Hungary hopes to court guests with ‘fine dining’ under a freezer

Written by Staff Writer at CNN Hungary’s capital is renowned for its weight-loss food — pickled herring, freeze-dried protein and chai-blended yogurt. Now, it’s hoping to appeal to the health-conscious with a new wave…

Hungary hopes to court guests with 'fine dining' under a freezer

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

Hungary’s capital is renowned for its weight-loss food — pickled herring, freeze-dried protein and chai-blended yogurt.

Now, it’s hoping to appeal to the health-conscious with a new wave of upscale dining. Ten restaurants and events have been awarded Freezer Fine Dining certifications, making Budapest the first city in Europe to do so.

Hungary’s capital is now the first European city to receive a fine dining certification. Credit: Eric Newcomer

The food is frozen overnight, held in salt-based liquid nitrogen for around a day, usually throughout November and December each year. It’s cooked, sorted and then fully frozen once again, before it’s served chilled from a freezer inside an event center.

Each item is priced at 125 Hungarian forints (about $0.24), a third of what it would be during the regular dinner service.

“Meals are slow cooked, typically, overnight in saltwater hot kitchen since early November,” said the manager of the initiative Daniela Guneyi, who credits Marco’s, an upscale trattoria in central Budapest, as the inspiration for the program.

“The timings depend on the weather, humidity and speed of the freezing. It’s sometimes 10 minutes or sometimes even a longer time. We have to be really careful for the timing because the components of the dishes have to freeze-dry,” she said.

Hungary’s famous restaurant, “Marco’s,” has trained staff to freeze food overnight. Credit: Eric Newcomer

For Guneyi, the program is all about “health and happiness.” She points to research by Harvard that found “freezing of certain foods at room temperature decreases the inflammatory response and enhances the nutritional quality of the food” — as well as a health tourism industry booming in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.

But it’s also a shift for Hungarian restaurants, which have long been known for cheap but bland food.

“It’s very nice to have this movement. This is something that in Hungary we have really never thought of before,” said the CEO of Budapest’s International Food Boutique trade group, Marta Hoskova.

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