Central and Eastern European food always feels to me simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. It's stews and potatoes, lamb, pork and beef, things I've eaten all my life. It's Strudels, Schnitzels and Sauerkraut, things that I've eaten every now and again. But at Czech, Hungarian or Croatian restaurants it's also menus filled with unpronounceable names, flavoured with paprika and other unfamiliar spices.
Fortunately The Hungarian provides dishes named in both Hungarian and English, such as The Drunken Pig, The Secret of Buda and the MonsterSchnitzel. It's a cute neighbourhood style restaurant, with red and white checked table cloths and curtains, and assorted European photos on the walls. Obviously popular, on a Sunday Night it was fairly empty till around 7pm, full by 8.
Unfortunately there had been a run at lunch time of two of our first choice for mains, The Drunken Pig and The Secret of Buda. After a last minute swap with Ms Counting Her Calories it was the lamb goulash for me, a slow cooked lamb stew served with potato. A lot of the secret to a good stew is slow cooking at a comparatively low temperature, to ensure the meat remains properly tender and moist. After my first couple of bites I thought the stew had been overcooked, as the meat was slightly dry. Fortunately (and a little strangely) this only seemed to apply to the first couple of pieces, as the rest of the lamb was nicely cooked. Very good potatoes too.
The Szegediner pork stew was my first choice but after seeing the dish Ms Counting her Calories decided she didn't want all the potato. Based on my small sampling I am glad we swapped. I think that stewing favours stronger flavoured meats such as beef, goat or lamb and so tend to avoid pork stews. Served with sour cream and slices of dark bread, Ms Counting her Calories enjoyed it but I preferred my goulash.
Tucson Trevor decided on the MonsterSchnitzel, which was large enough to count as a small monster. Normally pounded to ensure the meat is both thin and tender, crumbed and then lightly fried, good schnitzels are comparatively hard to find in today's world of deep fryers and re-heated pub parmas. And while not the best I've had in Melbourne this certainly counted as a good schnitzel, hearty and well cooked with the same good potatoes as the lamb goulash.
While I only managed a small sampling of Ironman's tipsy chicken or Ms L's dumplings and scrambled eggs, both appeared to be tasty and generous in size, and not as heavy as they looked. Ironman also commented that his small side salad was a good size, with its pickled vegetables any larger would have resulted in too much vinegar for him.
There is an extensive range of mainly crepes for desserts, including a plum and cinnamon version. Lighter than I expected and with an optional scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side it made a nice way to finish off the meal. The only other dessert I tasted was Ms Counting her Calories French Custard Slice, advertised as a future best in the universe winner. While that may be an overstatement it was very good and maybe even better than my crepe.
Once upon a time over dinner we discussed with our resident Czech Mr Foghorn Leghorn the type of Central European food available in restaurants here. It's mainly of the peasant or home cooked variety, dumplings and stews eaten after working in the fields while the Lords presumably stuffed themselves with venison and wild boar. With an extensive range of soups, sweet and savoury crepes and mains the here food is good, of the comforting home style variety and with serves almost generous enough to feed two. Service is surprisingly quick (although it was a few minutes between the first and last dishes coming out) and the whole restaurant just has a very friendly feel. Nothing about here that we didn't like and great for a casual meal, but for a weekend you'll probably need to book.
Food - 7.5
Ambience - 7
Service - 7.5
Price - 8
362 Bridge Road
Richmond VIC 3121
Tel: 0421 993 132