A Gypsy dish of cabbage rolls is surprisingly succulent, too, the soft leaves quietly sour and bursting with ground beef bound with bits of rice. Crowning the creation: sour cream and sauerkraut, the kraut soaked overnight and cooked for four hours to take away any trace of bitterness. No need to hide under New York-style tomato sauce here; these beauties shine on their own.
Goulash shows why, no matter how fancy contemporary cuisines can be, there will always be room for home-style cooking. Call it paprika pot roast, the ungainly, tender chunks of beef slow stewed with a tomato-infused gravy. It's even more stunning served Transylvanian "szekely" style, blended with sauerkraut and topped with paprikash sauce plus sour cream.
Desserts bring the final, fantastic denouement. All are made on site, with some unexpected touches (a whimsical addition of cantaloupe to fruit pie). Warm apple strudel arrives in a huge slab, gorged with thick-cut fruit and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Chocolate crepes are lightened a bit with strawberries and cappuccino cream -- particularly outstanding when paired with a steaming hot cup of Vamos' strong coffee.
Food trends come and go. Healthy eating is important, but homespun, hearty dishes transcend all taste and time. Diets be damned. Show up hungry for Hungary when you arrive at Budapest Café.