According to local legend Dio restaurant in Sas utca is an example of the quest to rejuvenate and reinterpret traditional Hungarian ingredients and dishes and give them a contemporary twist and flavour. In fact we might even be able to stick it into the „Hungarofusion” category - if there were one -, because venison steak and lebbencs noodles sit side by side on one plate and goat with chestnut honey and buckwheat dumplings rendez-vous on the other.

Wild and interesting combinations and a strong determination to resist the usual and differentiate the menu from other eateries around town. Without going into too much detail at this point, I feel that this is just as much as positive when reviewing the restaurant as it is a negative, because of the endless twists given to a single dish. It’s not enough to serve up lamb here with a green nut sauce, the meat also has to be encrusted with oatmeal. And as a side dish there is a sweet pastry „cake” also decked with sweet potatoes. Everything seems to be pushed to the max.

The ingredients and meats spell out Hungarianness and so does the interior design of the place. Consistent with the nouveau Hungarian concept we see heavy tablecloths and fine cutlery complemented by traditional wooden carvings and ornaments on the wall. The decor is a bit spartan and cold, though, and the place doesn’t emit a very inviting feeling altogether which is felt even more because there are only two other tables filled for lunch during our weekday trip.

As an amouse bouche we receive a welcome dish of soft home made bread lightly grilled and some home made puree, which feels like a combination of pumpkin and sweet potatoes. We forgot to ask the waiter the exact ingredients but weren’t so interested any more after the first two bites. Never critisize someone’s present, but we have to say that our creamed puree didn’t have a discernable taste: it passed for a hunger satisfier slapped on the bread.

Out of the soup dishes we chose the cream of ceps soup with a sesame seed and cottage cheese mousse. The cream soup was thick and creamy and you could feel the earthy taste of the mushrooms, but once again, we lacked intense, characteristic flavours. The airy cheese mousse spooned in the middle of the soup plate added to the thickness and richness of the dish, but making it more heavy didn’t help balance the taste.

Next up came a roast foie gras on cinammon rolls with a sour cherry sauce. The three little liver medallions all had different consistencies dependig on the size of the cut and the length it spent on the platter. Some are ideal in their texture, but others are a bit too much on the creamy side having spent very little time in the pan. The traditional little sugar and cinammon csiga served along with the dish were a nice and creative touch and accompanied the liver well. The cherry sirup poured on top of the composition can’t be called fresh or seasonal but we know how well sweet fruits go with goose liver.

For mains we try a fish dish and a meat course. The pike perch as they call it on english menus (fogas) comes with bacon and mustard sauce, green asparagus and buckwheat. The fish is prepared well, dissolves in our mouth and the skin is lightly roasted for a crisp sensation. The bacon and mustard sauce was served in a little glass cup next to the fish - the smoky bacom mixed well with the slightly sweet and tangy mustard. The asparagus served up alongside the fish were fresh and crunchy, but we only saw one lonely green tipped version among the currently more popular and seasonal white specimens. Unfortunately we can only start hoping for fresh asparagus at the greengrocers from early May.

I asked for the wild boar medallions to be prepared medium-well and the kitchen made a fine effort to keep the little succulent pieces pink. Unfortunately the goatcheese melted on top of the slices of polenta – which came alongside the meat - probably took a long time to make, because the meat lost its warmth completely by the time it arrived at the table and at best could be deemed lukewarm. The dish is further exaggerated by a little glass vial of preserved strawberries with nettle.

We finish off the lunch with a an apple and date cheesecake smothered with a fruit puree. The waiter assures us that the cake can arrive in no time and truth be told, it really came out fast from the kitchen. Too bad that „speed” meant it got microed at a very high temperature which almost resulted in second degree burns on our tongues. The cake is neither light, nor are the fruits enough to compensate for the more doughy than cheesy flavour, but the sweet naspolya puree on the side adds a nice little touch.

I have nothing against experimenting and combining exotic ingredients and flavours. Some chefs manage to pull it off and create harmony in your mouth by the spices and ingredients pulling together and for some, experimenting means adding and adding stuff until the focus gets slightly lost along the way. The same finding applies to Dio’s sister establishment Mokka next door – a passion for exaggeration with some fundementals missing in the background.

Overall: 6,5/10

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