When I write about Budapest, I’m not trying to make you jealous; instead, I want to inspire you to go. And when you go, I want to be sure you have lunch or dinner at Comme Chez Soi.
We’re on Vaci Street in Budapest, hungry after our morning bobbing around in the Rudas Baths. As the biggest pedestrianized shopping street in Budapest, Vaci is great for people watching and souvenir shopping. Unfortunately, it’s also riddled with fast food joints, touristy bars, and aggressive restaurant seaters luring tourists in for mediocre meals.
Hoping to make the best of a bad situation, we check Trip Advisor for recommendations. A miracle: the number one restaurant in Budapest, Comme Chez Soi, is one block off Vaci Street and just two blocks from where we’re standing. We can hardly believe our luck.
But at the door, bad news. Roberto gently informs us that every seat is booked. When I make my most pitiful face, though, he offers me a ray of hope: he cannot guarantee anything, but if I come back in thirty minutes, there is a chance we can snag an unclaimed table.
And so we do! Thirty minutes later, Roberto thanks us profusely for waiting and seats us at a small table right next to the open kitchen.
After bringing us some sparkling wine (“On the house,” Roberto says. “For waiting.”), he also brings us menus and a plate of cheese and parma ham (“Again, a gift” Roberto says, “For waiting.”)
We decide to start with a stunning bruschetta, heaping with fresh chopped tomatoes and drizzled with oil and balsamic vinegar.
Frankly, we could have made a meal from this. But our appetites return when our pastas arrive. Clyde gets the pasta with mussels, but I go for the scampi spaghetti: perfectly-cooked noodles topped with butter, lemon, garlic, parmesan cheese, and huge, tender, perfectly-cooked shrimp.
People with more sense than I have would have stopped here. But after seeing one pass by the table, who could resist a tiramisu, thick with mascarpone cheese and dusted with a generous layer of cocoa?
At this point, I’m almost in a food-induced coma. Someone kind enough to notice thinks I need a little pick-me-up, so they bring me a little sip of the family’s homemade limoncello:
And, to top that off, a complimentary glass of the sweetest, smoothest dessert wine I’ve ever had the joy of tasting:
Two hours later — relaxed, ruddy with wine, and ready for naps — we leave Comme Chez Soi as stuffed as cannelloni. In a city where the locals can sometimes be, um, brusque, Roberto and his staff make everyone feel welcome and well taken care of.
So: while in Budapest, do have all the chicken paprikash, lesco stew, and langos you can eat .. but please, please don’t miss having a meal at Comme Chez Soi. The experience and the food combine to make this one of The Great Meals, with memories that will last long after that last, sweet sip of Tokaji.