231A Victoria St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
You wouldn't accuse Hungarian food, as rule, of being famous for its lightness. This, after all, is the country that invented the sour cream smothered egg. But in the hands of Adam Wolfers, who's manning the burners for the next few months now ex-head chef Analeise Gregory has made for Hobart, you might make a convincing argument.
The ex-head chef of Yellow Bistro has taken the recipes of his Jewish Hungarian grandmother and given them a twist. His pop-up within Bar Brose is called Etelek which, if I know my Hungarian (I don't), means "food".
The sourdough starter he's been carrying around from kitchen to kitchen for the past six or so years is here turned into a wet dough, left to prove, then dropped into the deep-fryer.
The result is a sort of golden, doughnut-esque amorphic blob. Rip and dip into a mass of smoked-and-aerated sour cream covered in "Hungarian dukkah" (it's pretty much a paprika-heavy version of Pizza Shapes topping), which wobbles like a sealed section centrefold.
That's the kick off for the tasting menu, but you can also order it a la carte. I'd definitely come here just for the langos, and a glass of wine. But we're here for the tasting menu ($65 for seven courses!), so we only eat most of it.
Next up, gefilte fish translates as two little fish cakes topped with a slash of sour cream and beetroot powder, and a side of rough-hewn beetroot and horseradish relish.
Matzo ball soup (it's not part of the tasting, I just order it as mid-course soul succour), again, is probably a meal unto itself. It's also everything you want and need after a hellish day. The deep, robust chicken soup is finished with smoked schmaltz while the matzo ball itself is a big juicy dumpling held together with even more of that chicken fat.
Hungarian noodles bound by pureed pumpkin and an egg yolk are unnecessarily bitter from the addition of bush tomato, but those chopped noodles (nokedli) are beautifully firm.
A meaty parsnip schnitzel is served pretty much nude except for a slice of grilled lemon and a spare herb salad – it's a surprisingly juicy vego alternative. And while a chock of pastrami hidden under a frizzy nest of ultra-finely shredded cabbage might be hella salty, it's also hella tender, falling apart in rich striations at the nudge of a fork.
If there was ever a reason to practise your Hungarian, make it the kugelhopf – a sort of hybrid bundt/chocolate marble/orange and poppyseed cake tempered by whipped buttermilk. It's comfortingly sweet without venturing into tea lady territory.
Wolfers somehow manages to straddle the divide between comfort and clever dining. Get in, Sydney – you've got him for two whole months.
Pro Tip: Make a dent in the excellent wine list if you have the time and inclination. Even if you don't, do it anyway
Go-to Dish: The langos ($8) is a fried bread you can take a nap on and then eat when you wake up.