Meditations

Everything’s Better With Quail’s Eggs


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As any good marketing student or devoted food explorer will tell you, local knowledge is key. When you’re looking for a good meal in a foreign city, this is doubly true – often the best places can only be found with a little bit of help from someone who is in the know. In Budapest on Monday my Hungarian insider Marta brought me to Stex Ház for a meal to remember.

Stex Ház is located just a short walk away from Blaha Lujyza Ter. It’s an old stone building with three levels; we made our way past the buzzing top level and took the spiral staircase to the cellar, where a quiet, warmly-lit, and surprisingly smoke-free dining room awaited. The heavy wooden tables seemed right at home under the arced stone ceiling, and the whole place exuded a feeling of comfort.

The menu at Stex H&aacutee;z is divided into three parts – to the right a selection of pizza and pastas, to the left a decent-sized list of starters and casual fare, and in the middle, appealingly, an extensive list of Hungarian offerings. Nearly everything on this list looked appetizing – Hungarian stand-bys like goulash and beef stew, as well as more exotic offerings featuring goose liver, fresh game and some ingredients I couldn’t quite decipher.

I chose two adventurous offerings – rooster soup to start, followed by a main dish of goose liver & beef with quail’s eggs and blackberries in a brown sauce.

I’ll admit that when I ordered it I thought that rooster soup was simply a mis-translation. Imagine my surprise, then, when my bowl arrived complete with comb and wattle – this was no Lipton’s chicken soup. It was tasty, though – the rooster bits were chewy but pleasant and the broth was perfectly flavoured and salty without being cloying. Add another beast to the ‘Farm Animals I’ve Eaten’ list.

Before I get to the main course, let me make something clear: I am not a fan of food ornamentation. When the name of an entree runs longer than one line on the menu, I tend to get nervous. Still, this one seemed too good to pass up – quail’s eggs & blackberries? Certainly I had to give it a try. When it arrived on the table, I wasn’t disappointed (click on the little picture at the top of this article for a closer view), and it didn’t fail me on the taste front, either. The blackberries mixed perfectly with the beef and liver, and the boiled quail’s eggs added a difference in both taste and texture that helped to keep the heaviness of the meal in check.

This was travel food at it’s best: local dishes served with none of the gimmicks or inflated prices you’d typically find in a tourist-focused joint. It was the kind of meal you wish you could find every night when you’re on the road, and the kind of meal that makes a trip special.

Thanks, Marta.

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