Hunger had been recommended to me by a similarly foodie-minded colleague of mine, so I knew that it was worth a look. And then I heard more and more about this relatively new addition to upper Fremont (in the vicinity of Via Tribunali, Caffe Vita, and the Fremont Abbey), so clearly a visit was in order.
It just so happened that friends and I went at the very tail end of the most recent Dine Around Seattle, that twice-yearly dining-out promo that hits Seattle every March and November. Though allow me a brief digression… Was anyone else completely caught by surprise this time around? I consider myself a reasonably food-aware person, reading my share of blogs, websites, and tweets as I do, but I heard nary a word about this month’s food fest until a co-worker scheduled a lunch out for us. (It was at Shuckers, by the way, and the most noteworthy thing about it was the simple syrup offered along with the iced tea. So civilized!) So when I mentioned this over dinner my two friends demurred slightly, one saying that she had seen mention as a banner ad on a Seattle Times webpage. Duly noted, but STILL, it felt like the promotion was a bit lackluster this time around. Harumph.
Diatribe aside, I was pleased with my experience at Hunger. It seems a bit off the beaten path, even in the midst of those well-known neighbors mentioned above. Once I found my way inside I noted immediately that it had a distinctly neighborhood vibe, a small space with red- and orange-hued walls and an eclectic assortment of art. The tile-topped counter that fronts the street mirrors the curved bar, and was our first stop for a happy hour drink before dinner. The 4-6pm happy hour offers a decent menu of food and drink, with $3 Red Stripe tall boys as well as a good selection of nibbles for $5 each. The Cucumber Martini, one of the $5 specialty cocktails, was particularly tasty: an concotion of their well vodka, macerated cucumber, and simple syrup. A little sweet, but not too much so. Mostly just delicious!
In the yellow-hued room just beyond the small front room and bar, there is a big communal table and it’s there that we sampled Hunger’s offerings for Dine Around Seattle. Being the good food buddies that they are, they participated in my favorite activity for promotions like these: ordering one of everything (or very nearly) and sharing bites of all. We started with the Roasted Beet Salad with spicy toasted nuts, chevre, organic herb greens, and aged balsamic vinaigrette, a solid if not revolutionary beet salad. The Curried Mussels, given the accompaniment list of coconut milk, green curry broth, fresh lime, and basil sounded absolutely delicious, and it came through in spades. The Moroccan Lentil Soup with Northern beans, Flageolet beans, tomato, truffle oil, and fresh herbs was just a touch spicy, with tremendous flavor.
I’d say that was the theme of the meal for the most part, in fact. “Tremendous flavor” definitely described the Andouille Gnocchi, one pasta I’m always hesitant to order because it can so easily come off as bland. There wasn’t a chance of that in Hunger’s version, with andouille, caramelized red onion, plum tomato, arugula, and balsamic reduction. The same could be said for the Wild Mushroom Risotto, another dish that can sometimes fall flat, but apparently not when you’re Hunger and working with wild mushrooms, plum tomato, marjoram, black truffles, and shaved reggiano cheese. I wasn’t as much a fan of the Steak Frites. The truffle shoestring potatoes were deliciously thin and crispy, but the beef seemed swamped by the demiglace of red wine, mushroom, and onion. Perhaps a bit more demi, next time around?
It feels as though the desserts – a cheese plate, Empire ice cream, and Ginger & Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta – weren’t as stellar as the savory dishes that preceded them, so maybe it’s the Small Bites and Big Bites for which one comes to Hunger. I’d be OK with that, with items on the menu like Wild Boar Sliders, Harissa Smoked Lamb, Curried Cauliflower Gratin, and One Seriously Gouda Burger. I think that it’s tough to judge a restaurant on a Dine Around Seattle or Seattle Restaurant Week experience, so count me in for another visit. Starting with one of those delicious cucumber martinis, if you don’t mind.