Spicy Johnny Goes Asian and Learns English
By Steve Herte
Note: Well, this is my last day of touring Washington D.C. Where to go to avoid the weekend crowds? The National Botanic Garden (near the Capitol Building) and next door to it, the Museum of the American Indian. I burnt out the batteries in my Minolta camera with photos of exotic plants and orchids and even got "watered" by an over-enthusiastic child (they have a Children's Garden). I had been to the American Indian Museum before but I still saw things I didn't see the first time: intricate beadwork, detailed art on a tepee, wonderful native costumes and, they had representatives from several tribes promoting their individual cultures and creations in the rotunda. It was a great morning. I caught a movie last night before bed, so here is the latest edition of Dinner and a Movie.
Johnny English – Reborn (2011)
Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English is in Tibet at a monastery learning the ways of mental discipline when British Intelligence has need of him. After his failure to guard the life of President Chambal (Wale Ojo) in Mozambique under his care, they do not want him back, but he’s the only one Ting Wang, the Premier of China (Togo Igawa) will speak to. Apparently, in Mozambique, a group of three known as Vortex plotted to kill the leader using a mind-control drug on his right-hand man (Chris Jarman), and succeeded when a lovely member of the group lured Johnny into a hot tub when he was supposed to be protecting the leader. Each time the word Mozambique is spoken, Johnny’s eyelids flutter much like Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther series when Clouseau’s name is uttered.
Pegasus, the leader of British Intelligence (otherwise known as Kate Sumner – played by Rosamund Pike) reunites Johnny with Simon Ambrose (Dominic West) whom Johnny respects above all other agents (and who also turns out to be the third member of Vortex). Johnny is teamed up with Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) who may be new but out-thinks Johnny on several occasions. Pamela (Gillian Anderson), a profiler and people-reader is brought into the team to make sure the truth is being spoken by all.
Vortex, Johnny learns from Karlenko (Mark Ivanir), a dying Russian agent, is part KGB, part CIA and part MI-7 (British Intelligence) and of course he tells Simon this over dinner. A Killer Cleaning Lady (Pik Sen Lim) is sent by Vortex to kill Johnny while the other three members work to frame him as the mole in British Intelligence. Her disguises include Pegasus’ mother (Ellen Thomas) at a children’s party and Queen Elizabeth II near the end of the movie. Both times, Johnny beats up on the wrong woman.
The film is an excellent parody of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Rowan tries desperately to be the suave, cool, master spy while shutting a window and accidentally shoving a cat out the window, or sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair, and drinking the mind control drug meant for Pegasus (he realizes this just as he finishes it). Of course, there is a great chase scene where Simon tries to get away on a Swiss tram while Johnny parachutes down to a snowmobile, goes off a cliff and winds up hanging from the bottom of the tram.
There are several funny scenes (most of them in the monastery with his extreme training) scattered throughout the movie and the cast does a pretty good job, although it doesn’t seem as if any one of them is serious about their roles (except Rowan). I enjoyed it because he was in it and I know his capability from Blackadder and Mr. Bean and I like parodies.
717 H Street NW (8th Street), Washington D.C.
The small room I was led to was separated from the boisterous bar by a wall of beaded curtain and was cozy but a bit noisy at Asian Spice. Rock music could be heard from above and patrons entered and climbed a circular staircase to get there. This small corner bistro literally at the entrance to Washington D.C.’s Chinatown is more than it seems.
My Ukrainian waitress, Kristina (her accent gave her away) was very sweet and helpful though she didn’t understand my modus operandi (and often couldn’t hear me). The menu has several interesting specialty cocktails and I intended to try more than one. The Red Lotus Martini was light and sweet, made with vodka and lychee syrup and contained a lychee as well. I switched to the Cosmo Parisian, made with Grey Goose vodka and Triple Sec and cranberry juice – much better.
Kristina was very helpful with the rather extensive menu covering several Asian countries’ cuisines. I started with the Imperial Wonton Soup (China). Definitely not your mother’s wonton soup. Fresh jumbo dumplings of minced chicken, shrimp and scallop, served with baby bok choi in a light soy broth. The broth also had garlic to add flavor not normally in the original recipe - very nice.
Next I chose the Wasabi – Bleu Cheese Crab Rangoon (Burma) - Crispy fried homemade stuffed cheese poppers made with wasabi, Danish bleu cheese, and Japanese crab salad wrapped with wonton wrapper, served with sweet and sour chili sauce. They were amazing and I talked the girls next to me into having them – they liked them too.
My main dish was Thai Green Curry (Thailand, of course) – slices of chicken breast, Asian eggplant, bamboo shoots and sweet (holy, in Thailand) basil leaves simmered in spicy green curry and coconut sauce. It was not as spicy as my waitress portrayed it but was a wonderfully light curry served with white rice.
Where to go from here? The Philippines – why not? The Filipino Caramelized Fried Banana was fried fresh bananas coated in cinnamon and brown sugar, topped with honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. If you think it was sweet, sticky and delicious, it was. With a cup of fresh made Jasmine tea it completed my journey around Asia in a little over an hour.
Asian Spice has many more choices that attracted me; some they were out of (like the Peking Duck Roll), some from countries whose cuisine I haven’t sampled (like Laos). I think the only country they left out was Cambodia. I’ll have to put them in touch with my friends in Boston. The manager came over several times to make sure everyone was having a good time and boy, did he know his restaurant! He rattled off every one of many dishes that were homemade onsite. When I return to D.C., I’ll definitely have to include Asian Spice.
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