The Hungarian Roots of Agi’s Counter

Some of the very best issues in life should not sought out however thrust upon us. Hungary, for example, was launched to espresso by means of its occupation by the Ottoman Empire. At Agi’s Counter, in Crown Heights, the chef Jeremy Salamon’s childhood recollections of his grandmother sparked the creation of the very first thing you discover about his Nosh Plate: enormous crackers that undulate like Frank Gehry wall shards. “Growing up, my mom’s mom belonged to a country club, so she would always be eating these very large crackers—like, huge,” Salamon informed me. “And she would just be buttering them, and I always thought it was just so comical. It was a sign of bouginess, for some reason: I have this large cracker. So I was, like, I think everybody deserves large crackers.”

Palacsinta, or crêpes, are full of candy cheese and smothered in brown butter.

Made of spelt flour, water, olive oil, and sea salt, the crackers are speared into silky chicken-liver mousse. Salamon might have stopped there, however surrounding this bounty are a pile of pickled greens, a soft-boiled egg topped with whipped devilled-egg filling, and a ramekin of körözött, a kicky Hungarian pimento cheese.

Salamon’s different, paternal grandmother, nonetheless, is the namesake of this genial counter-service spot: Agi, ninety-four, Hungarian, and now dwelling, after many lifetimes, in Boca Raton. “She came to America when she fled Hungary in ’56, during the revolution,” Salamon, who has cooked at Via Carota and the Eddy, stated. “So she has a very different idea of Hungarian cuisine than I think it’s like now. She would cook a mish-mosh of stuff—goulash next to eggplant Parmesan, or steak Diane next to paprikash.”

Renee Hudson creates an impeccable seasonal array of pastries, equivalent to a fragile Gerbeaud cake (prime left), after that of the Café Gerbeaud, in Budapest, and the Ferdinand bun (prime middle).

Currently, none of these can be found at Agi’s Counter, which opened in November and serves an exceptionally considerate menu of Hungarian-inspired breakfast and lunch dishes. (Dinner, that includes a Hungarian wine record, is deliberate for late spring.) The décor evokes a diner meets a millennial’s condo, decked with heirlooms—blond wooden, terrazzo counters, open cabinets displaying Depression glass and classic floral china, faux-Victorian wallpaper.

The open-faced sandwiches embody the Jammy Egg Mousse (prime) and the Confit Tuna (backside).

On a latest morning, breakfast included the hearty Leberkase, during which a thick slab of spongy pork pâté is sandwiched, with fried egg and pear mostarda, between even thicker slabs of Pullman-style bread. But it was the tender herb-flecked biscuit—dill aroma assembly your nostril as you lean in to chunk, unfold with mayo and stacked with a delicate fried egg and assertive Alpine Cheddar—that made for the right morning snack.

At lunch, open-faced sandwiches included the Confit Tuna, topped with fried shoestring potatoes, pickled pepper, and a bathe of shaved horseradish, and the Jammy Egg Mousse, which units oozy egg halves atop bread piped with extra of that devilled-egg filling. Sweet-cheese-filled, brown-butter-smothered palacsinta, or crêpes, are properly paired with Thumpers, sodas of house-made syrups, such because the lemon verbena and fennel—spritzed through oldfangled glass bottles, by the fourth-generation family-run Brooklyn Seltzer Boys.

On Sundays, Agi’s affords doughnuts—till they promote out.

One defining component of Hungarian delicacies is its pastry custom, and right here the pastry chef Renee Hudson creates an impeccable seasonal array. A latest choice included a fragile Gerbeaud cake (after that of Café Gerbeaud, in Budapest, layered with walnuts and apricot jam and topped with fruity chocolate and flaky salt), a warmed Ferdinand bun (fantastically swirled on prime and redolent of cardamom), and a shortbread cookie with the satisfying crumb of a caraway sandie.

On Sundays and Sundays solely, Agi’s affords doughnuts—till they promote out. “In Hungarian, doughnuts are called fánk. We’ve made countless jokes about it. We’ve got the fánk,” Salamon stated. “Fánkytown.” He described what makes them distinctive: “They have this cotton-candy-like texture. They’re super fluffy. When you pull it apart, it’s very wispy.” The doughnuts I had had been speckled with lemon zest, full of pear-vanilla-bean jam, dusted with a flurry of powdered sugar, and light-weight as air. Perhaps you, too, ought to head right down to Fánkytown, and get the fánk. (Pastries $3-$10, dishes $5-$18.) ♦


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