My knowledge of wine is intermediate at best, and my
Hungarian wine knowledge didn't extend beyond Tokaji. But
without even trying, I got a quick mini education in Budapest because regional
wines are prominent, if not exclusive, at a number of restaurants.
Bock Bisztró with locations on the Buda and Pest
sides, as well as in Copenhagen, takes its name from winemaker József Bock.
Consequently, the list is 100% Hungarian and includes the winery's full range. It
doesn't take oenophilic expertise to sort through the K's, Z's and accent marks to
spot Chardonnay or Syrah, but the number of local varietals–Furmint, Kadarka
and Irsai Olivér, for instance–was
surprising (and a little overwhelming). I got into the Kékfrankos, a.k.a.
Blaufränkisch, while there. Simple, fruity and a little spicy, the red managed to be pretty all-purpose.
The Mangalitsa fat was something I definitely wanted
to order from the aperitif section, and then it magically appeared on the table
with a basket of bread (no charge, I'm fairly certain). Everyone had the butter
substitute on their tables, so either it's extremely popular or a courtesy. The
pork fat is smoky with bits of crisp skin and chopped chives mixed in, and
even better with a touch of sea salt sprinkled on top.
More Mangalitsa pork came in salami form, spiced
with paprika. The prosciutto was good too, but the crumbly sausage was more
distinct. Rich meats are often served with Hungarian peppers, which aren't wildly
spicy, though if you say they aren't, you'll get looked at like you're crazy,
and raw red onion, which to me is far more difficult to down in such quantities
than the chiles.
All the pork will make you full, but persevere.
While the printed menu comes in Hungarian, English and German, the most common trio, the daily specials on a chalkboard above the bar, are only in Hungarian. Some lean traditional; others are more invented. I was able to
make out one featuring goose and soft-shell crab, which seemed so oddball that
I had to order it.
The goose was tender and falling apart, more like roast
beef than poultry. Looking at the plate now, I want to say that soy sauce and star anise were
involved, but that's probably because it's how I would cook the goose in this
situation. The swipe of curry powdered sauce and side of fat rolled rice noodles
greased with sesame oil is making me think Asian when really the goose component was
traditional. Frankly, I don't know that this hybrid dish would stand up out of
context. It's not something I would ever order in NYC, but I liked it in
Dessert was a poppy seed cream served with a flaky
pastry and raspberry sauce. I've said that walnuts are big in Budapest, but so are poppy seeds.
I'm still wondering what the "bizarre ice cream
Bock Bisztró * Erzsébet Körút 43-49, Budapest, Hungary