Open Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Major credit cards. Reservations.
The show is even more elaborate at the Old Budapest, with nightclub entertainment called The Celebration, Tuesday through Saturday upstairs ($3 cover charge) and gyspy music weekends downstairs. Pick your style, both of them designed for romance, from the whitely stuccoed and darkly beamed outsize chalet upstairs, or the more intimate cellar, its flowered walls like a Hungarian tablecloth. The service - black tie and silver trays - goes to great lengths of graciousness. That, along with the wandering violinist playing "Dark Eyes," and after one Budapest cocktail -Grand Marnier, Triple Sec champagne and such in a vase-size snifter - shift the food to a mere supporting role. As for the food, one might think it came from two different kitchens. I'd go to Fairfax for the bread, a chewy country rye with a great crunch of a crust. And I'd order szegedi halaszle, a coral-colored fish soup which is served in a black iron pot for two, and fills the table with the smell of paprika, onions and peppers.Then I'd continue to hover around the appetizer list - the meaty, savory homemade sausage, the stuffed cabbage - light and mild one day, tart and peppery another day, and very good both times. I'd take a chance on the duck, which is only available Friday and Saturday, at least if I was in the mood to chew a lot; its flavor was fine, its texture tough. Side dishes - green beans, sauteed potatoes, red cabbage - surpass the main events, which run from dried-out wiener schnitzel to gristly veal paprikash. And what is meant to be the grand illusion - the Transylvania Wedding Party Woodplatter - is a complicated metal and wood contraption suspending various cutlets over a tiny blue flame, all topped with a garnish of egg white and maraschino cherry, that turns out to be the grand disillusion. Everything comes out right in the end if you finish with the fragile apple strudel or homey mocha-and-butter-enriched dobos torte. The epilogue is a bill of $15 to $20 a person, for the main dishes average $7 or $8, and you would hardly want to miss the beginnings and endings which make it all worth while.