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Found 108 results

  1. According to Eater, this Shaw joint just opened. The head chef previously worked at Le Bernadin and Guy Savoy. Being super hip and cool, we will be checking out their early-bird specials soon.
  2. If there is a thread about this place I could not find it. I have not been here in years, but it appears there is a new chef: Apr 20, 2016 - "Well-Loved La Côte d’Or Café Gets New Owner-Chef; Frogs Legs and Escargot? - Oui!" on lightningreleases.com Apr 22, 2016 - "Frog Legs, Escargots Back on the Menu at La Côte d’Or Café" on arlnow.com May 4, 2016 - "Arlington: New Owner-Chef Leads La Côte d’Or" by Eden Brown on connectionnewspapers.com We used to enjoy La Mediterranée on Lee Highway before it burned down. Might be time to head back to La Côte d’Or and see what's doing.
  3. Le Marais has a few branches in San Francisco. We had brunch at the Castro location today given that we live in the neighborhood. Croissant. On par with the ones at Tartine. A bonus is that the staff at Le Marais has ZERO attitude which practically ensures that we'll be back. Butter and jam. The jam was nothing to write home about however. Their hot chocolate was basically a cup of steamed cream with a shot of cocoa. Oh well, can't get everything right all the time I suppose. Croque monsieur with ham and gruyère, small salad. Unlike at other places we've been to so far, Le Marais uses brioche instead of croissants for their croques. Vinaigrette had a touch too much mustard and acid. Duck confit with roasted potatoes, mushrooms and small salad. Same issue with the vinaigrette here as above. Plate was otherwise perfect. Le Marais 498 Sanchez (18th Street) The Castro
  4. So Bistroquet did a soft opening last night. So soft, in fact, that they didn't actually tell anybody that they were opening and simply let people wander in. I only even saw that they were open because I happened to be walking my dog past them. Because of this, I got there too late and the kitchen was closed, but I did grab a beer (they had a good, but small, beer list. 3 different types of Ayinger and a few French and Belgian beers) and chat with the owner and the chef. I also got a look at the menu and it looks great. Lots of very traditional French food, with some Thai dishes thrown in, (the owner's wife is Thai) along with some Thai-French fusion dishes that looked surprisingly good. What impressed me most was their willingness to put offal front and center - their appetizer list was nearly half organ meat. Dishes like lamb's brain on toast and tripe in mustard sauce shared the page with escargot and pommes frites. The entrees also looked promising, if a bit expensive, but that's the new normal for the neighborhood. (despite the fact that every time a restaurant space opens up the listserv is abuzz with people hoping it gets filled with a "reasonably priced family restaurant." If that's what people actually wanted then Palisades Pizzeria and Listrani's wouldn't have closed down and places like Blacksalt and Et Voila wouldn't be packed every night!) Overall I can't wait to come back and give the food a shot. I'll report back once I have.
  5. I prefer to let the pictures speak for themselves. It's one of my favorite places to eat at in NYC although sometimes I do wish the aura of preciousness could be dispensed with. Buvette 42 Grove Street (Bleecker Street) Greenwich Village
  6. I had dinner at Matisse earlier this week and was pleasantly surprised. This was a business dinner and the host chose the place; after a few rounds of anxious research here and elsewhere on the web, my expectations were not high, but the evening was quite nice. We were at the chef's table/wine room, which is a sort of open corner (2 sides lined with wine racks) off the kitchen. Caveats - this was a six-course fixed-menu large-group meal, with dedicated servers and such, so I don't think it's necessarily representative of a regular dinner experience there and I have no idea what anything cost. Also, I think there must be another kitchen farther back or something, because I didn't see much action -- if your idea of a chef's table is to watch flashing knives and flames, you won't see much of that here. That said, the food was thoughtful, creative and for the most part meticulously prepared. Matisse's web page calls it French-Mediterranean, but I'd say it's just French - we're talking cream and butter here, not olive oil and basil. Take an extra Lipitor and enjoy yourself. Standouts included the cocktail snacks (perfect little crab cakes the size of bay scallops, just slightly crunchy and spicy), a demitasse of creamy/spicy pumpkin-coconut soup (a flavor pairing new to me that I thought came off brilliantly), a cheese plate (hooray!), and squab with foie gras in a cabernet reduction. (A couple of quibbles about that one: with such a small amount of squab, I was puzzled as to why I got a nearly-meatless length of bone with mine -- not even enough to gnaw off; I didn't find that the chestnuts added much to my experience; and the wine paired with it, a white Bordeaux if memory serves, was startlingly sweet and I didn't find it worked for me.) Portions were small but satisfying; with six courses, I was grateful they weren't larger. Wines paired with the menu were generally delightful, and a Stemmler Pinot Noir was a big hit. (I was making big plans till I looked it up on Total Wines the next morning and found out it retails for $30/bottle!)
  7. Celebrated @MichaelBDC's birthday with some friends at Le DeSales a few weeks ago. We had a reservation on the early side (6:30pm), which worked out well given our leisurely pace. Except for two hiccups, service was attentive and our water glasses were always full. Our party of four started with a bottle of Zinfandel and a mocktail for one member of our party who is nine months pregnant. We also ordered a platter of charcuterie and cheese to share: jambon cru, duck proscuitto, comte, parmigiano reggiano, and prefere des montagnes. This was a decent board of meats and cheeses, but nothing was particularly interesting or unique. The first service hiccup occurred when we wanted to ensure that the cheeses on the menu were pasteurized. The server said she would ask the kitchen but thought they were all pasteurized. When she came back to take our order, we realized she hadn't checked as she had already told us that she "thought" all the cheese were pasteurized. So we had to insist she go back and check with the kitchen. Turns out all the cheeses were pasteurized, but it was a frustrating back and forth. We ended up finishing the bottle of wine relatively quickly and ordered a second bottle, a Mourvedre from France. For our entrees, we wanted to share the other dishes - a mix of appetizer and entree sized plates as well as sides which the restaurant accommodated, but left for a very full table. We ended up ordering: beets with avocado, miso and quinoa; duck egg with paprika potatoes, soup de pain, and watercress; pork loin with carrots and preserved lemon; cod with turnip and clams pesto; bass with cranberries, cashews, celeriac, and chive oil; broccoli with peanuts and mustard; grilled leeks with sunflower seeds and buttermilk; and the fries. Highlights for me were the duck egg dish, the beets (not super interesting but well executed and loved the crunch of the quinoa), and the broccoli (an odd combination but successfully executed and very tasty). The cod, pork loin, and leeks were well executed but not particularly memorable. I passed on the bass and the fries so I can't comment. For dessert we had the deconstructed cheesecake, chocolate tarte, and creme brulee. Again, well prepared and satisfying, but not outstanding. The GM/owner also brought out four glasses of champagne for us. Not sure why we were on the receiving end of such generosity but we appreciated it. By the time we were done, the restaurant was packed and it took us awhile to flag down our server and get our check. Overall, I was pretty impressed with Le DeSales. Food was well executed and some dishes were really interesting and outstanding. Glad to have more French options to choose from.
  8. We were a large party that needed some place to eat lunch on a Sunday and I wanted a seafood platter. I recalled that DBGB had a pretty stellar plateau de fruits de mer from my previous visit, so we went back. This time, I ordered the "royal" platter for $99. It had a lot more oysters than the $37 "petit" platter but not more variety of seafood, which was disappointing. There was one small lobster tail, 3 whelks, lots of oysters, claims and mussels, tuna tartare, some white fish, and some shrimp. I also had a $9 DBGB dog - which looks pretty but wasn't really better than a Hebrew Nat'l 1/4 lb beef frank. Others had burgers and various sausages. I also had a side of crawfish and okra gumbo that was pretty good. Go for the large and varied menu, not outrageous prices (for NYC and a celebrity chef joint), and the fun LES vibes.
  9. I eat here with some regularity and keep coming back because they do all the standards well, have an experienced and friendly staff, good parking, a very good wine list and reasonable prices. A good choice for a bustling neighborhood bistro. The table under the stairs is a nice, quiet private spot.
  10. We hadn’t been to L’Auberge Provencal in a few years, but headed out last weekend with a couple friends for a German Wine dinner, hosted by Elite Imports. We had a five course meal with accompanying wines. Each course paired very well, and we wouldn’t hesitate to return to La Table Provencal for a “regular” meal. Fluke Sashimi, preserved lemon, green apple, mango vinegar - Graacher Himmelreich Reisling Kabinett, Joh. Jos. Prum 2015 Excellent first dish – the preserved lemon and green apple matched particularly well with the Kabinett. We also received a peach gazpacho as an amuse, but this was rather unceremoniously plunked in front of us and as a result didn’t know what it was (apart from obviously being a gazpacho of some type) until later. Service was a bit choppy – we were often left to review the printed menus to understand what we were eating. The waitstaff didn’t describe the dishes at all. Scallop, spaetzle, heirloom tomato, chili flake - Graacher Himmelreich Reisling Spatlese, Joh. Jos Prum 2015 Maybe my favorite course of the afternoon – I taste any chili flake, but the acidity in the Spatlese and the tomato cut the richness of the scallop and spaetzli nicely. A small portion though - as the scallop was definitely singular. Maultaschen, bratwurst, Asian pear, dates, caramelized onion - Zeltinger Sonnenhur Reisling Spatlese, Joh. Jos Prum 2015 Another good example of how an off-dry or even sweet wine with enough acidity can pair with heartier foods. This dish included three silver dollar sized pieces of bratwurst – the maultaschen was in a ravioli-like format and the pear and onion were carmelized in a sort of rustic jam. At this point we began to notice two things – that the portions were pretty small, and that wine glasses were not topped up during courses (and were relatively small pours to begin with). Baker Farm pork roulade, potato, cabbage, fig, juniper - Weingut Bernhard Huber, Baden Pinot Noir Spatburgunder Trocken, 2014 Excellent dish – and a great pairing with the Spatburgunder, however I think that the wine suffered by comparison as it was such a departure from the gradually building sugar profiles in the wines until this point. The majority of the group ranked this wine as their least favorite of the afternoon, but I wonder if that would have been the case were it served earlier. The roulade was good, but two slices – cabbage manifested itself in the form of two cabbage leaves, and the potato salad was two spheres of potato with the traditional accompaniments. Peaches, Olive oil cake, vanilla yogurt, pine nut brittle - Wehlener Sonnenhur Reisling Auslese, Joh. Jos Prum, 2015 I was fully prepared to hate this course, but boy was I wrong. As delightful as a box of birds. Enjoyed the olive oil cake and yogurt as they were on the savory side and provided a very nice contrast to the sweetest wine of the evening. A great time was had by all - with two caveats. Portions were on the small side, as were the pours. I understand that there is a fine line in tasting menu portion control and wine dinner/ lunch pours, but the pours were considerably less than a half glass. The other caveat was the service – I’d describe it as perfunctory – bring plate, drop plate, clear plate. The service may have been compromised by the fact that the reps from Elite were often talking to the group between courses. Given the 2015 vintage’s reputation in Germany it was a nice opportunity to taste through some Rieslings and bring back a few cases.
  11. No thread for Chez Billy in Petworth? Ok, I'll go. A friend had been talking this place up late last year, so I wasn't too surprised when my SIL gave us a gift certificate here for Christmas (she lives in NYC, and asked my friend for recommendations). Were there other places I'd rather have been given a GC to in the city? Probably. But, I was also glad to have an excuse to try out Chez Billy. We went on a Sunday night, and the restaurant was never crowded, although the bar had a number of folks. The bar room is actually the more interesting of the two with its high ceilings, but the other room was nice and cozy for a winter night. It was a bit darker than I would like, but maybe I'm just getting old. Service was good. Nothing outstanding, but nothing bad. We started with Tartine Aux Champignons ($12 Sauteed wild mushrooms, grilled country bread, sherry vinegar, duck egg) and Soupe A L'oignon Gratinee Lyonnaise ($10 Classic onion soup), both of which were good. For some reason I was thinking the tartine would be more tart-like, when in fact it was just as described - a piece of grilled bread in a bowl, topped with mushrooms and a duck egg. It was good, but I think I was still thrown off by my own wrong expectations. The soup was excellent. So many times I have trouble with French onion soup cutting through the cheese and bread and eating it in a dignified manner. This was rich and cheesy, but very manageable. Our mains were Confit De Canard ($23 Pommes"Πde terre sarladaise, shitake mushrooms, garlic spinach, roasted duck jus) and Jarret De Porc ($24 Cider braised duroc pork shank, white beans, local kale, bacon). Both meats were falling off the bone, as expected, and both were very good. The pork shank was enormous, and I enjoyed the bean, kale, and bacon swimming underneath. Great wintery dishes on a cold evening. We ended with Plat De Fromage ($8 Walnut raisin toast, wildflower honey), which included a goat, a sheep, and a cow blue (I had been craving a blue cheese that day), and all three were delicious. Although I love walnut raisin toast, I wished there had been a more "plain" bread or cracker or something to let the flavors of the cheese shine through. All in all we really enjoyed our meal and would definitely recommend. I don't know if I'd drive across town, but if you're in the area, it's worth a stop. We even got parking right out front! Beats heading downtown.
  12. I heard from an inside source today that Stephen Starr's restaurant group has signed a lease for the old Q Street Cleaners space at 1601 14th St. NW, and it's going to become a Buddakan. Confidence level? Since I'm relying on a source for this (as opposed to hearing it with my own ears), it can't be 100%, but it's up there.
  13. While out that way, does anybody ever go to Frog & Friends just outside Marshall? I always get the road names mixed up, I think it's roughly where the Belvoir Road intersects 55, near the livestock auction. My wife and I and my stepdaughter had a pleasant late lunch there a couple years ago, seems like at that time the then-new owners had just taken it over. It had declined, I think people said, prior to that, but these young guys had Citronelle connections and big ideas for getting Frog & Friends on track, though I believe they were maybe a little under capitalized.... sort of country French I'd say. ETA--Ach I DO always screw up the road names, it's the Zulla Road, rte 709 & VA 55.
  14. It took some digging, but I independently confirmed that L'Hommage Bistro will be opening at 450 K Street NW, just east of Mount Vernon Square. The Chef de Cuisine will be Josh Perkins, who was most recently at Ecco in Atlanta - he has 25 years of experience in the industry. The Mâitre d' is named Mustafa Fairtout (I'm not sure about the spelling of Mustafa's last name), who was a Server at Cafe Milano. This will be a classical French bistro with onion soup, páté, steak frites, etc. The restaurant will seat 175 with 50 at the bar and 80 on the patio. Owner is Hakan Ilhan of Al Dente et al. A bakery will be attached to the bistro, selling French breads, sandwiches, coffee, and to-go meals - the bread will be made in-house. --- I was also sent this article: "Alba Osteria Owner Hakan Ilhan to Open French Restaurant in Mount Vernon Triangle" by Rebecca Cooper on bizjournals.com
  15. From: The List, Are You On It. Christophe Poteaux, currently Executive Chef / Food & Beverage Director for Aquarelle at The Watergate, will open this new restaurant in Old Town Alexandria by September, featuring a moderately priced, modern French/Mediterranean cuisine with a blend of world ingredients. So does anyone know where and when this is going to open?
  16. We went tonight and had an excellent meal. Both chef/partners Claudio Pirollo and Mickael Cornu were there on Sunday night! Great pate, super mussels and a delicious gratin of prosciutto wrapped endive for starts. The rib-eye steaks were perfectly done. Charming service made the evening thouroughly enjoyable.
  17. "Tous Les Matins du Monde" is an intense, unrelentingly sad drama based in the mid-late 1600s, involving the life of the great viol de gambe composers Marin Marais, his teacher, Saint-Colombe, and Saint-Colombe's two daughters. It is a film about loss, longing, wasted lives, and ultimate redemption. However, this film is so unrelentingly intense in its sadness that the "ultimate redemption" is like having an ounce of water after you've crawled out of a desert. To me, this is one of the greatest movies I've ever seen because the musical aspect resonated with me so deeply; to the average person, probably not as much (I saw this once before, back in the 1990s, and thought the same thing, so my personal life events have nothing to do with my thoughts about the film). I say, "See it!" But be aware that you're not going to want to go ride roller coasters when it's over. There's no violence, very little sexual innuendo, and nothing graphic; this is just a straight-up, human drama with a ton of character exploration. Guillaume Depardieu plays the young Marin Marais, while his more famous father plays the older, more decrepit version of same - the transition, while hardly seamless (I mean, this guy is *French*), is just about perfect.
  18. If you've ever wondered what the oldest film in the world is, as far as anyone knows, it's the two-second clip known as "Roundhay Garden Scene," filmed by French inventor Louis Le Prince. Click on the title, and the film - which you'll miss if you blink - is on the top-right of the Wikipedia page. There's also a wealth of information there - the film was shot in Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England.
  19. There are three versions to the 1895 documentary, "La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon," which has a running time of about one minute: The versions are referred to as, "One Horse," "Two Horses," and "No Horse" - it will be obvious why when you see them. All three can be viewed right here on Vimeo. Admittedly not much of a plot. It is not impossible that, if Jeanne Calment was born on the day this film was released, she still might have been alive this very day (Jeanne Calment remembered meeting Vincent Van Gogh!)
  20. I had a wonderful dinner yesterday evening with a couple of other Rockweilers at Marcel's. I don't know whether to begin with the food or the service or the ambiance. All were impeccable. We dined in the bar area so I can't comment on what the regular dining room is like. The bar area is light and airy with high ceilings and a glass front that looks out onto Penn. Ave. The decor is traditional yet modern. The package puts you at ease as you either sit at the bar or one of the tables in the bar area. The service was unobtrusive, professional and efficient, not a single mistake that I noticed. When it became apparent that the 3 of us sitting at the bar intended to dine, they asked us if we would like a table. When we gave an affirmative response, we were escorted to a nearby table and our drinks transported without the bat or roll of an eye. One of our party brought a couple bottles of wine and they were promptly taken away for chilling. The efficient food and wine service were so unobtrusive and efficient as to be almost invisible. I give the service an "A." I only perused the wines by the glass list and we had wine that one of our party brought so I can't comment on the wine list. I had a white burgundy and it was exactly as it should be. The food also was excellent. I started off with the boudin blanc, which apparently is their "signature" dish. The sausage came out with a perfectly browned skin, the crispiness of which contrasted nicely with the almost flan-like texture of the inside which had a light, delicate flavor. It sat atop a pool of what this morning I recall to be polenta. The whole thing was drizzled with some really good sauce. "A" For the entrée, I had the fillet of black sea bass with ratatouille. Damn, was this good. I ordered it primarily because of the ratatouille and because the others had already ordered what I thought was all the good stuff. The fish came out perfectly cooked and atop some pommes mouselline with the ratatouille around the sides of the plate. The mildness of the fish was offset by the tanginess of the ratatouille. "A" For dessert, I had the cheese course. The only thing I can recall was this one cheese that had so much flavor that I think my taste buds were out of commission for about 10 minutes. One bite of it was all I could handle. It was a real stinker. I give the cheese course a "B." The others had "regular"dessert which I now believe are the way to go. They have a soufflé dessert that takes about 20 minutes; if you are interested, put in your order when your entrée arrives (their failure to tell us about this might constitute a "mistake" by the service). Between the entrées and the desserts the "habitué" came over and sat down and chatted with us for a while. Altogether, an "A+" evening. This restaurant belongs on what has been described as the "short list," along with places such as Eve, Palena, Corduroy, Ray's and Firefly. I don't think it would be possible to have a mediocre dining experience at this establishment.
  21. DGDB (website) is currently open for dinner, rolling out brunch and lunch in the next few weeks. Boulud said this restaurant was going to be the most American of his French restaurants. Also it is noted because it will be serving the "Crabbie" with a nod to SpongeBob. But all that makes it sound so much less of what the opening showed it is likely to be. The bar, with marble and mirrored walls with etched quotes about libations was playful. I liked the height of the space and it made it feel a little less loud while quite packed on opening night. Wine, beer, cocktails were served, we tasted two of the cocktails which I have to say even on a packed night they were shaking up quickly and consistently, so kudos on that. The upstairs private dining was much more normal corporate feel with carpeted floors and blue walls, it wasn't as colorful, but still had fun views with big windows on each side. The upstairs was very loud, but there were also a lot of people up there because of the raw bar. I hope the guys shucking oysters aren't there normal crew because one guy was kind of butchering all of his. On the main floor going back towards the dining room from the bar there were shelves with plates painted by other chefs, cookbooks and other items. The plates were really the coolest part. Some chefs (cough cough Cathral Armstrong) were phoning it in, and some are really cool. A few are so well done I wonder if they had someone do theirs for them. But they were fun to see and some of the chefs I didn't know I was looking up to see what restaurants they were from. It gave it a very casual feel, while not being super casual, reminiscent of a less Southern Empire State South. The back wall can open up completely to the inner courtyard there of City Center which was a really nice feature, it really made the space feel open and kept that section a little less noisy even when really full. I assume they are going to have some patio space, which would be nice given the large courtyard. As to the food, there were a lot of excellent bites at the opening that represented dishes off the main menu. I think the food will be casual, but thoughtful enough to pull off casual well. There was an anchovy dip that wasn't bagna cauda that was really unusual, but so good, I hope this shows up somewhere on the main menu. There were some nice surprise tastes in what might be a very seen it dish, such as their tuna with harissa, and amazing roasted eggplant with very melt in your mouth soft flavorful lamb and an escargot dish that was more than just butter and garlic, in a good way. I thought the sausages in the chorizo ish hot dogs were well made and really flavorful. You could tell from the menu this is a place that will be able to serve all day, which I think in this area of town is a good thing. A huge advantage they have for them is the the bread will be from Mark Furstenberg. A French restaurant with decidedly excellent bread can never be a bad thing. This shouldn't be a surprise, but especially in DC it sometimes is, if the desserts on the menu are as excellent as the opening this is going to be a really strong portion of the menu, which is something I think is exciting. The desserts are the items that really stayed in my head and would make me want to go back. Overall based on the opening, I am excited to see the menu and try some dishes. I think it will represent as another solid option in that area. So we will see. But the opening was a lot of fun. If nothing else the man can throw a great party and be the star of it very well.
  22. I won't be issuing any spoilers in this post, but I would urge any-and-all science-fiction fans to watch one of the greatest science-fiction films I've ever seen: "La Jetée" ("The Pier") - a 30-minute French short (translated into English) - the only place I found it was Amazon Prime (*), and it was $3.99 - yes, it hurt paying that for such a short film, but once I watched it, it was worth every penny. For me to say anything about the film would be to ruin it, other than this: It is an art film - absolutely for the art-house cinema folks - and is unlike anything else you've ever seen (with the possible exception of one modern movie which it directly influenced). It is disturbing, riveting, and sobering - if you're a science-fiction fan and *haven't* seen this, there's a gaping chasm in your repertoire. (*) At 15'40", there is a direct homage to Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" - the influence Hitchcock had on the French New Wave simply cannot be overstated.
  23. A girlfriend and I had dinner in the small dining room up a set of stairs from the entrance at Tersiguel's. Fernand knew me tangentally as a young customer who was in the hospitality industry and appreciative of his restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Chablis from the Les Clos vineyard (producer escapes me) and Fernand stopped by the table. His wife had been battling cancer, and he shared with us their struggles and fear; and that he had built a shrine to the Virgin Mary in his backyard in order to pray for his wife's health daily. The actual details of the conversation have faded over time, but the tone of the conversation, the immense love and devotion coupled with his intense fear and sense of loss, have not. His son had just taken over the helm of the kitchen, and he was so proud of that, despite his obvious pain. And that entire conversation occurred because of a bottle of wine. Got to get to Tersiguel's soon, too.
  24. We had dinner at Petit Crenn tonight. House-made brioche, butter, sea salt. Trio of canapes. Top: French breakfast radishes, herb butter. Middle: Gruyere gougères, Bottom: Oysters with shallot and samphire; tuna crudo, radish, shrimp cracker; cured trout, trout roe. Seafood bouillabaisse, with clams, mussels, potato and fennel. Sourdough bread, with butter, crème fraîche and espelette pepper. Pan-seared turbot, celeriac mousseline, pea shoot, with beurre blanc and herb oil. Gnocchi à la Parisienne, beurre noisette, mushrooms. Whole-roasted cauliflower, almond crumble. Endive salad with green goddess dressing, shaved beets and Comté cheese. Valhrona Manjari chocolate ganache, brown butter crumble, grapefruit and orange, lime curd, buttermilk snow. Mignardises. Background: strawberry chambord gelée. Middle: salted caramels. Foreground: strawberry macaron. It was awesome. We'll be back; count on it. If I had a criticism, I would say that the middle course was too monochromatic. And I'm not exactly a fan of whole-roasted cauliflower; the top gets crispy but the middle is decidedly a bit too crunchy for my palate. Service charge is included. With two glasses of wine, tax and additional gratuity, it came out to $125 per person. Petit Crenn 609 Hayes Street (Laguna Street) Hayes Valley
  25. I just finished half-rereading Stefan Zweig's brilliant novella, "Amok," to refresh my memory before reading "Letter from an Unknown Woman," in the same collection of short stories, in anticipation of watching the film, "Letter from an Unknown Woman." However, I just found out there was not one, not two, but *three* films made after "Amok," so the siren song called me, and I began watching the 1934 French version. Note, why did these middle-aged British and French men assigned to Borneo and Malaysia complain about not seeing any caucasian women for months-on-end? Are they out of their minds? Gauguin knew what he was doing, you'll see ... *** SPOILER ALERT *** Do not read any further until reading the novella *and* watching the film. Listen up: It makes no sense to watch this film unless you've read the 40-page novella first, so please, don't - read the novella first, because no matter how good this film is (and I've only watched 15 minutes of it), the novella will be better, I assure you. You'd be doing yourself a grave, literary disservice if you watch this movie before reading the story. So, really, any discussion that follows is going to be assuming you've read the book - and whether or not the film stays true to the novella, well, that remains to be seen, but my guess is that it just might. So read it first, huh? The great Stefan Zweig deserves nothing less (I'm not kidding when I say he's one of the five-best authors I've ever read, even though I've only read his short stories - he is on a par with Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, or anyone else you care to name, and if you doubt me, read him. In fact, if I could read just one more book in my life (assuming all were equal in length!), I might just choose something by Stefan Zweig. As my friend (and donrockwell.com member) Sasha K said, after reading the 41-page-long, "The Royal Game," "People should be ashamed to call themselves 'writers' when works like this exist," and he's absolutely correct. To watch this film, it will help to have some idea of what the true meaning of "running Amok" is - it's a Malaysian term that essentially means losing complete control (because of a strange, unknown disease), and going on a single-minded killing spree, until you either collapse or are killed, and there's no way to stop it once it starts - not unlike being a dog with rabies. This is represented quite well in the first fifteen minutes of the film, and sets the stage for the "real" story, which is allegorical. The film is staying very true to the book so far (I'm 40 minutes into a 1'25" movie), but other than a couple minor deviations, the first major one just occurred: Hélène's lover just found out about the child; in the book, he never found out, and that was an extremely important component of the doctor's unwavering devotion to her. As a psychological drama, it's little things such as this which can never make a movie as good as the book - there isn't adequate time to reflect on things, and compromises will always be made for the audience, no matter how insignificant you think they may be. When you read the story, you'll see how important this seemingly insignificant component is in determining the totality of the doctor's "amok state." Wow, also the blackmail with the letters from Hélène's lover - that doesn't happen in the book. See, in the book, his "amok state" is out of control, yes, but it's tempered with total dedication to her well-being, and he would never do anything to harm her like this. The movie has now taken two pretty big liberties, and I'm not sure I like it; on the other hand, I'm not sure how 90-minutes of psychological pursuit would come across on the big screen, when much of that pursuit occurs in the doctor's own mind (it actually happened, but not to the extraordinary degree to which it does in his mind). These aren't two "black marks" so much as two "gray marks," and I'm hoping there aren't many more, because you're messing with perfection, and you don't want to do that. This is Zweig's story to tell, and it's Otsep's primary mission - in my opinion - to present it as faithfully as possible. Everything comes home to wine: A common wisdom among "terroirists" (of which I am one) is that the *maximum potential* for a wine occurs the moment the grapes are picked; from that point forward, it's the winemakers primary task *not* to screw things up. Think of an absolutely perfect, ripe, heirloom tomato - how can you improve upon this? There are ways, but they generally don't involve corrupting the tomato. There are potential advantages to changing small things. For example, even though it was as obvious as the sun rising in the morning, I failed to see (in the book) that when the doctor saw Hélène at the ball, she was going to have the procedure done later that night - I have no idea how, or why, I missed that, but I did - this movie made that perfectly clear to me (dumbing things down for the dummy, perhaps?) I'm not sure this involves a "cinematic advantage," so much as a "dimwitted reader." The problem is, with him attempting to blackmail her - even though it was almost surely a bluff - when he looks at her and says, "Forgive me," he comes across as a complete, total, *jerk*, whereas in the book, it's clear that he isn't calculating enough to try and pull such a stunt - he was, as he said, running straight forward, at top speed, with blinders on, and nothing could stop him. When you "run amok," you simply don't have the presence of mind to attempt such a rotten tactic, and the movie suffers because he did. A classic, "eat shit" look from the 1930s: And strike three: He never once told her he loved her in the book: It wouldn't have been in keeping with the story. And stike four: The ending was all wrong, and reminds me that the movie was entirely missing the narrator, and didn't work without it - it needed to be structured just as the book was. This film ends with the absolute certainty that this was a clear case of murder-suicide, whereas the book leaves everything completely unknown, and the secrets are forever buried at the bottom of the sea - it is *so* much better in written form, and I urge you only to watch this film if you've read the book, and are curious about a comparison-contrast. I would love an opinion of someone who *hasn't* read the book, but I can't ask anyone to do this to themselves: "Amok" *can't* be a great film - it just can't be. But the novella was one of the greatest short stories I've ever read. Damn - the deviations did this in. Trivia, which I didn't recognize: Valéry Inkijinoff, whom I believe deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination - despite the Film being French, and despite him being Asian - played the roles of *both* the man stricken with "L'Amok" at the beginning, and also Maté, Hélène's servant, who was unwaveringly faithful until the very end.
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