Jane did in fact “leave my sniveling ass at the hotel” and ventured forth on a mission of mercy. On her triumphant return she had procured a pocket full of Forins, a king’s ransom in pharmaceuticals, a day pass for mass trans and our train tickets for Vienna. Better living through chemistry and 90 minutes later I was ready for our only joint venture out, a trip to a restaurant I had read about on line and couldn’t wait to try. Manna Lounge. It was hell to find, though I knew it to be on the other side of this large tunnel that cuts through the hill that houses the National Gallery when we got there we just couldn’t find the cross street… Turns out it was up in the air –above the tunnel’s end! Anyway, we arrived, looking like a couple of drowned rats -it was pouring rain… I love this place, the first choice we were offered, after hanging our coats in a dehumidified and heated clock room, was if we wanted to sit at a regular table, one with sofas or one with large comfy chairs… I wanted to be comfortable and take our time and we accomplished both, we were there for 3 hours!
After settling on a nice Super Tuscan they wheeled out a wide decanter and replaced the glasses on the table.. and into the menu. I couldn’t resist trying their version of the St. Jacob’s scallops in a saffron sauce. –side note, no one seemed to know why they were called St. Jacob scallops, I looked it up, it is a reference to St. Jame’s, of Christianity fame, and has nothing to do with where they are from or the type of scallop it is… Jane opted for a Foie Gras in a ginger sauce and small salad. Both were great, though I confess the scallops were more interesting the day before, these were nonetheless delicious as was Jane’s foie gras.
As an entree we were both drawn to the lamb, a New-Zeland rack of lamb with red wine-apple sauté and balsamic green beans. The apples sauté in some ways was the star. They were apple wedges that, I assume, were marinated in red wine, cinnamon and black pepper. I mistook them for potatoes when they arrived [remember we dawdled for hours] and that may be why they were such a pleasant surprise when I had my
first bite. The lamb was perfectly cooked and very tasty, but alas, I have made a mission of great lamb and may not be easily wowed.. but the pairing with the apples has given me an idea I look forward to trying at home 🙂
The medications were wearing off and it was sadly getting to be time to leave, but…I overheard a woman at a table behind me order a chocolate souffle and, well… you know..
Over the preceding hours we had a number of nice conversations with the manager, an affable you man of about 40. We had chatted, as often as anything else, about wines and we had come to like him and trust his judgment so we asked him to select wine for the desert. He went on to explain the history of wine appreciation in Hungary has gone through a number of full swings. Most notably a century ago Hungarians favored sweet wines all the time. Then slowly they moved into dry wines 98% of the time and hardly drink late harvest or desert wines at all. He selected a late harvest wine from the Tokaj area in the north of Hungary but what was more interesting on the front label was the identification of 6 Puttonyus.
The Puttonyos, he went on to explain, were actually the 25 kg basket that the old grape pickers wore on their backs and filled with the Nobel Rot [Botrytis -a fungus on the grapes that, if picked at just the right time and weather conditions, makes a really fine desert wine] Well, the #6 tells us there are actually 6 -25 kg baskets of such grapes in a barrel of this wine. A very high sugar concentration.. and therefore a very sweet wine…
OK, well the chocolate souffle was superb and it was the sour cherries that made it so. This was just like Roy’s souffle, soft and gooey in the middle and served with the Hungarian wanna-be Roselani vanilla ice cream, but the sour cherries paired so well with the chocolate as to elevate it to a new level… And, you guessed it, the Tokaji Aszu was superlative! Very fruit forward and light, hints of pear, apple and maybe a bit of vanilla…
Later in the hotel room, the next round of meds were just starting to kick in, the rain had given way to a quite evening and we were getting ready to leave in the morning.. All I could think of was the dozen or more must-do / must-see things in Budapest that we didn’t get to take in and that we would definitely be coming back because I know of at least two must-eat-at restaurants now as well!