I had read about Hungry Mother in the Globe a while ago and we finally got a chance to try it over the weekend. The concept is southern flavors (if Virginia can be considered Southern) meet French technique. Exorbitant amounts of butter meet more butter and cream? I hoped not – and there were several attractive items on the menu, so I went in with an open mind. The restaurant is half a block from the Kendall Cinema which makes it the ideal dinner and a movie place. If you eat before 6 and are seeing a film, the restaurant will get your tickets for you – a convenience we did not make use of so can’t personally attest to, but I’ll take their word for it.
Entering Hungry Mother was a bit shocking. I’m not sure who designed the layout of the space, but for the love of god why did they put the bar in a cramped room next to the entrance. Customers were shoulder to shoulder, shuffling from side to side trying to sneak their way to their seats. Once we were escorted into the main dining room the lunacy of the setup became even more apparent – the rest of the restaurant is actually quite spacious. Luckily, that was the low point of the experience. We began with three of the four small pre-appetizers Hungry Mother offers: spicy pimiento cheese dip, deviled eggs, and warm beef tongue canape. We skipped the boiled Virginia peanuts–I just couldn’t bring myself to order boiled peanuts in a restaurant. Perhaps if I’m in the Planter’s hospitality center after the grand tour of the factory. For a nice dinner? No thank you. The cheese dip was fine, the deviled egg very good (the only deviled egg i’ve ever eaten and enjoyed), and the warm beef tongue canape could have been excellent, but the glaze was a bit too sweet, overpowering the taste of the tongue. On the whole, some satisfying but not dazzling snacks.
For appetizers we ordered the berkshire pork ribs and the fried oysters, both were excellent – the ribs were sticky and tender and delicious and the batter for the oysters was impressively light and greaseless. I wish both plates were entrees. That’s not to put down the entrees, they were good too. We had the bluefish and the catfish – simple dishes but tasty combinations (particularly the mustard-caper brown butter for the catfish). Not too sure about the “middlins” that accompanied the catfish. Seemed like glorified rice pilaf to me. Some sides of baked grits and cornbread (the sorghum butter was tasty and interesting) and desserts of chocolate cake with milk and strawberry shortcake rounded out the meal nicely, though the strawberries had a thawed wateriness to them. Prices are eminently reasonable: $7-13 for appetizers, $17-27 for entrees. Overall, I don’t know that Hungry Mother merits consistent trips to Kendall Square but if you’re going to a movie around the corner you’d be a damn fool to eat elsewhere.