Unity in Diversity—Latin America with a touch of Hungary, Part II

Unity in Diversity—Latin America with a touch of Hungary, Part II

Last week, we featured some of the iconic restaurants of the Latin American community in Budapest, but there are so many exciting places in this city that we decided to continue: here come two more lovable restaurants!

Whether it’s breakfast or lunch, a nutritious sandwich or empanada is always a good idea. The latter is a type of turnover that originated in Spanish and Portuguese cuisine but is more commonly known as a South American dish, especially its Argentinian and Uruguayan versions. The word comes from the Spanish verb ‘empanar’, meaning ‘to cover in a pastry case.’ This dish is very similar to the Slavic pirog, only with a less soft crust. It’s usually filled with meat, vegetables, cheese, spices, or tomatoes.

La Casita is a real gem on Knézich Street—the owner couple, Sarolta Bodó and Uruguayan Fabio David Telles Santiago met in Barcelona. Fabio was studying and working in the catering industry, and Saci—a political science graduate—was also swept up by the profession so she took a job in a French restaurant. After six years, they got homesick and, after thorough planning, moved to Hungary.

During the pandemic, they started to think about opening a nice, friendly, cozy place that would be accessible to many, evoke familiar flavors, and would also tell their story. In Barcelona, they often visited what they called “Uncle Pedro’s Sandwich Bar”, where an elderly gentleman had been making rustic, filling sandwiches for decades, while his wife worked in the kitchen, and their son waited the tables. Saci and Fabio wanted to create a similar kind of atmosphere, so when they found a space to rent, they jumped at the opportunity and set up shop in May 2021, despite the then still raging pandemic.

The logo was designed by their close friend, graphic designer Anna Hajdú, while they collected the furniture, plates, and decorations. The counter, for example, is a converted kitchen sideboard, but the objects hanging on the wall also have their stories to tell. It really does feel like home here—there’s a constant flow of regulars and passing tourists from the area, or it’s Saci’s parents passing by with their granddaughter Tereza, who never misses a chance to grab an empanada. It’s worth following her lead and to taste this genuine comfort food, whether in its meaty or vegan form. The more famished customers can also choose a gazpacho, home-marinated olives with anchovies, or perhaps one of the sandwiches with their true main-course proportions. The dishes here often evoke South American flavors: choripan sandwiches, thinly sliced beef, criolla sauce with peppers and onions, or adobo-spice-based chimichurri.

Even besides all the work, there’s still time for plans. These include further improving the terrace, expanding the place with the shop next door, creating more space for seating, or planning events such as ‘la hora del vermú’ (vermouth time—the Transl.) The latter is a Spanish tradition that usually precedes Sunday lunch: the group shares a glass of aperitif while some music plays in the background. So to sum it up, La Casita has everything it takes to be one of the best meeting places in the 9th district and is well worth a visit.

The joy of sharing a meal can sometimes cross country borders, especially when not only the dishes, but the menu too is fusional, and even more so with a multi-national cooking team. Our last stop, La Movida, in the middle of the bustling city center, has embarked on nothing less than bringing color and good vibes to the heart of Budapest. After their October 2020 opening, they were forced to close immediately. Even though the owners were experienced in the challenges of the catering business (one of them owns Fuego and La Nube), they couldn’t have seen this coming. They persevered, of course, if only for the sake of the team, as they felt it was their job to provide stability to their staff. It’s no secret that they came from all over America and Western Europe, often from political or economic situations that made their lives very difficult.

Everything here is vibrant, diverse, and tasty. Bright colors, bold posters, and warm lights create a pleasant atmosphere inside, which is matched by the dishes. As Venezuelan chef Alejandro Trocel González explained, it’s not just the influence of different cuisines (such as Spanish, French, or Italian) that they focus on, but also the outstanding visuals. A dish can have several versions depending on its region of origin, but the main ingredients (corn, cane sugar, cassava, banana, fish) are the same. Due to their preference for sweet, spicy flavors, this taste profile appears in many dishes, similar to the spicy-sour notes. In the eastern part of South America, for example, there’s a preference for fish and potato dishes, while in the west, cheese and meat (even goat and rabbit) are the more common, and finally, in the center, the two are combined.

You would easily get carried away by the atmosphere: Venezuelan families living in our country immediately embraced Movida, and Hungarians also keep coming back. The cuisine features Venezuelan, Argentinean, Cuban, Chilean, and Mexican flavors and ingredients, that’s why the menu includes fresh, citrusy guacamole with homemade tortilla chips, but the various types of tacos are also quite popular. Although most of the ingredients are imported, they use Mangalica meat (a Hungarian breed of domestic pig—the Transl.), because they say it’s more succulent and crumblier than the pork they traditionally use. No need to worry about the dishes being too spicy though, as the fiery sauces come in separate tiny bowls. The ceviche with tiger prawns is definitely a must-have here as well, but the tuna toast, made of tortillas with marinated raw tuna slices, chipotle mayo, and guacamole, might be even more sensational.

A képhez tartozó alt jellemző üres; Krisztina_Szalay_HypeandHyper_DelAmerika_Modiva_20220925-3531-scaled.jpg a fájlnév

The pulpo a la parrilla con papa rota is a real roguish dish: a smoky and crumbly grilled octopus with confit potatoes and a pepper sauce like you’ve never tasted before. La Movida should be on your bucket list not only for its food but also for its atmosphere and cocktails, with DJs in the evenings and perfectly mixed mojitos to take you back to summer, no matter how cloudy the sky may be.

Photos: Krisztina Szalay

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