East Side Sushi

Equal parts charming and clumsy. It felt like a senior project, and the script had all the usual characters, as if cut from film school cardboard. But there is heart, and… Oakland.

Somm: Into the Bottle

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more interesting film about wine. There’s about 2000 years of vinicultural history packed into these 90 minutes. If you don’t know much about wine, and want to know what all the fuss is about, this is your film. If you are already knowledgable, you’ll enjoy it all the more. Pour yourself a glass, and watch it.

Noma: My Perfect Storm

Having had a meal at Noma, I was of course intrigued to see this. It’s interesting to learn about the personalities and lives of the chefs whose food we have eaten, and this is no exception. In some cases it’s  a letdown, and I wouldn’t want to go back. Not the case with René Redzepi. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Chef

Mixed feelings about this one. The cast is… not quite right. Jon Favreau is the right build for this part, and his acting is game. But Sofia Vergara is as unbelievable here as she always is. She just doesn’t fit in. Did they simply need a Latina/erstwhile Cuban to take the story to Miami? And Robert Downey Jr.? Scarlett Johansson? Dustin Hoffman? Competent as they are in their roles, their presence detracts from a story that should remain smaller and more nuanced…

So the movie becomes a little too big for its britches. But I think they got the cooking part right, for the most part. And given lots of good music, a lot of tasty-looking food, and a lot of heart, I wouldn’t tell you not to watch it. Just keep Big Night in mind, when you are ready for a truly charming film about restaurants and chefs.

 

Three Stars

Do Michelin Stars matter? The verdict seems to be yes. Almost all of the chefs want them, even though along with the increase in customers come pressure and stress. It was interesting to compare the styles of these various chefs – some of whom don’t seem to spend much time in the kitchen, actually. But just as interesting were the obvious choices who didn’t even appear in the film – by their choice or by omission? Where was Thomas Keller? Adrian Ferra? Grant Achatz? Daniel Boulud? Alain Ducasse? Eric Ripert?

Who came off worst? The director of the Michelin guides – what a pompous, self-important ass. And I bet René Redzepi was not happy that his blowup in the kitchen was included…

And best? I’d vote for Nadia Santini, who seemed genuinely happy – and ego-free – cooking with other family members in a little kitchen in Tuscany.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

This could as easily be posted in my Art blog. I’ve argued before in defense of food as art, and this is a kind of exhibit A. This is a man who has basically done the same thing for 75 years, day in and day out. He’s gotten pretty good at it, and still has a passion for it. He straightens the napkins and the o-hashi before the customers arrive. These things matter. I want to eat sushi after watching this.

El Bulli

6 months on, 6 months off. No wonder it was so hard to get a table.

Feran strikes me as one of the least charismatic chefs ever. Not exactly unlikeable, but somehow lacking in verve or panache. He seems more German than Spanish.

Still, it’s a little sad to know that El Bulli is closing, and I’ll never be able to go. Although, now that I think of it, the restaurant in Berlin that was associated with El Bulli was a big disappointment…