Turning The Table
This forward-looking restaurant is providing a glimpse of the future of Hungarian cuisine.
To the outsider, Budapest may stand as an avatar of conquest and ornate beauty. But beyond the foreboding palatial statues and stunning thermal baths that decorate the Queen of the Danube lies a rich tapestry of cross-cultural influence — and a burgeoning international city on the cusp of some noise of its own.
Enter Deák St. Kitchen, a nouveau Hungarian restaurant at the seat of The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest whose goals and aspirations, in many ways, mirror that of its changing country.
THE MAN BEHIND THE MENU
Hungarian-born Róbert Sugár is the chef de cuisine at Deák St. Kitchen. The 28-year-old Sugár has taken a modern approach to the traditional dishes he grew up with — responsibly raising their profiles to the best versions of themselves. “I really like and try to respect the natural tastes of ingredients,” he says, “but I also believe that these flavors’ powers can always be elevated.”
Gulyás, or goulash, is Hungary’s quintessential rustic stew of meat and vegetables that’s been exported the world over. Hearty, savory and bone-sticky, the typical recipe calls for little more than throwing everything in a pot to cook — because that’s what you do when you’re, well, Hungary. But sloshed up next to Sugár’s silky rendition, the centuries-old soup somehow becomes a flatter, thin-bodied affair.
“I find with some of the goulashes ... that not very much time is taken to really do it right,” says Matthew Piercey, DSK’s freshly minted executive chef. “But the one Róbert does is very nice, because he takes the beef cheeks, he slow-cooks them, really breaks down all the fat out of it, so it’s very tender. The vegetables we do à la minute in the pan, so it’s really fresh.”
When the time comes for a new menu, Sugár hosts a voluntary competition for his team to invent new starters and main courses. The prize for a remarkable dish? A coveted spot on the menu.
In this way, Sugár’s philosophy on food extends to his people: Let them be themselves. Harmony does not equal sameness, and with individuality comes pride. It’s a notion that’s long been simmering in proud kitchens across Budapest, and just a taste of the swirling opportunities paid forward in Hungary. One that, if you can manage to get a whiff, will set you free.