Last week was my third time in Dunapark, the newly renovated café/restaurant that was a Pest icon in the thirties. The new owner – who according to legend also owns the whole building not just the café had a good eye and was there at the right time it seems to open a place beside Szt. István Park, the weekend retreat/picnic spot of the Újlipotváros rich and famous. A lot of money went into the refurbishment of the place, some even say that the huge, motorized windows on two levels that can sink in the ground at the flick of a switch cost 10 million forints each. Not to mention the poker tables upstairs, the gallery with the lounge and ”separés”, etc. The one small problem I have with the interior is that the designer couldn’t decide whether the place was a café or a restaurant. The dominance of the sweets and the café section ont he ground floor deter people from thinking it’s a good restaurant and vice versa.

If that much attention was given to the architecture I wonder why so little was given to chosing the chef? Simply because the food is not good at all. Third time lucky was my motto as we entered the place on Friday night expecting nothing less than a wonderful dinner with our Ujlipotvaros-resident friends. They chose the place not only because of vicinity but also bacause of a ravioli dish they had there the week before that brought them back. We started off the dinner with the amouse bouche of the lazy chef: some olives in a pickly, spicy dressing and some feta cheese on the side. Not much original thinking there, but at least we got a couple of bites in our mouth before our friends arrived.

Our fresh-out-of-college waiter was helpful up to a certain point, but as soon as we started asking about the details and ingredients of certain dishes he had to go ask for help from a senior colleague. Perhaps that caused some confusion in his mind as to what I ordered for starters. I asked for a baby spinach salad with goat cheese and a fig-vinaigrette dressing opting for something very light after a week of heavy eating. 5 minutes later in turned out that there was no baby spinach, so I asked them to substitute it for some rocket and mixed greens. 10 minutes later I received a walnut, apple and celery mayonnaise salad. It was then swiftly returned to the kitchen and once again I asked for the original choice. On the next go, I received a solo rocket salad with chopped tomatoes and some shavings of parmesan. By that time I was pretty hungry so I ate the salad, which was a poor excuse for a side salad with a severe overdose of water and a severe shortage of oil and balsamic. Our friends went for the mussels in curry sauce, which also had some traces of scallops in between the black ones. That seemed like a far better choice.

Riding on the fact that seafood seemed to be OK here, I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, something that I don’t do very often. It was called the „Dunapark crab sandwich” and it was quite a complex culinary achievement: it consisted of one very large and empty crab shell, in which sat several slices of overdone fish (tuna, salmon, I forgot the rest). In between the crab shell and the pieces of fish was a creamy risotto of mussels and whatnot, while under the whole crab-risotto-fish structure lay a bed of sauteed carrots, leeks and other veggies. Tres Bizzare to say the least. I didn’t find any crab meat worth mentioning apart from the tiny and strange little morsels that I picked from the scissors of the crab, but no sight of crabmeat elsewhere. The fish that constituted the main element of the dish was extremely overdone and dry as the desert. Maybe that’s why I received the „three types of sauces” with the dish, all from practical little bottles that you can find in most supermarkets: a red chilli and garlic sauce, a simple soy sauce and a third one which I couldn’t put my finger on. The sauces also accompanied the pretty shabby vegetable sushi rolls next to the dish. A really really terrible dish marking the absolute confusion of the chef and the complete ignorance of quality ingredients starting from fish to sauce.

We finished off the dinner with a chocolate lava with maracuja and vanilla ice cream. The chocolate was flowy and good, but the souffle cover lacked a bit of punch. The bill came to 40 thousand for four, which is more than expensive considering the fact that no bottles of wine were ordered and only two hors d’oeuvres.

Our friends say the ravioli was good once again. Maybe they’ll come again.

Café Restaurant Dunapark

Overall: 5/10