Saturday, March 26, 2016


Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Anyone who knows me can tell you I rarely make forays into the movies about real events. Reality is often painful (as in the case of this film) which is why I turn to fantasy so often. But when a movie wins “Best Picture,” the attraction is stronger. I’m glad I saw it and doubly glad I’m not the ‘shrinking violet’ I once was about people and food. Enjoy!

Spotlight (Open Road Films, 2015) – Director: Tom McCarthy. Writers: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy. Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Elena Wohl, Gene Amoroso, Doug Murray, Sharon McFarlane, Jamie Sheridan, Neal Huff, Len Cariou, Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins, & Robert B. Kennedy. Color, Rated R, 128 minutes.

Boston, 1976” reads the caption at the film’s beginning. A priest is visiting a distraught family. A senior cleric arrives and takes him away in a big black Lincoln Continental.

The scene shifts to 2001 at a retirement party for the editor of The Boston Globe. The new editor, Marty Baron (Schreiber) sees that readership is down and wants to build it back up. He proposes cuts in various places and calls in the manager of the “Spotlight” Team, Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Keaton). “Spotlight” is a deep-investigative reporting team who sometimes take a year to produce a series of articles on a topic. The elite group consists of Mike Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams), Ben Bradley Jr. (Slattery), and Matt Carroll (James).

Marty assigns Spotlight to the story behind reports of a Catholic priest, Father John Geoghan, accused of sexually abusing children. But he states that he wants “the system,” not just the individual case. They accept the task knowing that the Boston Archdiocese under Cardinal Bernard Law (Cariou) is a major force in the town.

The investigation leads to Phil Saviano (Huff), who reported the problem nearly 20 years ago. His accusations, however, were dismissed and the number of suspects balloons from one to 13 priests. The reporters question several lawyers, including Mitchell Garabedian (Tucci), who has way too many cases; Jim Sullivan (Jamey Sheridan), an attorney for the church who clams up; and Eric Macleish (Crudup), who has tried many of the cases. But it’s a Baltimore psychotherapist, Richard Sipe (Jenkins), who gives them the estimate of 6 percent of all priests who are guilty of this behavior. This results in a total of 90 priests in Boston alone.

Researching the archives for priests transferred frequently they are shocked to come up with 87 names. Sipes was accurate. With the help of Boston Globe Special Investigator Steve Kurkjian (Amoroso) and a judge’s ruling, the teams manages to secure previously sealed evidence documents that sets them on a course to uncover a horror more frightening than a Stephen King novel.

Spotlight is a deeply disturbing movie, well acted, and equally well directed. Michael Keaton is splendid as the leader of what appears to be an impossible mission at first. Mark Ruffalo is excellent as the fighter for truth and justice. He’s livid when he hears that the article has to be delayed (for good reason, as 9/11 happened and took precedence). Rachel McAdams is just as tough a reporter as Mark, but is able to put a softer touch to her interviews. A truly creepy performance is given by Richard O’Rourke, who is briefly seen as Father Ronald Paquin, one of the accused. We even see Paul Guilfoyle as the principal of a school where several abuses occurred.

Knowing the plot ahead of time did not prepare me for the scope of the problem described in detail before the closing credits. The Best Picture Oscar for 2015 was well deserved, proving what I’ve always known: truth is stranger (and scarier) than fiction.

Rating: 4½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

Bamboo 52
344 W. 52nd St., New York

What do you think of when you hear “Bamboo 52?” I had my trepidations about dining in a restaurant with a rhyming name, especially when it serves a dish that requires expert handling like sushi.

Looking down 52nd Street from 8th Avenue, I could not see any evidence of any restaurants. Halfway down the block, I saw a Kelly green sign winking from under a scaffolding. Closer, the words “Bamboo 52” were visible on the green background. There was also a small green awning over the glass-fronted entrance. Inside was a din of rock music and very lively conversation, with the bar to the left, and the Captain’s Station immediately to the right.

A young lady took my reservation and led me to a high table just beyond the bar. I normally demur at sitting perched on a stool, but this one had a high back, which made it suitable; definitely better than the stools at the sushi bar in back or those at the regular bar, and infinitely better than the backless hassocks upon which some young people were seated. 

Deciding to face the bar, I tried the stool first, but every joint on it was dangerously loose. I turned around and a young lady with a buzz cut who would become my server was there. After she introduced herself as Arnitra, I indicated the peril of my sitting on this about-to-collapse piece of furniture and she switched it for one more solidly built.

Arnitra brought me a glass of water and presented me with the separately bound drinks and food menus. She gave me a little time to consider before asking if I wanted a drink. I chose the wasabi martini, a volcanic concoction of vodka, citrus and powdered wasabi (Japanese green horseradish). I like wasabi and I loved the drink. As I was the only one in the place drinking this potable, I was immediately popular with the bartender. He asked how I liked it and I gave him a “thumbs up.”

Japanese restaurants are ideal for Lenten Fridays because of the enormous selection of vegetable and fish dishes. The food menu listed Starters (including two soups), Salads, Sushi/Sashimi, Classic Hand Rolls, Signature Rolls, Samurai Boat Entrees, Hot Entrees, and Desserts. It was tough to choose. I consulted Arnitra to get an idea of what people usually order and how much. She was very helpful.

The Samurai Boat Entrees looked interesting but the pre-assortment of sushi and sashimi was not enough. I’ve come to love the various sushi rolls and the dragon roll is one of my favorites. Bamboo 52 has one called the dinosaur and one called the American dream. It wasn’t easy.

Finally, I settled on two starters that were new to me and two crazy rolls. The two appetizers arrived simultaneously, but I didn’t mind because both were small and neither would get cold by the time I finished them. The vegetable gyoza was the hot appetizer and was delicate, crescent-shaped rice dumplings filled with shredded carrots, pepper, and cucumbers and served with a light soy dipping sauce. How delicate were they? Well, I’m pretty good with chopsticks and I broke one in half trying to pick it up. I had to lighten my touch. They were wonderful.

The second appetizer was totally new to me. The wasabi seaweed crisp was squares of crispy rice crackers painted with wasabi-flavored black seaweed and sprinkled with mini-cubes of tofu, tomato and pepper. One bite demolished one as I gingerly folded it into my mouth. It was a fun finger food. Once you know how breakable they are you can adjust your handling of them.

The bartender asked me if I wanted the next wasabi martini spicier and I told him to kick it up a notch. I saw Arnitra sniff my drink before serving and she drew back suddenly, as if electrically shocked. I tasted it and it was perfect. I gave the bar tender another “thumbs up.” On the side, I told Arnitra they tasted exactly the same.

The two signature rolls arrived next sharing a large oval platter. The one I noticed on a specials list was too outrageous to ignore. The St. Patrick’s sushi roll wrapped shrimp tempura, avocado, eel, and Cajun tuna in a green soy wrap with jalapeño sauce. Yes, it was quite green, but not as spicy as it sounds. The shrimp tempura was crunchy and flavorful and the other ingredients added extra sweet and tart flavors.

What other roll could share the plate with this one? I selected the rainbow roll, an eclectic mix of kani (snow crab), tuna, salmon, yellowtail, white tuna, avocado and cucumber, arranged in rainbow color order. I figured that since this was the first year that the gay community were invited to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, I would place the symbol (the rainbow) next to the green roll. It was great. So many different fish, different textures and different flavors melting into one delicious experience. Yes, there was the traditional blob of wasabi on the plate as well as the shaved ginger. Both were finished with the main course.

Usually Japanese restaurants have very little in the form of desserts. Maybe unusual flavors of ice cream or something with a banana, but Bamboo 52 had a triple milk cake (tres leches, essentially the same dessert I had last week in a Mexican restaurant, except that this one was made with mascarpone cheese). It was light, creamy, sweet, and would have put out any fire the wasabi had started (if it had). 

I didn’t feel like having tea (which I would have in any traditional Japanese place), and this was a bar/lounge. I ordered a guavatini as an after-dinner drink. I love the flavor of guava and, mixed with vodka and other fruit juices it was the right ending for my dining adventure.

When I did my research, I learned that Bamboo 52 is nearly 10 years old, and except for my original chair, it doesn’t look like it’s aged a day. The crowd is diverse and obviously happy to be there. The staff is caring and the food is spectacular. There are 17 signature rolls on the menu. I need to come back at least seven times to try them all.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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