After a drama season dominated by crazy housemaids, bounty hunter flight attendants, and lovelorn women, I’m happy to see some men back in dramaland. Leading the pack is Mukai Osamu (YAY!) in his first leading drama role, Hungry! The first episode is mostly set-up for stuff we already know if you’ve read the synopsis and while it’s not incredibly witty or very heartfelt, it’s pretty feel good and I can go for that.
The show opens with our hero, Yamate Eisuke (Mukai Osamu) showering. Way to hook an audience. He eats breakfast with his girlfriend Maria (Kuninaka Ryoko) before heading off to work. It’s the opening day for his restaurant and he wants everything to be perfect.
Okusu Chie (Takimoto Miori) is a college student and is gushing to her friend Nana about how she wants to meet an amazing guy and eat with him at an amazing restaurant, in particularly Le Petit Chou. When she goes to see the restaurant though, she finds a different place called Gasterea. She spots a flyer for Le Petit Chou and they follow a trail of them before catching up with Eisuke, who’s throwing them all over the place. They follow him back to the restaurant where he takes a smoke and then proceeds to smash a guitar.
Needless to say the girls are scared when Eisuke spots them, but Chie tells him they’re looking for Le Petit Chou. He tells them to come back later since they’re not open yet and goes inside. Chie and Nana stand outside confused before realizing the warehouse they’re looking at is Le Petit Chou.
Chie: “Our encounter was as bad it gets. But a few hours later, I would fall in love with that man. No, not with that man, but with that man’s cooking.”
We go back three months. Eisuke’s band, ROCKHEAD, is performing for a less than enthusiastic crowd and get booed off stage as soon as they finish. The vocalist, Taku (Miura Shohei) is tired of this and decides to quit. Eisuke’s not worried and says they can just get another vocalist but Kenta (Tsukamoto Takahashi) says maybe it’s time they give up. They’ve been together for 15 years already, but their career hasn’t gone anywhere. Besides, Eisuke’s almost thirty; he promised his mom that if his career didn’t work out by now then he’d go work at the restaurant. Eisuke persists in continuing with ROCKHEAD; there’s still the results of the Million Face audition to look forward to. Kenta shoots that down too; the results came back already and they didn’t make it. Kenta says he’s going to look for a permanent job and Tsuyoshi (Kawabata Kaname) says he’s going to inherit his family’s business as well.
As Eisuke goes to his mom’s restaurant, Le Petit Chou, he remembers how he didn’t always want to be a rocker. He had dreamed of growing up and becoming a chef like his mom. However, when he inadvertently hurt the feelings of a girl who had a crush on him by honestly critiquing a meal she made for him, he was driven to become a rock musician. Cue Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” and young Eisuke rocking out in a garage.
Though he graduates from cooking school and his mom wants him to study abroad or work at the restaurant, Eisuke wants to pursue a musical career. He talked high and mighty about how needed rock, but it hasn’t gotten him anywhere and he still depends on his mom financially.
At Le Petit Chou, we see a man sampling dish after dish. It’s Aso Tokio (SMAP’s Inagaki Goro) who we saw earlier at the Gasterea restaurant. He comes often and is interested in buying Le Petit Chou, though Eisuke’s mom keeps refusing him. This time he suggests they work together; she has great cooking skills and is located in an area that would attract many wealthy customers. Besides, she has to support her husband and son, neither of whom are doing too well in their careers. Eisuke’s mom still refuses; she’s not interested in making money but in making people happy.
Eisuke tries to bring up the topic of working at the restaurant but his mom says she doesn’t need his help anymore. When he said he was going to become a musician, she was angry, but when she remembered how her parents were against her becoming a chef, she understood his feelings. She tells him to do what he wants and when he feels like he’d want to cook, he can come to Le Petit Chou.
Eisuke’s about to leave when mom collapses and later on dies. After the funeral, he looks at the knife he got when he graduated from cooking school when one of the employees shows up. He says his mom polished the knife every day waiting for when they could cook together. Alone in the kitchen, Eisuke looks at his mom’s chef outfit, telling her how much he loved her cooking and how happy he was for her food. He wishes he could tell her how grateful he was towards her. He calls himself a bad son for never living up to her expectations, knocking over pots angrily. He remembers what his mom said about how he could come back any time and becomes determined to protect the restaurant…
…Except Dad already sold it to Aso. Dad’s not worried though; they get money for living expenses and Le Petit Chou stays open. At least that’s what they think until they see a construction team tearing everything apart. A new restaurant will be opened instead under Aso Corporation. Dad and Eisuke are in no position to do anything though; the rent for the land is two million yen, money neither of them have.
So Eisuke and Dad decide to open up their own restaurant in the warehouse, with the help of Kenta and Tsuyoshi. They’re deciding on a menu and a name when one of Mom’s former workers comes in. She’s Ebina Mutsuko (Katagiri Hairi) and she wants to work here. Though Eisuke can’t pay her, she insists on working for the “young master,” at least part-time. Eisuke needs all the hands he can get, so he accepts her.
It’s opening day and Gasterea has a press conference before they officially open. At Le Petit Chou, Eisuke’s complaining about the food and the sloppy table set-up by Mutsuko. Turns out she was only a pastry chef in training at the old restaurant.
Eisuke’s dad comes to the restaurant all dressed up and to celebrate its opening, starts performing some magic tricks. He does one with fire, but he drops it on some flammable liquid that Mutsuko spilled earlier. The fire spreads all the way to the kitchen and by the time they put it out, all the vegetables are burnt.
Eisuke goes out to buy some more, but hardly gets enough to make up for the ones they lost. He sniffs out a tomato field and starts eating them. A boy spots him and calls for his dad to catch Eisuke. Eisuke just keeps eating, saying the tomatoes are good and asks if he can have them. The boy, Sasuke, says it’s fine, but Dad’s against it. Eisuke says he’ll buy them and that’s when Chie shows up; it’s her family’s tomato field.
Cut to Eisuke and Chie pushing a cart of tomatoes to the restaurant trying to make it back before the restaurant officially opens. While Gasterea has a bunch of reporters, streamers, and full tables when it officially opens, Le Petit Chou has only a little neon sign and no customers.
No worries though; Kenta’s invited some guys and they promised to bring a lot of people with them. Though Eisuke’s against it since Kenta promised them they could drink all they want, he relents since he doesn’t want his dad to be the only customer on their first day.
Chie can’t believe that this restaurant and the old Le Petit Chou share the same name since they’re so different. Eisuke tries to get her to try some food, but Chie declines. She hands him the bill and before she leaves he gives her the rillettes he was trying to sell earlier. Though she’s skeptical at first, she eats the rillettes up within minutes, unable to believe how good it is.
At Le Petit Chou, the guys Kenta called are getting rowdy because they’ve been waiting so long. They’re about to leave when Eisuke comes out with the dishes. Though they look delicious, the guys refuse to eat it because they’ve never heard of them and had to wait so long. Eisuke demands they pay since they drank so much and the leader and Eisuke are about to fight when Kenta breaks them up.
Eisuke asks that he at least have a bite. The leader agrees, but if the food sucks then Eisuke has to apologize on his hands and knees. Of course the food is delicious and soon everyone’s demanding for more. I love that they put on rock music, even though it’s supposed to be a high-class French restaurant.
Shiroyama, ROCKHEAD’s former manager comes as well. She’s not interested in the food though; she laments the fact that they didn’t pass the Million Face audition. She was sure they would make it this year. Kenta, looking very uncomfortable, agrees.
Chie and Nana show up as well and Chie ends up eating most of what’s on the menu. She tells Eisuke that even though he’s not her type of guy, she’s in love with his food. She tells Nana that a guy like Eisuke couldn’t be popular with girls because of his bad attitude which is just when Maria walks in. She brings flowers and Eisuke gives her the seat he especially reserved for her.
Seeing the success of le petit chou’s opening, Eisuke thinks that he may finally be able to move people’s hearts and make his loved ones smile with this restaurant.
However, we see Aso peeking in one of the windows of Le Petit Chou, and he does not look happy.
Taku’s also getting out of jail for one reason or another, complaining about how hungry he is.
Back at the restaurant, a whole week has passed and yet they haven’t had any customers. Uh-oh.
Like I said, the episode’s mostly stuff we already know and the characters don’t face any major obstacles just yet, though we can already tell that Aso’s Gasterea will be a major obstacle to Le Petit Chou’s success.
Though I liked the idea of a rocker becoming a restaurant owner, I was a little put off by Eisuke after seeing him as the wannabe rocker; everything he said came off as cheesy and juvenile so I was glad to see him move away from that type of thinking as he tried to set up the restaurant. I know having Eisuke act that way was because we needed to see his motivation behind setting up the restaurant, but it made me cringe more than anything. While I don’t want them to get rid of the rocker aspect of the show entirely, I hope they don’t keep portraying it in such a simplistic way.
Other than that, I like how the show’s been set up so far. Eisuke’s reasoning for opening the restaurant isn’t too contrived; realistically he would’ve ended up working at a restaurant anyway, but his mother’s death is a nice emotional touch that drives him to accept his cooking talent.
I also like the staff; they’re all a bunch of misfits so it will be interesting to see if and how they change so that Le Petit Chou can become a success.
I’m not too sold on the Chie-Eisuke-Maria love triangle yet, but I expect that’s because we haven’t seen too much of Maria’s character. We’ve seen a bit of Chie and so far she’s a little too over the top for me and while I never tire of a bickering romance, it seems a little too forced here.
I think I’ll need another episode or two before I decide if I like it or not; the show has promise (and who can resist Mukai Osamu and food?), but I don’t want to get my hopes too high.