menu. From the "Hers" menu she decided to go for a creamy soup of mussels with saffron, the "Cupid"skewered chicken with coriander and potato puree and finally the fruit mousse. While I went for the cream of jerusalem artichoke soup with truffles, the lamb in tapenade pastry and strig beans and a cheese platter.

But even before we got to the food came a lovely amuse-bouche: a rillete of goose with toast. It was almost like finely chopped, fatty tasting, almost paté-ish goose meat, seasoned with garlic and thyme. Simply delicious and very french. The soups were brilliant, especially the mussels and saffron soup with light creamy texture and a mild mussel taste. I've never had Jerusaleem Artichokes before, but the cream soup was tasty, with an earthy and kind of sweet taste. Too bad the taste of the truffle slices could not be felt at all and thus added little to the soup.

The main courses were the downer of the evening. The chicken skewer had no taste whatsoever and it resembled something out of a greek fast food restaurant. To make matters worse, they forgot to serve the mashed potatoes along with it, which we only realized once we finished our food and the same dish was served with mash to another table. The lamb in a tapenade crust was almost cold, the meat pieces were chewy and it failed to live up to expectations.

The cheese platter found the kitchen on a high again with various delicious soft and hard cheese that you NEVER find on Hungarian cheese plates. However, the fruit mousse was tasteless once again. The wine accompanying our dinner: the aptly named Saint-Amour, from the Domaine du Clos du Chapitre was a good, young Burgundy which went along fine with the lamb, but wasn't a major revelation.

Altogether a very mixed epxerience with some definite highs and some strange and unexplicable lows. To many, this is what makes a marriage interesting and makes you want more. But I always found that good overall consistency in relationships as well as my favourite restaurants is much better than not knowing what you'll be in for the next time.

Overall - 5/10

Chez Daniel
1063 Szív utca 32.

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