High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Da. Octopusss

In searching my logs, I find that it has been just under 2 years since we last faced The Buffet. If you have to ask, 'What Buffet?' you're not ready for The Buffet.

In August of 2004, the fillum under consideration was Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman, and we had no excuse for heading to the all-you-can eat chocolate buffet beyond "Because it was there and some bitches didn't tell us until now."

Tonight, Luc Besson's District B-13 (Never heard of it? You're not alone. They appear to be taking a stealth marking approach to the US release) was on the movie menu, and we had two birthdays to celebrate (mine and the much, much older L's). When you add in the fact that L is a chocolate buffet virgin, I think you'll agree that we couldn't NOT go.

Finding out that District B-13 was playing at River East was a bonus relatively late in the game. M had sent me a link to a trailer for it a long while ago. Because I was only half paying attention, and because Vin Diesel and Jason Statham have a love child I didn't know about, I thought this was actually a Vin vehicle. Since I learned that it's not, I have been referring to it as "That non-Vin French Vin movie."

It is all that that implies and so much more. For starters, it also stars Kyan Douglas from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. And if that doesn't tempt you, it's got French rap by Da. Octopuss. (No, I'm not making that up---in fact, it challenges "Street Fabulous Bounce" from Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior as my favorite French rap performer [I'm still mulling over my entries for greatest anti-Pol Pot songster, but get back to me]).

Seriously, it's a thoroughly enjoyable movie in the grand tradition of Besson/Morel collaborations (e.g., The Transporter, Unleashed): Big with the grit, action, and kicking, not so big on the plot. Believe it or not, though, this is actually distinguishable from those. All things considered, District B-13 is much more about acrobatic chase scenes (Kyan's specialty) than it is about martial arts ass kicking in unlikely settings (although Not!Vin brings that, because Not!Vin knows what the ladies like).

Even for a plotless movie, it's a bit oddly paced. Basically, we get Leito's (Kyan's) story first as almost a novella. Then we find out how badass Damien (Not!Vin) is, et voila! We have improbable plot development that brings them together. From there on out, the fighting is rather minimized, giving way to chases (both car and on foot), tense stand offs, and a late-in-the-game-not-very-twisty-rather-preachy-plot-twist. Still, it's not like we forgot about a shipping container full of illegal immigrants for 81 minutes and resolved their storyline in the last 90 seconds. But who comes to Luc Besson for plot anyway? Nuts, that's who. Crazy nuts.

Well aware of our primary mission, we walked from River East to the Peninsula, which at the time entailed dodging the scads of people who were gaping at the fire that appeared to be on or near a construction crane high above the new construction at Illinois and Columbus. In defense of the gapers' block, though, the Chicago FD seemed to be taking it pretty seriously as well, as we saw many engines screaming in that general direction on our way to the hotel.

We had 10 PM reservations and had planned to lay down a very light layer of dinner-like things atop the already-established popcorn layer. We thus made our way to the Shanghai terrace where we were among the brave few who sat out on the rooftop overlooking Michigan. It was a nice night, though somewhat nippy when the wind blew. Our extremely capable, extremely polite waiter offered me a shawl, which I took as solicitousness and not as "Bitch, button your top."

I had a berry mojito (sooooo very good) and "peeky toe crab wontons" (because I had to know). M opted for the East-West (also good, but not berry mojito good) and the kobe beef noodle rolles. L rounded things out with another East-West and pork dumplings. M received instructions on how to use chopsticks (after not hearing the waiter offer him silverware about 8 times), and then tried to pour his own warm sake, which caused the waiter to teleport from somewhere and politely, but firmly, insist on pouring it for him.

Soon it was onward to the buffet, though. We girded our loins with orders from the chocolate martini menu: L and I had the "orange peel" martinis, and M had the "Mexican Chocolate" martini (I think that was its name anyway), which involved tabasco and Absolut Peppar. That probably sounds gross to those of you whom it would not kill, but I assure you it was really REALLY good. so were the orange peels, though, too.

In looking at my review from last time, I realize that there was not really a lot of overlap with tonight's offerings (in fact, much less than I'd thought). There was a bowl of dried pineapple and apricot slices dipped in chocolate (YUM), an encore for the chocolate-covered strawberries of DELICIOUS DOOM, chocolate and caramel lollipops (OMFGWTF yum), a bowl of crispity, crunchity, chocolatey things called Royalties (I think? Think a very light, delicious chocolate-coated rice crispy treat with a hint of amaretto), almond butter covered in milk or white (ptooey) chocolate, pretzels ditto, violet creme brulee (I was too stuffed to try), mocha pots de creme (whimper), Entrements in chocolate caramel or chocolate malted (so good, so heavy, so sadly deferred until the second trip), a surprisingly light chocolate souffle-like cake, chocolate mousse over berries (mmmmm, although I admit to spelunking for berries by that point), chocolate ganache in a shortbready shell (fine, but a repeat from last time), a white chocolate and brie cheesecake (left to to try---he reports it to be "cheesecakey" without further comment), a truffle with a caramel/toffee center (aIYEEEEEE! so good), cookies (which I didn't try), a chocolate cheesecake that I think I missed, and a pretty straightforward two-layer brownie with a bit of amaretto flavoring. A big improvement was the straight dark hot chocolate, which had no hint of asstastic cinnamon this time around. It was also crazy awesome with the homemade strawberry marshmallows.

So when we'd wound down to sipping at the hot chocolate, when we'd stared down the things on our plates and decided that the single bite would have to do, when we were thinking about coffee and taking turns rolling one another down Michigan Avenue and, hopefully, in the general direction of our car, they---and I shit you not---brought out two pieces of birthday cake. Chocolate icing, a yellow layer and, I think a peanut butter mousse with raspberry sauce and HAPPY BIRTHDAY written in chocolate. Chocolate at the Peninsula carries a whip, my friends. A whip for whipping.

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