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

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Dinner and a Mutie

Tonight, we ventured to Koda, Beverly's new French bistro and thence to see X-3, in which all concerned failed to convey moral ambiguity.

Beverly is a lovely neighborhood with a lot to recommend it. Upscale dining isn't really one of those things, so the announcement that this restaurant was opening was met with nearly as much excitement as the news that we're getting a brew pub.

When we pulled up, the parking lot was full. Fortunately, however, there were tables available. They've done a nice job with the space inside. You enter through a side door (the front is on Western Ave.). The bar is directly in front of you and is quite chic. It has a half-height wall topped with a series of glass boxes atop that. I'm not sure if they actually allow smoking in the bar or not, but the set up gives nice separation from the dining room, while still allowing all parties to see in and out. (And since the light on the actual liquor shelves changes color, you don't want to miss the Oooooooh.)

To the left of the door and across from the bar are about 3 or 4 banquets and the restrooms, staging area, and kitchen are at the far end of the restaurant. Most of the dining room (maybe 30 tables all told, mostly 4 tops, a long booth with about 6 tables for two and a handful of 6-8 tops in the corners). The windows looking out on to Western and into the parking lot are heavily curtained about 3/4 of the way up, letting light in the tops. They've taken a lot of trouble with a subdued brown/bronze treatment on the walls, and a 24-inch-wide strip of ceiling is a warm toasty color. The rest of teh ceiling is acoustic tile with recessed lighting, which brings the stylishness a notch down, but the place is LOUD so the tile was probably a good and necessary move.

Fortunately, they also keep up the tone of the place with the furnishings and settings. The chairs have elegant wooden backs and comfy seats. I coveted the deco-esque silverware, with its nifty handle-piece joins, and the asymmetrical saucers. Glassware was distinctive and nice quality.

And just in case one might've worried that one had been transported from the Sout' Side to somewhere classy, the first question our waitress asked us was "Can I get youse somethin' to drink?" (Ok, so it wasn't quite "Will youse be dining?", but it amused me nonetheless.)

The menu isn't huge, but there was more than enough to tempt us. There were three soups, one chilled, one chowder, and classic french onion. I didn't do more than glance at the salads, but there were at least five. They then offered one of three "french style" pizzas, several cold appetizers (leaning heavily toward the seafood), and about the same number of hot appetizers (again, heavy on the seafood, but also including escargot). In terms of main dishes, there were three fish (plus the special was soft-shell crab), probably 6 meat (including the always safe steak and frites), and two pasta dishes.

Desserts were not on the menu, but there were probably 5 options, which may or may not shift from day to day. Today's were: Berry shortcake sandwich; chocolate tart with hazelnut sauce and coconut sorbet; chocolate bread pudding with walnuts; lemon creme brulet; and french vanilla profiteroles with chocolate and caramel sauce. The wine list was overwhelmingly by the bottle, but the by-the-glass choices were good ones. (However, they pour the by-the-glass at the table. The first swallow of my pinot noir suggested that the the bottle had been open too long.) They also know their audience, because they had a pretty large selection of "off-dry" whites (aka pink wine, which is the drink of The People).

I got the tuna tartare with avocado on the grounds that it was among the few appetizers that M would be interested in sharing. He got the fromage blanc, onion, and bacon French pizza thing. Both were good, but I'm unsure about the presentation of the tuna in very small cubes atop a mound of greens in a martini glass. I suspect that this is to stun and disorient the unadventurous into eating raw fish for the first time. Taste-wise, it was A-Plus. The pizza thingy was on a very thin, crisp crust, and it was not hopelessly overcheesy. As a result, despite its size, it was not actually an appetite killing starter for two.

Although the soft-shell crabs had tempted me, I wasn't in the mood for the polenta that came with them. I opted for the skate wing with garlic mashed potatoes. M went rib for the second time in as many weeks, also with garlic mashed. My fish was excellent with a pleasant lemon butter sauce. The mashed potatoes might have been a bit less runny and a bit more with the garlic (again, I imagine that this is a complaint that most local people are not lodging). I did not taste the ribs on the grounds that it was covered in disgustingness, but I can visually verify that it fell off the bone and M seemed quite happy with it.

For dessert, we ordered coffee and shared an order of the profiteroles. The French Vanilla ice cream was extremely delicious, the pastry good, and the presentation on a lake of chocolate sauce sluiced with caramel was rockin'.

The review we've seen mentioned that the kinks haven't quite been worked out on the service. I concur that this is a persistent problem. There was nothing really make-or-break horrible, but the rhythm just wasn't there. Our water didn't show up until well after our drink orders had been taken, our drinks took quite a while to show up, and we were never asked if we wanted another (for my wine) or a refill (M's iced tea). There were other little things, like the fact that they never did take my appetizer dish away, but the waitress for some reason decided no more bread for me. Likewise, they didn't come to remove the additional settings from our four top until our entrees arrived. Nonetheless, everyone was pleasant, which is the most important facet of good service.

As for X-3, I'm afraid that the movie didn't live up to the trailers. We saw: Nacho Libre; Ghost Rider (Donal Logue and flaming skulls? I am there. Plus a chain whip. For whipping.); MOTHERFUCKING SNAKES ON A MOTHERFUCKING PLANE; The Fast and the Furious: Hello Kitty (tm my pal C and co.; also BLEGH, but the only BLEGH); PIRATES 2 (and have I mentioned that I need the in-theater promo with Cap'n Jack running right toward me, screaming?); The Omen (I'm pretty meh on that, but it's not actively bad); and My Super-Ex Girlfriend, which as dumb as the premise is, looks to be hilarious. Spoilers for X-3 follow, if you haven't seen it.

I didn't actively dislike X-3, but it lacked oomph overall and the script felt really scattered and never quite came together. Certainly I think it's the weakest of the three. It's like someone had gotten into the "actual adult themes" box long before they were ready for them. I admit that there are pretty much no circumstances under which Patrick Stewart being ripped apart wouldn't give me a movie-gasm, but seriously, would that not have been a lot more powerful if he hadn't been a complete and utter jackass throughout the entire movie up until then? "I don't have to answer to anyone. Least of all YOU" Dude, WTF? Wheels certainly could've given Magneto a run for his elitist money, but if that was deliberate, it didn't come off that way.

Again with the, "Uh, who are our heroes again?" Magneto's tent city was an exercise in affirmative action compared to the Xavier school, which is pretty much a WB show ("Pretty White Mutants with Problems"). But of course it's all ok, because Magneto's just using them as canon fodder (wait . . . when did this turn into blacksploitation?), so he's evil after all (sorry, that's way off script for the Magneto of the movies).

But there was the good. Hugh Jackman, first, last, and always, sells whatever he's called upon to sell, even if it's the cheesiest dialogue plucked straight from Harlequin romances. And I salute Mr. Jackman for taking one for all females in all scifi everywhere who have found their garments reduced to skirt the edge of pr0n. I also liked Kelsey Grammer as Beast and loooooooooved the Beast effects in the final battle. That's mah beast, that is. I also found that I really liked the actress they cast as Kitty Pryde, and I was quite annoyed when they revealed that she's dumb as a sack of wet hair and hadn't really thought about how the hell she was going to get this generations go-to-creepy-kid, Cameron Bright, out of the room.
Juggernaut was another good newbie, although I kept seeing Titus Pullo from HBO's Rome in the role.

On the down side, did Callisto learn her lines phonetically or what? And how stoned was Famke Janssen? Phoning it in doesn't begin to cover it. It's tempting to say the same of Anna Paquin, but they really gave Rogue fuck all to do in this, other than to reveal that she'd been spending lots of time in private snotty bitch lessons with the Professor. (Seriously, "You're a boy. There's only one thing on your mind"? Bitch, please. I think Marie and Logan should've offed the two of them in a Strangers on a Train criss-cross.

One other unintentitional (I'm sure) upside in the script: They did learn that the only way to generate any sympathy for or interest in Cyclops in this viewer is to kill him off screen and NOT HAVE ANYONE NOTICE OR ASK FOR LIKE 20 minutes. Poor, boring, lame-powered Scott.

Still, don't take the negative review too seriously. It's good summer brain candy, and Hugh Jackman gets pretty naked after revealing a distressing mutant power to heal not just his 6-pack abs, but the wife beater they rode in on.

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