FÁMA ÉTTEREM – A NEXT CHAPTER IN THE WONDERFUL TALE
The story of Fáma restaurant equals the story of its head chef Krisztian Huszár. Huszár burst on the the scene while working for the trailblazing MÁK and then sooner or later found himself working for Zóna restaurant, which he left in due course. Both restaurants were strong contenders for Michelin stars, but never received one unfortunately from the guide even though there was strong
fan base and buzz around them.
After these top-notch bistros, the chef went to open a small, Hungaro-Vietnamese restaurant in the party district in the city which was unlike any of the previous ones he cooked at. There were no reservations, interior design was Spartan, pricing was very competitive and even cheap. It was more down to earth cooking than before and even authentic papaya salad and a great pho soup alias Vietnamese goulash popped up. Soon there were huge queues and it was impossible to get a place.
I’ve had arguments with chef Huszár in the past, but I put that down to his dedication and passion in what he does and not for not being able to stand up to criticism. I’ve wished him well in the new restaurant and he escorted me through the new kitchen of Fáma, which is filled with the best equipment, including a small charcoal burning binchotan type grill, superb ovens, thermomixes and other cutting edge devices. The interior design of the restaurant is super cool and makes you feel like you are eating in a very comfortable and informal space – you feel relaxed immediately upon stepping in.
Regardless of the fact where he cooks, and what equipment he cooks on, there is one signature Huszár-style that puts him amongst the absolute top Hungarian chefs. His cooking has a strong oriental, especially French-Vietnamese-Japanese influence, a variety of exotic ingredients, usually a light and thin soup/water/essence of fluid beneath his dishes, and wonderful vibrant colors and plating. One of the arguments that I had previously was exactly this overuse of fluids in courses, and I questioned why everything had to be swimming in juices. This post is from a series of two or three meals I had over the past couple of months since opening.
This dish epitomizes best what he does. Raw, exceptional scallops laced with wafer thin slices of red onion with some amazing tartness/sweetness from physalis and raspberries all swimming in a tomato water. A kind of alternative ceviche with sourness, sweetness, spice from the onions and the lovely white clams sucking in the juices. Delicate and beautiful.
And now for the Orient: at the center of the dish is a rice paper roll, or pancake with crushed peanuts on top. This was actually a large “gyoza” filled with ground mangalitsa pork meat and prawns and then ladled on top came a rich shoyu-ramen or soy based soup. What a great idea! It is impossible to name all the spices and ingredients that dance around in your mouth.
Krisztián also happens to make one of the best mango and papaya salads in town. This one was mango with tons of sesame, thai basil, chili, scallions and peanuts. Beszálló also has a pretty decent version of this.
Continuing along the rice pancake or rice paper roll theme, he serves up a similar composition but this time with a well prepared wild duck breast carved to perfect pinkness. Notice also here how the the jus accompanying the dish is slightly overwhelming and spills all over.
Chef Huszár serves up one or two plates as small sides to go along with the main dishes. In many cases the plate is filled with plain sticky rice. I don’t have a picture of this, but in my mind the plain rice serves the oriental concept but reduces the impact of the dish and the composition- brings it down a couple of levels. As a side dish to the duck there was a small plate of extremely sweet and rich Morello cherries swimming in the most amazing cherry soup flavoured with a bit of coriander and oriental spices.
Every dish has an explosion of flavours just waiting to burst out. A chilled confit of perch, glazed in a sticky sweet sauce with a striking yellow corn curry sauce and a corn sorbet. This was delightful, with amazing vibrant colours, but maybe would have liked it more were it not chilled. The ice-cold sorbet did counterpoint the sticky sweet perch well.
Another time we have a confit of pork belly. This time comes with a similar sticky glaze probably with soy and honey and spices but the accompanying is now a Hungarian potage of peas, this time not bright yellow, but amazing and vibrant green. An interesting addition are the vinegared quail eggs that cut through the richness.
Sorbets of red pepper, mango and something else with berries. See colours, bright as the rainbow or the wings of a butterfly.
The only issue I still have is the perhaps the level of liquids and sauces and potages on the menu and served after one another on a tasting sequence. I’m not really sure I’d like to have a tomato water, followed by a rich cherry soup, followed by a thick corn cream one after the other. It simply is too rich and gets quite monotonous eventually and takes away from the brilliance.
The tasting menu also doesn’t work well with the number and buildup of the courses and there is no real story built till the end. I’ve always had two and three course amazing lunches but somehow the dinners with the tasting-only menu option was a letdown for my companions.
All the pics show something brilliant individually, these are all great a la carte, but somehow for me they don’t hang well together on a 5-course menu. Somehow I feel there needs to be a separate signature menu that doesn’t necessarily change weekly, but showcases the best of the restaurant. All others should be left on the ever changing a la carte and customers should be given the choice between a la carte and tasting for dinner. For many, the value equation would also be better.
Although this menu business may seem insignificant, a small thing like this can change the fortunes of a restaurant. I do love his cooking. I think he is a great talent and I think there is a mark of a genius there with the wonderful and creative combinations of the Orient, especially Vietnam. The consistency of brilliant flavours and perfect execution is obvious. I wish chef Huszar and the Fáma team all the best, continuous success and will be back soon.