Monday, March 9, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Dinner and a Movie
Marigolds and Adalya

By Steve Herte

I sincerely hope this week’s snowstorm is the last one this winter, and am doubly glad I do not live in Boston. I have an invitation to the Spring Gem Show in Manhattan, an event I haven’t attended in a couple of years. I’ve always seen it as a kind of a harbinger of warmer weather, for it makes me think of those new irises, tulips and hyacinths hiding under a foot of frozen water. Perhaps that was part of the reason why I chose a movie that takes place in a warm area of the world. It also helped to find a restaurant where it was also warm. Enjoy!

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight, 2015) – Director: John Madden: Writer: Ol Parker (s/p). Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere, Danny Mahoney, David Strathairn, Celia Imrie, Tamsin Grieg, Dev Patel, Ronald Pickup, Diana Gardcastle, Subhrajyoti Barat, Fiona Mollison, Zachary Coffin, Jayesh V. Kardak, Tina Desai, Rajesh Tailang, Lillete Dubey, Poppy Miller, & Shazad Latif. Color, 122 minutes.

Sonny Kapoor (Patel) and Muriel Donnelly (Smith) travel from Jaipur, India, to San Diego to meet with Ty Burley (Strathairn) to secure funding to buy a second hotel in Jaipur when the first is filled (except for one room) and nobody is moving out. Ty is more taken with Muriel’s rough-edged salesmanship than Sonny’s colorful exuberance, but he agrees to send an inspector to see how things are going at the first hotel. Since Ty actually said that he’ll send a “guy,” Sonny assumes the inspector will be male.

When both Lavinia Beech (Greig) and Guy Chambers (Gere) arrive at the hotel simultaneously, Sonny concludes that Guy is the “guy” and he falls over himself trying to impress Mr. Chambers. This seriously distracts him from a very important upcoming event: his marriage to the lovely Sunaina (Desai). That is, until the charming Kushal (Latif) arrives to choreograph the wedding dance, and Sonny’s convinced Kushal’s real mission is to steal Sunaina from him.

Mr. Chambers takes one look at Sonny’s mother (Dubey) and is very interested. She can’t see why and Sonny is shocked. He’s even more shocked when he learns that Kushal has already bought the hotel he has planned to be his second location.

Meanwhile, the other hotel guests are seeking livelihoods in Jaipur. Evelyn Greenslade (Dench) has become successful as a fabrics merchant, and her company wants to put her in charge of that department. They send her to Mumbai to work at her bargaining skills. Douglas Ainslie (Nighy) has his eyes set on Evelyn, but is working as a tour guide (with the assistance of a young boy and an ear mic). Madge Hardcastle (Imrie) is hoping to marry a rich Raja and has two of them wooing her, while Babul (Tailang) – who really cares for her – drives her back and forth.

Norman Cousins (Pickup) and Carol Parr (Hardcastle) are working on an exclusive relationship. Douglas’ wife Susan (Mollison) arrives unexpectedly when he’s anticipating his daughter Jodi (Miller), who is giving a speech in Mumbai. He wants Evelyn to meet Jodi, but is now faced with Susan’s request for a divorce. She, in turn, is bowled over that they can’t give adultery as the reason for the divorce.

This beautiful and charming sequel is equal to the first in stunningly colorful cinematography, witty and delightful writing and excellent acting by a seasoned cast. “You need teamwork to make a dream work,” says Sonny. And it shows. The interaction between Judi Dench and Maggie Smith is priceless and Dev Patel’s over-the-top enthusiasm is infectious. Interpersonal relationships between characters are performed flawlessly and the audience is easily caught up in them. The wonderful mix of traditional Indian music and Bollywood dance scenes add to the joy of this film. It’s a definite recommendation for anyone’s “must-see” list.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

55 Irving Place (between 17th and 18th Streets)New York

When I confirmed my reservation at this Irving Place hotspot I didn’t know it was a hotspot. Given a choice of sitting at the bar or at a table, I chose a table. Given a second choice of a high-topped table or a regular table I chose a regular table. I thought I had everything arranged as I entered the blue canvas door and met the two young ladies at the Captain’s Station.

As I was led to a stool at a high-topped table one can only imagine my disappointment. I made it clear that I was led to believe I had a normal table and they made it obvious that I should take it or leave it. There was nothing they could do. I considered leaving and seeking another restaurant but then, remembering a Seinfeld episode referring to car rentals, I threw up my hands, folded my coat over one of the stools, slid the one near me closer to the wall and perched on it. The wall was surprisingly warm. It’s the first time in three weeks I’ve been warm in a restaurant. Maybe things were looking up.

My server, Elis, took my water preference and, after presenting me with the single-card wine and drink list and menu (also a single card), asked if I would like a cocktail. I chose the “Cellar Door” – a mixture of Tequila, Mexcal, Lime, Cassis and Ginger Beer. Served in a tall glass and looking like a simple cola it had a surprising kick and the ginger beer added a spicy tang to the liquor ingredients.

When Elis returned I asked his advice. There were several small plates available as appetizers or tapas. After he explained that most of the dishes contained in the two categories before “large dishes” were generally small, I then knew what I wanted. I ordered three courses and chose a 2010 Corvus Karga Turkiye Kuntra, a smooth cabernet sauvignon from a vineyard on a small island near Gallipoli. The manager was ecstatic at my choice and offered his knowledge about the origin of the wine. It was delicious.

My appetizer was “Shakshouka” – a Tunisian/Israeli dip with peppers, onions, tomato sauce, spice, and fried eggs in an iron skillet accompanied by toasted baguette slices. When Elis told me the pan was very hot I believed him, and proved him right with the first bite.

Having had it before, I love and looked forward to the “Grilled Halloumi Salad.” Not really a salad in the American sense, just two beautifully grilled wedges of tasty, slightly salted cheese and cooked Kabocha squash – a Japanese variety of winter squash with a taste and color akin to turnip – in cider vinaigrette. The two flavors were meant to be together. Oh, and yes, there were tiny little sprouts to add green to the “salad.” Elis told me it was his favorite dish.

I must admit that, having seen striped bass on the menu online I was a little disappointed that it was missing but Elis sang the praises of the codfish – over onions, peppers, carrots, and capers in a “limequat” (an interesting hybrid) reduction sauce. The normally smelliest fish in the ocean was not as odorous, was golden on top and flaky white inside, with a pleasing flavor. But the carrots amazed me in being of a melt-in-the-mouth tenderness.

The really amazing part of the meal came at dessert. There were only two and the chocolate cake lost out to the rosemary olive loaf with pistachio gelato. Think bread pudding with olives, a salty-sweet confection perfect for the end of a Mediterranean meal.

I asked if they had Turkish coffee but alas, no. The American coffee was sufficiently dark though and Elis brought Sambuca as an on the house after-dinner drink. I didn’t want to tell him that using three coffee beans is traditional (there were only two). I just enjoyed it.

I should have realized that any restaurant on Irving Place would be packed on a Friday night because of the famous music venue of the same name, and Adalya was no exception. The constant traffic in and out kept the place jumping – quite the opposite of my last restaurant experience. I was happy no one occupied the three other stools at my table (since I couldn’t have a regular table). I was delighted with the meal and even more delighted that I was not physically affected by dining while sitting on a back-less stool. Maybe I’m younger than I think.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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