- 21 Mar 2019 7:34 AM
- The Budapest Times
The former pastry chef at Costes Downtown Michelin-awarded restaurant and the experienced gastro-entrepreneur started the exclusive dinner evenings some two months ago and delight the Budapest audience with them three times a week.
Spending an evening at Zincenco Kitchen and visiting a restaurant on the corner could not be more different: for one, there is the fact that it’s not so easy to get in.
To visit Zaida and Igor Zincenco you have to make an appointment first and then ring the bell of the right door at the right time. Their place only opens from Thursdays to Saturdays and only at 19:00.
There is no plate or advertisement outside 20 Bihari János utca that would suggest the presence of a restaurant, and when you walk into the strange house near Nyugati railway station you feel a little like the victim of a conspiracy. But this is only a conspiracy for the sake of good taste.
Between living room and restaurant
The host, Igor Zincenco, greets at the apartment door. During the evening he will be the waiter, sommelier and entertainer at the same time. Once he has taken the coats he leads into the room where the rest of the evening will be spent.
In less than 30 square metres there are not only six tables but even a sitting corner, a piano, a record player and a kitchen, which at first look does not seem to be better or worse equipped than the one most people have at home.
The difference is that Zaida Zincenco is at work here, performing her kitchen magic, and she is already laying the first canapes on a tablet, including red cabbage strudel, beef tartare and bread rolls with a piquant cream. They serve a glass of Prosecco with the entrée.
Apartment- or living-room restaurants, whatever you call them, are a trend that is associated with hobby cooks. However, Zaida is professional and has proven her skills at numerous first-class establishments. Igor is not a rookie either, having operated several bistro pubs in Great Britain.
Still, the two chose to adapt this amateur business model, and they are not only successful with it but also happier than ever before.
"We got the idea during the time we spent together in Great Britain," they tell. "We invited some friends to eat over sometimes. They were always so impressed that the whole thing soon developed into a fixed evening every week, which was freed up by everyone so they could be there. When we moved back to Budapest we wanted to open something of our own, and we remembered these home-cooking evenings."
Full evening program with six courses
Eating at the Zincencos is a full evening program, as instead of offering à la carte they prepare a degustation menu for every guest, with a seasonally changing content. It takes about four hours to get from the Amuse Bouche to Dessert.
No matter if we are talking about foie gras, quail egg soup, catfish filet or beef tenderloin, all dishes are prepared with perfect technique and arranged in a refined way – on plates designed especially for this restaurant.
A Hungarian ceramic artist, Judit Lantos, painted the monogram of the restaurant on the plates and bowls. You can eat with cutlery from the assortment of British designer Robert Welch.
"Details are simply important for me when we are dealing with good gastronomy," Igor explains. You can see that in the design of the guest space too. The couple started designing and rebuilding the former private apartment five months ago. During the renovations they tore up the floorboards, scraped the walls and had special furniture made.
"The interior has to reflect the style of Zaida’s kitchen – progressive but rustic, classic but delicate, timeless yet modern." The result gives an impression of relaxed serenity, with an expressly unpretentious style that you can also find in hip large cities, such as London or New York.
Unlike the culinary creations of Zaida, though, with which she always points back to her Hungarian home. If you wish, you can watch the 28-year-old chef in action over her shoulder.
Zaida is happy to offer insight about the ingredients, preparation and her time spent in the kitchens of awarded restaurants. Igor is always ready to tell a few jokes, and has good anecdotes about several Hungarian winemakers.
The mix of good cuisine, good wine and good conversation is something that you are reluctant to finish even after spending four hours. However, accompanied by the last few digestives, everyone is ushered outside the door just a couple minutes after 23:00. See you next time at the Zincencos.
If you are a fan of excellent cuisine and extraordinary gastronomic experiences, you have to visit this apartment restaurant in 2019.
Of course, you have to pay the price: at HUF 13,500 for the six courses and an additional HUF 7500 for the matching wine selection, we are not talking about peanuts. However, if you compare this with the degustation menu of other restaurants, the price is still quite favourable. Igor Zincenco knows this too.
However, he is not planning to increase the price in the long term. "It’s important for us that not only a tiny circle of rich customers is able to afford this experience," he says. Instead, he would like to charm as many people as possible with this kind of sophisticated cooking. Still, Zincenco Kitchen is not about everyday eating, much rather a great experience that is best reserved for special occasions.