After perusing the Kárpátia Restaurant Web site, we were halfway expecting a tourist trap. Between the beautifully decorated vaulted ceilings and the shameless plugs for Sarközi and his Gipsy Band (the in-house band) the restaurant appeared to be a traditional Hungarian cliché. Thankfully, it was all that and more.
Our meal took off with a small glass of brandy, followed by a creamy appetizer platter and the Kárpátia salad with duck breast and wild mushrooms. It began to dawn on us that our best meal in Budapest was unfolding.
My main course consisted of a Mangalica filet mignon with clove-quince apple compote. My travel companion enjoyed wild duck with balsamic vinegar and wild grapes. We savored a dry, red Hungarian house wine between bites. The meal came to a bittersweet close with poppy seed cake and Somlói galuska, a rum-scented vanilla cream cake with chocolate sauce.
At HUF16,400 (€66; $90), the final bill for two certainly worth the splurge.
We were sold on the band as well, happily shelling out HUF5,000 (€20; $27) for their CD. Sarközi and band played up for each and every table, posing in perfect time for cameras and pulling out local favorites for impromptu tableside celebrations.
Wandering Cheapo Kari Hoerchler is a blogger, budget traveler, and science fiction novelist stationed on Planet Earth. She has recently been spotted on small stages of New York coffeehouses telling tall tales of a tropical island—and future vacation hot spot—in the Bermuda Triangle. Book ahead.