On February 1, 2009, my roommate and I entered a contest. On April 16, 2009, we were declared winners. He received two round trip tickets to Budapest. I received a bag of women’s beauty products. The products were testers.
On June 7, 2009, haggard, hungry, and hopelessly jet lagged, we took a seat in an amorphous cafe bar called Kiadó Kocsma and downed the week’s inaugural shots of Unicum, Hungary’s national liquor. Technically classified as bitters, Unicum is a blinding infusion of herbs and spice into a deep and intense licorice body. Imagine it as Hungary’s hairy, back-handed slap to Germany’s Jägermeister – Unicum is more powerful and more nuanced, with a range of flavors that reaches well beyond the banks of the Danube.
That evening, after an hour of searching for an eatery open on Sundays, we settled into a generic Magyar Étterem (Hungarian restaurant) situated directly across from an international hotel. My expectations for the meal were low, but they changed upon the discovery of fried pork neck on the dinner menu. ORDER PLACED.
The restaurant’s preparation was impeccable. The meatier part of the neck had been sliced, marinated in what seemed like a century of garlic, and fried to a juicy, tender brown. Crowning my plate was a chunk of pork neck bone, a ring of connective tissue and fat that defied my prior understanding of the pig. Texturally, each piece resembled a cube of watermelon flesh that had been drained of its sugars and injected instead with the juices of a ham hock. What looked somewhat akin to pork belly instead yielded firm, crisp, almost crystalline chunks of porous fat that burst with baconated juices at each bite. Accompanied by a clean lager and a salad of sweet, just-pickled cucumbers, my first full meal in Budapest rode dangerously close to perfect.
A few days later, during lunch at local favorite Roma Étterem, we decided to continue our sojourn through the less recognized parts of the pig, leaping past options of stomach and lung for a straight shot at brain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the smartest decision. Unfortunately, it was a terrible decision. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish the plate.
It seemed harmless enough on sight: finely breaded, deep fried nuggets laid atop a bed of boiled potatoes in an appealing hue of golden brown. We couldn’t tell by looking at the dish that this had to be one of the worst ways to cook brain – though, to be honest, neither of us has the experience to know what the best way of cooking brain might be. There was nothing particularly unpleasant about its flavor (mild and slightly fishy). The texture of each bite, however, was a challenging blend of second thoughts. I doubt that brain has a crisping point, but Roma’s flash fry left the cerebral innards of each deep fried chunk in an extensive state of goop.
Imaginings of gummy, springy zombie food granting us the strength of the living were laid to waste. It was as if someone had boiled pasta to mush, mixed it with pulverized fat and folded the result into a healthy dollop of cream of mushroom soup and fish oil. Strings and clumps of what could have been muscle popped up from time to time, only to disintegrate into a fine paste. After eating just over half of one lobe, I wondered whether calling it quits would underscore the name of this blog or shame it for seven generations. More pressing was the revelation that, in the orders of the supernatural pig, I would rather be a vampire than a zombie. Well played, Budapest.
|Magyar Étterem és Sörözo
1053 Budapest, Kecskeméti u. 15
VIII District, Budapest, HUNGARY
Csalogány u. at Málina u.
II District, Budapest, HUNGARY