Year of the rabbit

The Nosztalgia of Kistarcsa is the best restaurant in this area. The owner-chef, Jenő Boross, one of the most creative cooks I know learned the trade with old school masters in Budapest in the 1980s and exercised it in the Hungarian restaurant of Stuttgart of the Swabians deported to Germany in 1946 (and since then having nostalgia for this cuisine). In the 90s he raised the Zöldfa of Csömör, rented by him, to the rank of a restaurant famous all over Budapest, just as he did with his own Nosztalgia opened in the next town in 2002.

The Nosztalgia is visited not only by the locals. Gourmands also come here from the surrounding towns, from Budapest through Vác to Gödöllő. And not only Hungarians, but also the expanding Vietnamese and Chinese middle class of Hungary. This fact is only partly explained by the proximity of the Asia Center in the neighboring Rákospalota – on whose Neo-Imperial and Surreal style building complex I still want to write –, as even the Chinese living in Buda over the Danube often jump over here for a feast, and Dr. Zhen who plays the role of a honorary consul in the Chinese colony of Hungary regularly brings here the delegations of the Chinese government as well as of the Chinese medical associations of Western Europe.

During the great wave of immigration of the early 90’s you could not find a single Chinese into whom a single Hungarian dish could be spoon-fed. A Chinese person easily changed his name for Árpád or Gyula, he preferred to send his child to a Hungarian school instead of the “useless” Chinese one (at least before China’s star started to rise at the middle of the decade), he did not estimate traditional Chinese culture, but in the kitchen he never allowed of his identity. A Chinese found too Hungarian even the majority of local Chinese restaurants, and apart from a handful of authentic restaurants, he preferred to dine at home.

Recently this treend seems to have changed. The same businessman, while stressing his Chinese culture and furnishing his house with traditional Chinese objects, at the same time drinks red wine to his dinner instead of tea – and highly esteemed local red wine at that, from Villány, Eger or Szekszárd –, and loves to go to a few carefully chosen Hungarian restaurants. I do not know whether this is a spontaneous process or it was rather inspired by that official opening to the Hungarian culture which was spectacularly announced by the Chinese leadership during last year’s Lunar New Year celebrations.

In this year the Lunar New Year falls at an unusually early date. We are watching the New Year’s Eve program on the Chinese TV – their midnight coincides with our lunchtime – in Zhen’s house at a many dished festive banquet, and we try to interpret the current political message. Instead of the economic boom, in the now beginning 12th five-year plan they stress the sustainable development, the protection of the environment and the raising of the general standards of living. Accordingly, in contrast to the impressive high tech TV shows of the previous years, now they bring up the Chinese little man, they invite street musicians and present scenes of everyday family life. And in the meticulously developed home of the little man on the stage you see, for the first time in the Chinese television, a bottle of wine on the table.

I mention to Zhen that Jenő asked me to compose a Chinese menu for his increasing regulars, and that for this purpose we photographed (and also tasted) with Kata the previous day the dishes preferred by the Chinese: fish, offal, various meats roasted on lava stone. “Ah, the Nosztalgia!” sighs Zhen. Then with a glass of Eger wine he sits at the computer – fifteen years ago he would have taken out a brush and ink – and after a short reflection he is inspired to compose a short recommendation to the menu:

餐馆Nosztalgia 是“回忆往事”的意思,她能使您和您的朋友永远记住这一天,永远铭记朋友间的恩情和友谊!在人生漫长的修行过程中,这个流淌在心中的回忆,滋润着心房,使您永远充满喜悦和欢愉!

The name of the “Nostalgia” restaurant means “recalling the past”. This place [note the affectionate female personal pronoun in the Chinese!] enables you and your friends to always remember this day, to always conserve this moment of affection and togetherness. And during the long process of life, this lively pulse of heartfelt remembrance will always fill with satisfaction the chamber of your heart.

Tonight, on the first festive dinner of the Lunar New Year the Chinese guests visiting the Nostalgia will take in the hand the new Chinese menu of the restaurant with the above recommendation by Dr. Zhen.

Ghymes – Vujicsics – Miquèu Montanaro: Ungaresca

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2 comentarios:

Sir Edward Damocles dijo...

i love your blog, its fantastic, particularly the stuff on Mallorca

Studiolum dijo...

Thanks a lot. Some more photo series on Mallorca are coming up soon!