Monday, June 18, 2018


Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Mountain (Madman Entertainment, 2017) - Director: Jennifer Peedom. Writers: Robert Macfarlane, Jennifer Peedom. Narrator: Willem Dafoe. Color, NR, 74 minutes.

Under the eloquent narration of Willem Dafoe, Mountain follows the history of man’s fascination with mountains from ancient times of reverence and fear to modern times of recklessness and flagrant disregard. A quote from the story says it all: Mankind’s view of the forbidding peaks went from “Mystery to Mastery,” but not without the mountains taking their toll of revenge.

A lama worshipping in a Tibetan monastery ties the whole tale together in well-placed flashbacks. The historical footage was well researched and in some cases I wondered who filmed that. The modern day cinematography is stunning and sometimes dizzying and terrifying. There were several stomach-dropping moments. For a documentary, it had many “Wow” moments besides the majestic aerial scenes that changed with the lighting.

And time-lapse photography? Splendid! Evergreens filled with snow and thawed right before your eyes appearing to do a weird dance. The exhaustion of the climbers was heart-rending, as were the occasions when they missed their footholds and fell, only to be caught by their ropes.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra supplied the musical backdrop to the film and, though they played some of my favorite pieces by Vivaldi and the musical insertions were appropriate, Mountain would have been a major feature without the music, only the narration. And this is from a reviewer who doesn’t care for narration. In some instances, the music cheapened the experience and detracted from the natural majesty of craggy peaks marching away from the viewer in all directions.

An excellent documentary, worthy of nomination in the category. I would see it again.

Rating: 4 out of 5 martini glasses.

Baar Baar
13 East 1st Street, New York

Every restaurateur knows that one of the selling points of a restaurant is location, location, location. In New York City we add property taxes, property taxes and more property taxes. Chef Sujan Sarkar seems to have had both of these considerations when he opened Baar Baar (the name means Again And Again in Hindi) 6 months ago. It’s five blocks removed from New York’s “Little India,” sometimes called “Curry Row” on East 6th Street between 2nd and 1st avenues. A large presence fronted completely in glass with an outdoor café area next to the main building draped in short blood-red awnings with the name in white block letters.

Called the “first of its kind Indian Gastro Bar” (at least in New York), the title is borne out by the imposing bar area surmounted by five tiers of shelves stocked with every kind of liquor you can imagine. The food is classified as “Contemporary Indian” (meaning you’re going to see things on the menu you won’t see in any restaurant on 6th Street). Chef Sujan considers New York to be behind the times as far as Indian cuisine goes.

From the food menu I chose my meal with a little help from my waiter, Karla. The wine list had a good selection of affordable wines and I chose the 2015 Lioco Medocino “Sativa” Carignan, from California. A medium-bodied red with nice deep color a fruity nose and rich blackberry flavor and mild spice that would be perfect with all my dishes.

My first course was the Cauliflower 65 with curd-rice mousse, peanut chutney and Podi (a coarse powder mixture of spices) masala was a delightful, crunchy, exciting appetizer and an innovative departure on the traditional pakoras (fritter). The flavor was spicy but not too hot and a bit sweet and the mousse had pureed cauliflower in it as well.

My second course was another first for me in any Indian restaurant, the Veal Sweetbread Koliwada (kolis are fishermen in Mumbai) with lemon aioli and Sirka (pickled) onion. It tasted way better than it looked, with a crisp outside and melt-in-the-mouth inside. Sweetbreads is always a rich tasting dish and this dish had that aspect but with the feathery spice flavors of India.

The Lamb Shank Nihari (a stew of slow-cooked meat) with fresh ginger, rose, cilantro and chili oil filled that need. The large bone rested on the burnt orange Nihari sauce and the tender meat fell off the bone with a touch of a fork. It was heaven: juicy, a little spicy, savory and sweet at the same time.

A meat never seen in Indian restaurants is duck, but I had the Kashmiri Duck and Apricot Kulcha with bitter greens and shredded parmesan cheese. Wow! The puffy bread was stuffed with moist, duck meat and sweet-tart apricots and frosted with shredded parmesan. When I needed a break from the spice, this was where I went.

My side dish was Brussels Sprouts Foogath (a stir fry curry). The sprouts were shredded and mixed with carrots, cabbage, string beans and other vegetables, lightly spiced and served in their own red crock. Lovely!

No serving was too large and finishing everything was easily done. For a rocky start, Baar Baar had proven itself worthy with the food. I found a dessert I’ve never had – the Thandai (usually a cold drink prepared with a mixture of almonds, fennel seeds, magaztari seeds (watermelon kernel) rose petals, pepper, vetiver seeds (a grass native to India), cardamom, saffron, milk and sugar) cassata (a sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with cheese). The oblong cake was sandwiched taco-style in a sweet, flakey white shell that shattered at a touch. Multiple flavors came through at tasting; fruit, cheese, mild spice, flowers and milk. A truly unique twist on an Italian concept.

Masala Chai (tea) was served in a beautiful little ceramic teapot fully prepared and needing nothing but pouring into the matching cup and enjoying. As an after-dinner drink I decided to order the cocktail I first saw online and was attracted to, the New Delhi Sour – Medley Bros. 102 Proof Bourbon, rose hip shrub, citrus, egg white and bitters, garnished with a thin orange slice. It was not that sour and a beautiful preparation as well.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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