First-time visitors to Time Out Market Boston might be surprised to encounter savory King crab risotto and delicate gremolata dumplings in food hall environs. Peter Ungár—one of Boston's most under-the-radar chefs—is the visionary behind these plates; the French-trained chef has won acclaim for Tasting Counter, his hard-to-find foodie destination that has become Somerville’s top-rated, and most in-demand, culinary destination. There, all-inclusive dining “tickets” are required to sample the ever-changing assortment of creative, seasonal plates produced by Ungár and his team. With his Tasting Counter at Time Out Market Boston, Ungár is helping to democratize the fine dining experience, allowing customers to try just a dish or two, rather than a multi-hundred dollar splurge at the Somerville mothership.
“When (my wife) Ginhee and I opened the doors of Tasting Counter, our first restaurant, we wanted to create a reimagined fine dining experience for our guests. We wanted to remove some of the trappings that made fine dining feel intimidating or stuffy or wildly expensive yet still provide a dining experience that was multi-sensory and unique,” explains Ungár. “We also wanted to create a restaurant that supported our “0|50|100” mission (0 carbon, at least 50% ingredients sourced within Massachusetts, 100% natural food and beverages).
“Opening our concept at Time Out Market Boston is incredibly exciting because it provides an opportunity to do what we are doing at Tasting Counter in a dynamic space and reach a larger audience,” Ungár continues. “Just like at our restaurant in Somerville, we will be sourcing local ingredients, cooking seasonally, and making every element of the dish from scratch but for a menu designed for a more fast-paced, casual setting, again allowing us to continue to reimagine fine dining. We will also support our 0|50|100 ethos at the new TOM location with a continued commitment to composting, recycling, and minimizing food waste.”
This approach means market visitors can enjoy dishes such as gremolata dumplings (featuring house-soured cream, sea urchin, hen of the woods and preserved lemon) or rice smoked duck breast (with garlic braised greens, yuzu kosho and fermented black bean vinaigrette)—neither of which would be out of place at Boston’s priciest temples of fine gastronomy—while knowing their choices will have a minimal impact on the environment.
“While I grew up in Texas, my family is Hungarian so I spent countless hours during my childhood watching my grandmother prepare dumplings by hand, and of course eating them,” Ungár reveals when asked about his gremolata dumplings. “This dish, which we’ve had seasonal iterations of on the menu forever, is an elevated take on comfort food. Every component of the dish is made in house: we sour the cream ourselves and preserve the lemons, and ingredients—including locally foraged mushrooms and sea urchin from Maine—are sourced from New England. It’s a tasting menu classic with Hungarian roots and New England flavors.”
With every bite, market guests can know they’re experiencing food made with craft and attention to detail. “We take the idea of a ‘from scratch’ kitchen very seriously and nearly everything is made in house,” reveals Ungár. “We culture our own butter, sour the cream, and make our buttermilk. We make our own breads, preserves, ferments, and condiments. We even grow our own greens and have a collaborative relationship with a farm that exclusively provides us with our own maple syrup, honey, and many of the fruits and vegetables we use.”
One of the many reasons Ungár warrants his place among Time Out Market Boston’s best-of-the-city roster is how thoughtful he is about his operations and the role fine dining has in society. “Time Out Market shares our mission to make incredible dining experiences accessible to a broad audience. To be able to continue doing this at TOM Boston and share beautifully sourced, thoughtfully prepared food with a larger group of people is exciting,” says Ungár. “Instead of doing it for 20 people at a time at our restaurant in Somerville, we now have the opportunity to cook for and serve many, many more each day and represent the diverse talents and culinary points of view found in this city.”