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Hungry I

The romance is not worth the price

By Kate Samranvedhya

71 Charles Street

(between Mt. Vernon and Pinckney street)


(617) 227 3524

Romance brings me to Hungry I, as it does for many couples. The restaurant has won many awards for being the best romantic restaurant, and might account for the markup you pay on food and wine. But the French country cuisine is frozen in time by the chef, whose philosophy is that he’s “been doing what people like for eighteen years, so [he’ll] continue to do it.”

Most of the couples there seek the romantic feel of a stuffed French townhouse. Every niche and corner is used to its full extent. The wines are tugged on the ceiling. The tables are arranged to make the full use of small space, maybe too close to have a private conversation. Decorations are everywhere.

The first floor, or half-basement, is the main dining room, which opens everyday. The two upstairs salons only open during the weekend. Dates might want to be seated upstairs to avoid sight of the kitchen from the main dining room, and from the traffic of people walking up and down the stairs. If only the main dining room is open, the tables near the window are better since they are farther from traffic, even though the fireplace is on the opposite side.

The menu gets changed three times a year, and as with many French restaurants, it is full of items like rabbit, venison, and frog legs. Ordinary items like pork chops or rack of lambs are available as well. Based on my experience, it is almost always good to order the special of the night.

The venison looked marvelous, as did the rack of lamb. The sauce for the lamb was simple, and the vegetables were cooked and warmed in butter just before serving. My friend’s bay scallop and lobster were almost too hot when served, and the high price did not reflect the quantity of lobster in the dish. And it could have had more seasoning. My dinner at Hungry I was more like comfort food rather than terrific.

Since our experience with the main dishes was not that great, we passed on dessert. There were different kinds of cakes and pies, which anyone could have at a good pastry shop without the markup.

Peter Ballarin, chef and owner, opened the restaurant eighteen years ago. He was trained by his father, who was trained by his father, and he surely believes that what he does to attract people will continue to attract them for years to come. Perhaps a little touchup on his food would help the setting, location, and decorations which do attract people back to this place, though I’m sure Mr. Ballarin has frequent customers who like whatever he does.

The food here is good, but too plain for a French restaurant at this price. Do not let the French-speaking waiter intimidate you, since he gets paid by what you pay for the dinner. The only reason I would want to eat here again is for the romantic atmosphere. But if you do not require your romance to be in an old townhouse, another location might suffice.