Dinner and a Movie
Said About Desmond
With the government shutdown over, things can return to normal. Although I love
working outdoors and the weather has been more than cooperative, I was running out of things to do. The front lawns are now manicured and
tamed, the hedges are free of weeds, the back garden is immaculate,
and I was able to give a neighbor a rooted cutting of my white lilac.
I guess I could have started inside of the house – lots to do
there. I just have these routines – and my reading slowed down
because I’m used to reading while commuting. And I downloaded
and finished three computer games. Fortunately, it did not hinder my Friday activity. Enjoy!
Searchlight Pictures, 2013) – Director: Nicole Holofcener. Writer:
Nicole Holofcener. Cast: Julia-Louis Dreyfus, James Gandolfini,
Catherine Keener, Lennie Loftin, Jessica St. Clair, Christopher
Nicholas Smith, & Ewe Hawson. Color, 93 minutes.
took years for John Travolta to shed the type cast of Vinnie
Barbarino. Elaine Benes is still alive and well in Louis-Dreyfus –
not that that’s a bad thing (as the running gag once went in an
episode of Seinfeld).
plays masseuse Eva, a 10-year divorcée with a daughter about to
leave for college. She has three regular clients: Martin (Loftin), an
older man with bad breath, Cynthia (St. Clair), a non-stop
chatterbox, and Hal (Smith), a young man who lives at the top of a
long flight of stairs and who never offers to help Eva with her heavy
massage table. One evening at a party a friend introduces her to
Marianne (Keener) and promptly deserts her to fend for herself in an
awkward conversation with someone she knows nothing of.
states her occupation as “Poet,” Eva quickly comes back with the
Neil Diamond-esque “…and I’m a dreamer” (from the song
“Longfellow Serenade”). This gives the audience an idea of how
deep the comedy goes in this film. Nevertheless, they hit it off and
Marianne becomes Eva’s fourth regular client.
the same party she meets Albert (Gandolfini) and after they’ve both
agreed that there’s no one at the party that either of them are
attracted to, a relationship is born. He also has a daughter, Tess
(Hawson) about to leave for college, and is a divorcée as well, but
for four years. Slowly the affair blossoms as they both begin to
realize that a person doesn’t have to be perfect to be attractive
or a lover.
though, Marianne befriends Eva, and in confidence tells her all the
things she disliked about her ex-husband: “He will fish out all the
onions in guacamole because he doesn’t like them, and push them
aside before removing his chip.” Eventually she reveals his name as
Albert. This is where Eva morphs into Elaine, for rather than telling
Albert she’s got Marianne as a client or telling Marianne that
she’s dating her ex-husband, she tries weakly to defend him to
Marianne while Marianne is affecting (actually poisoning) her
relationship with Albert by her constant negative comments. Things
really go sour when Eva and Albert attend a private dinner party and,
after several glasses of wine, she totally embarrasses him about his
inability to whisper. “Why do I feel like I just spent the entire
evening with my ex-wife?” he says. End of relationship.
was hoping to see another side of Louis-Dreyfus, but she has
difficulty being believable when acting hurt and contrite. Remember
the “Show about nothing…?” In Seinfeld,
“nothing” was how much each of the main characters cared about
anyone else in the show. Julia still seems to be doing that.
June 19, Gandolfini passed away after a successful television role as
Tony Soprano and I can see glints of that character in his Albert.
Sometimes he puts on a wry smile or winks a certain way, but
generally, he played the big old Teddy Bear of a guy very well. I was
glad to see the “For Jim” in the credits.
reviewer I read described Enough
sweet and charming. It was definitely both, with light comedy
threading throughout. The musical soundtrack was neither oppressive
nor memorable. And while the story was engaging, it seemed like more
could have been done with the situation. No one in the movie ever
reflected back on why they got married to their ex-spouses. No Oscar
nominations here. Rating:
3 out of 5 Martini
Seventh Avenue (corner of 38th Street),
east on 38th
from Eighth Avenue it’s easy to spot Desmond’s on the southeast
corner. A large white plastic banner with red lettering over the two
glass-block walls told me I had found the place. However, on closer
inspection, it looked boarded up.
Luckily I saw the small sign
directing me to the entrance on 38th
a much more inviting doorway lit by a lantern and graced by a curving
wall of block-glass. Once inside, a short stairway up and I was at
the Captain’s Station. The young woman in a chic little black dress
led me past some empty tables to the bar and asked if I would prefer
a booth here or proceed down the hall to the main dining area. It was
quiet, and since I really do like a booth to myself, I chose the
it occurred to me that aside from the three people sitting across
from me at the bar, the place was virtually deserted – at
7:00 PM on a Friday?
Then I thought more about it and realized I was still in the “desert”
of Manhattan where restaurants can be established and not found. This
area of the “Fashion District” closes down faster than Wall
Street at the end of the workday. And the area already has three
reputable steakhouses: Nick and Steff’s, Keen’s and Uncle Jack’s
(my current benchmark). I asked my server Mario how long Desmond’s
has been in operation and was told six months.
décor of Desmond’s is very comforting, standard steakhouse dark
wood paneling and brass sconces with soft golden glow lighting. The
piano player was entertaining a table of tourists in the main dining
area with strange lounge-versions of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a
Prayer,” Billy Joel’s “Miami 2017,” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I
Will Survive.” I ordered my favorite martini, and it was made to my
specifications, but Mario forgot whether I wanted a twist of lemon or
olives, so he brought both on the side, which was OK by me.
menu was a single card with nothing but the restaurant logo on the
reverse side. I wondered whether to give them the ultimate challenge
and order all my favorites or to deviate and try either the Veal Chop
or the Colorado Lamb Chops. Judging by the lack of customers I
decided on my favorites. Just maybe they might make the extra effort.
At about this time Mario brought out the bread plate and I fell in
love with their focaccia – homemade with cheddar cheese and onions.
Their Italian-style bread was good, and also homemade.
King Crab Legs appetizer was beautifully presented on a long narrow
plate and split lengthwise affording easy removal of the tender meat
from the shell – fantastic! I noticed that the 2011 Ravenswood
Zinfandel was available by the glass and ordered one. I asked what
the soup was but Mario sadly noted that the lunch crowd cleaned them
out of the New England clam chowder. The salads were pedestrian and I
opted to go straight to the main course, Desmond’s Filet Mignon.
dish attracted me because it was topped with foie
I loved the combination when I first had it at the Judson Grill
(intentionally spelled like the phone exchange). This dish was not
that dish. The filet was much flatter than I expected and the foie
top, though delicious, was a lot more delicate and moist than I
remember – and it was square.
The side dish of sautéed wild
mushrooms with truffle oil on the other hand was spectacular! I
originally thought adding truffle oil to mushrooms was gilding the
lily, but what a wonderful flavor – the perfect apology for what
the steak lacked!
a second glass of Zinfandel, my main course and side were finished
and it was time for dessert. Again, the lunch crowd was one step
ahead of me. They were out of the Homemade Bread Pudding with a
Brandy Syrup and Strawberry Sauce. The chocolate ice cream was good,
but far from what I wanted. I decided to visit the piano player to
see if he could back me on Glenn Miller’s “Serenade in Blue,”
but the chords he improvised were just not right. We had a great
conversation, though, and I got his business card before returning to
my table to finish my ice cream and double espresso.
really enjoyed dining at Desmond’s. The people (what there were of
them) were wonderful; some of the dishes were transporting; and the
piano player was a hoot. They should know however that their
competition is fierce and after 87 steakhouses, I expect the steak to
be the main act on the table, not the side dish. Maybe I should go
there sometime for lunch.
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