Notes by PT

Cyrano has always been a Budapest institution, but I have not been able to get lucky there even once in the last 5 years. The first time I took some friends there from the UK, who are quite used to premium dining, I thought I would be able to impress them with the local progress towards "contemporary cosmopolitan living". It was an evening of foie gras, filet mignon and rising Hungarian winemakers’ red wines. As proud as I left the place, looking back it was not that spectacular at all.

Two years later, last Summer, I decided to give the place another try for a light lunch on a weekend. You know, it was one of those days when you stroll down Váci utca and the surrounding couple of streets, you don't really feel like shopping, but you still buy a piece or two, and you keep wondering what the hell the tourists like about this place at all. Still, you decide to immerse yourself in the „buzz” of all this. It was the series of these momentums that lead me to take a seat on the rather appealing terrace of Cyrano and got served the most terrible tiger prawn salad of my life. Pieces of defrosted, cold prawns served on a withered bed of salad. Prawns delivered cold, as opposed to being stated warm on the menu, a tender waiting time of 40 minutes, sluggish waiter, the works. At the end of it all – a promise never to visit this place again.

But then there are your friends, who say: this is one of the best places of the city, it's their favourite, they know the owner, he is a great guy, you are the only one they know who had a bad experience, they don't even believe you are telling them the truth about your previous bad experiences, etc, etc. At the end of the day, we are the open, forgiving, generation X-Y-Z or whatever and it's just a dinner for God's sake! What the heck, let's give it a try.

We arrive first in the party and are greeted warmly by a sommelier we have not seen in a while (she worked at another restaurant we used to go to quite a lot). We think this is a good sign of things to come. We order a bellini and glass of dry white wine – not an overly complicated beverage order. Unfortunately, we are made to wait a good 15 minutes before we can savour them. There's a guy at our table, who is celebrating his birthday, so we order a good bottle of champagne, which is reciprocated by the sommelier offering a different one under the same label. This one is on the house, which is truly a nice gesture, but not really necessary in my opinion.

As we are made to wait we have time to look around and I start to wonder why all Budapest restaurants still look the same. Restaurant owners seem to compete on who can create the most similar looking establishments in the city. Do the two most similar looking get some kind of a prize? It is not that they use the same silverware or same furniture – I am pretty sure they are overly careful on selecting different brands than their neighbors, but come on! Why is neo-baroque the only style that can serve as a backdrop to an evening meal? Cyrano actually might have been the one to start the neo-baroque movement and the place gets redesigned every two or three years to keep up with the trends, but this trend has been around for too long to my taste. Why the shiny black and blue feathers, the uncomfortable velvet sofas and the copy-paste menus? Why? I won't fight it, and I'm sure it's me who is wrong, I simply just don't like it. .

Let’s just concentrate on the dinner. The menu sounds pretty good, much better than expected actually and some of the items even present a challenge on what to vote for. Pricing is friendly, definitely good value for money at first, especially seeing the creativity in the description of some of the dishes. Trying to relive the old memories I decide to go for the foie gras as a starter. The liver is quite soft, sitting on a bed of nudli, a special gnocchi-type of dough and is topped with some braised leeks and surrounded with a serving of blueberry sauce. The sauce is enough to accompany a traditional cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory on Michigan Ave in Chicago (you will know what I mean if you order one there). It is just a bit too much sweetness for my taste but the nudli and foie make an interesting and tasty combination.

My better half chooses the „prawn(s) with the risotto”, as we imagined at the time of ordering, but it turns out to be a major disappointment. One single piece of prawn lying next to a local (mis)interpretation of risotto: a dry, tasteless heap of cooked rice with parsley and some kind of pesto imitation.

Nevermind, we are still optimistic about our main courses: a Persian/Indian creation of seasoned rack of lamb and a simple, but appealing duck breast. The lamb comes with mashed potato seasoned with mint and it has a pale, yellowish green colour. That makes the mash awkward looking and strangely tasting too, not to mention the fact that it is cold on the outside and steaming hot inside – an obvious sign of using microwaves. The lamb however is good quality, the eastern spice seasoned crust is really tasty and unique, but the meat is overdone. The usual rule of thumb is to cook all red meats medium, unless you ask differently. Maybe this is an old habit but they don’t even bother to ask us at Cyrano.

And the duck? It arrives nicely presented, but similar to the lamb it was way overdone for the order (medium, pink). Dry and unsliceable we send it back to the kitchen for another try. By the time everyone finishes their main courses, the new duck arrives – it is in slightly better condition than before, quite soft and tasty, truth be told.

Desserts are our last hope to make up for the evening of unmet expectations. The chocolate souffle is creamy and delicate, while the rhubarb served along with the not-too-sweet cheesecake missed some character and was therefore „inactive” next to the cake. Perhaps this would have been the time to bring back the blueberries previously served with the foie gras entrée.

Was this just an unlucky day? Maybe. But a restaurant like this, situated in the prime tourist location should never have an unlucky day as such - and neither should their guests. And what if the owner spends too much time smiling at you from the inside leading local weekly magazines? That’s probably the time to go back to basics. No science fiction needed here.

Cyrano restaurant
Overall: 6/10