When we hear the word dessert, we associate it with a dish that follows the starters and main course, its role is to complete and crown the menu, usually with sweet flavors. But why shouldn’t dessert be the protagonist of our meal? And why not plan a whole dinner dedicated to delicacies? The Borkonyha‘s Dessert Dinner and Anett Béres asked the same questions.
Borkonyha was functioning as a Dessert Workshop in the summer (reviewed here)–with the pandemic, the day–to–day operations had to be restructured, finding an inclusive, sustainable and exciting direction that would attract both existing and new customers by the time the restaurant opens in the autumn. From the very beginning of the pandemic, pastry chef Anett Béres and her team focused on exploiting new platforms (including the design and creation of Borkonyha-cakes available for purchase in the Édes Város online shop), and when the control rules allowed, the restaurant opened its doors to showcase monodessert, offering them at affordable prices, yet with maximum attention to the details. I was already sorry that they had only given it a limited amount of time, but it turned out that the farewell would not be without fireworks, as they had prepared a special dessert dinner.
There are only few other examples like this in all of Europe. The Berlin-based CODA is an innovator in the field. The fine-dining restaurant, now with two Michelin stars, has rethought the question of desserts by breaking down all existing rules. Acknowledged globally, the René Frank signature place has shifted from the sugar–butter–cream triad, exploring new ingredients and reimagining classic plate desserts. One of the main principles is to avoid added sugar and emphasize the natural sweetness and flavors of the ingredients. This is how it brings vegetables and spices into the game, as well as processes such as fermentation.
Although this concept seems difficult to understand at first, based on the experience of a sweet, frothy, creamy cake, when you think about it, it’s just a nostalgic attachment to the familiar. However, a fine dining restaurant is always a good place to experiment, as guests are likely to be more curious and open-minded. The Dessert Dinner of Borkonyha was the culmination of an era, celebrating the team’s heroic efforts over the past months and the loyalty of their guests. The menu, with its many twists and turns, certainly lived up to that ambition. To get things started, a surprise amuse–bouche was served, a creamy turnip and lime sorbet with crunchy coconut crumbs and a dusting of finely grated black lime powder that had been dried for three to four months. Then the first course followed, accompanied by a fruity Bellini cocktail: a white peach slice drizzled in agave syrup with crème fraîche, dill oil, lime gel, and frothy milk crisps. The tartness of the dill with the creaminess of the dairy product, which is fattier than sour cream, and the freshness of the peach made a great trio, all topped with the next course: bergamot-beetroot sauce, a few drops of olive oil, lavender honey, goat’s milk espuma, and beetroot and raspberry sorbet. The sweet and earthy flavor of beetroot has made it increasingly popular in confectionery for a few years now, but here the olive oil and salty notes of goat’s milk have given it a twist. We were offered a Kreinbacher Rosé Brut as an accompaniment, which promised to be a light drink, but added extra acidity to the flavors. Then came a plate that was a bit of a break with convention: the churros were topped with parmesan, accompanied by basil mayonnaise and Greek yogurt, so the dish was really only reminiscent of dessert in name and presentation, the flavors were intensely salty. A glass of Virgin Bloody Mary with a celery stalk–I’d say I don’t like it, but it was refreshing, and the celery was still fresh, something everyone crunched on, at first a little dubiously, then with increasing childlike glee.
Perhaps the fourth was the most complex and most unusual plate, with smoked BBQ watermelon, vanilla celeriac puree, and coriander pineapple–apple salad. The watermelon was served sliced like a steak, the flavors were deep and smoky, and the vanilla celery was an incredibly creamy, sweet, perfect addition. Accompanied by a glass of Bortolomiol Prosecco Pior Brut, it was a sparkling delight for those who wanted to spice things up a bit. The final course was perhaps the most reminiscent of the familiar flavors that brought this adventure to a comforting conclusion: its components were chocolate mousse made of cocoa mass, roasted soybeans, soy milk sorbet, caramelized banana with honey-Japanese soy sauce, and crunchy sesame banana tuile. The ingredients created a great contrast, no thinking required here, just enjoying the food, especially with the honey-sweet 2013 Szepsy samorodni served with it. Although it was the end of the third hour, those who stayed a little longer were in for a real surprise: as petit–fours, the waiters brought two little things on a plate, a quinoa sablé with bergamot mousse and a thin crust bread crisp with thyme blonde chocolate cream, hazelnut crunch, and marinated spicy shiitake mushrooms. The mushroom–nut–blonde chocolate trio was indescribably delicious, and indeed everyone was eating it with their hands, free spiritedly, as we do with the cookies when we really can’t eat any more, but who cares.
To give a brief summary of the dinner, it was fun, exhilarating, yet thought-provoking, where the conceptual boundaries of desserts were expanded. The evening not only put the palette of pastry techniques in the spotlight, but also the knowledge of Anett and her team of pastry chefs. With just a few hours and five plus two courses, they delighted not just the sweet tooth, but also those who have ever wondered what, rather than sugar, actually creates the liberating essence of sweet flavors.
Photos: Antonio Fekete Designfood