Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Forno Osteria & Bar

Forno Osteria & Bar
     Cincinnati needs another mid-range plus priced Italian restaurant like Columbus needs another restaurant chain.  Cristian Pietoso is also the chef owner of Via Vite on Fountain Square, which is one of our favorite places for either casual or nicer meals.  His father owns Nicola’s and that’s still one of the loveliest restaurants in the region.  Forno Osteria & Bar is in ‘Hyde Park East’, which I think is really south Oakley, on Erie Avenue.  It’s a risky location because although many restaurants have made this a glossy district, few of them have survived more than a couple of years.  The exceptions have been Bangkok Bistro and Sake Bomb.  I still miss the unassuming and charming Pasta al Dente, but that’s another story entirely.  Like Forno, it also made its own pastas.  

Interior Dining and Bar
     Kris, Karn, and Helen were visiting and Karn wanted to check out one of the most talked about restaurants right now.  We decided on Forno because we hadn’t been there.  The indoors/outdoors element of the space will be very popular in the summer, but I thought the dark wood felt like an Italian monster sized version of Lincoln Logs.   The tables are close together; I was able to hear everyone’s order and the servers’ recommendations at the three tables around us.  The entrance was awkward because the manager was on the phone as we were leaving and we had to squeeze past.

Artichoke Soup
     The food, on the other hand, was mostly very good.  Karn, Kris, and Neil had the Fresh Artichoke soup with Parmigiano Reggiano and crostini.  It’s puréed, but with a little texture and has a lovely, golden color.  The taste has a real brightness about it, but I wouldn’t have guessed it was artichoke if I hadn’t known.  Helen had the Margherita pizza with the mozzarella, but without the leaf basil.  We finished it off the next day and I liked it, but I didn’t think it was anything special; it’s not better than Dewey’s.

Roasted Atlantic Cod
     Kris chose the Roasted Atlantic Cod with arugula pesto and soffritto.  The cod was a little drier than I expected with a slight fishiness, but the pesto and soffritto were both excellent.  
Tortelloni Gorgonzola
Karn went with the Tortelloni Gorgonzola—a rich and full-bodied dish covered with veal Parmigiano glace, mushroom and thyme.  Neil was attracted to the Gnocchi with Leek Parmigiano fondue and speck (a form of bacon).  This was a charming dish; the potato pasta was light and the sauce had senses of citrus and smoke about it. 
Gnocchi with Leek Parmigiano

Braised Honeycomb Tripe
     I ordered the Braised Honeycomb Tripe because it’s a specialty and I haven’t seen it on other menus.  It had a texture somewhere between octopus and mushrooms and was covered in a red wine tomato sauce.  It was rich enough to be a small entrée on its own.   I would certainly order it again, but probably consider soup or a salad with it instead.  
Whole Wheat Pappardelle Cinghiale
I went on to the Whole Wheat Pappardelle Cinghiale with beer braised wild boar ragout, which was basically like pulled beef with a tomato Bolognese sauce.  Pietoso always generates a full, rounded base to his red sauces with a complexity of notes in the spices and the alcohol.

     People that would want to visit should do so sooner than later because turnover in this part of the city is quicker than one might assume.

Forno Osteria & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Eye in the Sky: A contemporary British cross between Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘50s period and Kathryn Bigelow’s war movies

     Though Helen Mirren has been featured as the star and has valiantly promoted the movie, Eye in the Sky depends upon a strong ensemble cast and an impressive script to achieve its goals.  It presents a number of hot button topics:  the geographically expanding Islamic war against the West; drone strikes; first world citizens becoming radicalized; gender equality in all manner of professions; inclusive casting; the Western literary tradition as a blueprint for modern cinema.  That sounds heady, but the movie is a wartime military thriller, a black comedy about indecisiveness at the highest levels, and a small-scale tragedy resulting from international conflict.

Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell
     Mirren plays a Colonel tracking a radicalized British citizen that she wants to capture.  However, that goal changes as a number of other factors suddenly present themselves and collateral casualties have to be calculated.  Mirren looks to be no older than when she began playing Jane Tennant on Prime Suspect in the early ‘90s.  However, since we have a history with her, there are moments when I felt like telling some of the other characters, “Don’t you know she’s the Queen and Jane Tennison?  Just do what she’s requesting.  We know she’ll be right; she has been for decades.”  We considered whether the character was a metaphorical reflection of Hillary Clinton.

Aaron Paul
     Neil wondered if Aaron Paul will draw a younger audience, especially since he gives a gutsy and sensitive performance as the pilot of the satellite controlled drone bomber.  
Alan Rickman
In one of his last roles, Alan Rickman displays both gravity and an ironic levity in dealing with the highest-level politicians and bureaucrats.  Barkhad Abdi, the chief pirate in Captain Phillips, plays the main spy on the ground, who finds himself in an almost impossibly suspenseful situation.  It’s a variation on Hitchcock’s definition of suspense, but substitutes a missile for a bomb.

Barkhad Abdi
     The British are uncertain and pained to unnecessarily destroy; their American counterparts portrayed by an unrecognizably corpulent Michael O’Keefe and an eager Laila Robbins (wonderful as Masha in John Doyle’s Playhouse production of Three Sisters a few years ago) display no second thoughts whatsoever.  At different points in the movie, 
Lalia Robbins
it’s difficult to know which view is more appropriate. The justification raised a number of times is that many people could be killed in a mall such as what happened in Nairobi in 2013.  Though filmed in South Africa, the setting is an older, shabbier suburb where the modern, westernized downtown can be seen.  Africa looks golden in Haris Zambarloukos’ cinematography whereas Mirren seems to be working out of a high-tech cave – the military version of Batman?  Will the huge crowds attending dreck like Batman vs. Superman attend Eye in the Sky, which presents the actual principal world conflict?

A Drone's Perspective
     Guy Hibbert’s script works on a number of levels simultaneously and it pulled in the small audience with whom we saw it at The Esquire.  People were talking at the screen as well as checking out one another for reactions.  It’s the type of experience that electrified Classical Greek Theatre audiences.  Hibbert uses “In war, truth is the first casualty” by Aeschuylus as an epigraph, referring to the fear of public relations in conducting various rules of engagement.  However, that oversimplifies both the humor and the humanity of the story.  The movie seemed to be a contemporary descendant of the more mercurial Greek dramatist Euripides.  I don’t want to gave away much of the plot, but I think most viewers will want to yell out, “Buy that bread!  Buy that bread!”

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Delhi Palace: Unassuming but essential Indian cuisine in the region

     Delhi Palace on Montgomery Road in Silverton has been open for a couple of years and it’s turned into our go-to destination for its lunch buffet.  I don’t know why we haven’t reviewed it before now, but I suspect it’s because like a comfortable shoe, we take it for granted even as we’re checking out something more glamorous that doesn’t fit well.  
The Lunch Buffet

The menu is extensive, but some of the favorites at Delhi Palace show up at the terrific (and reasonable) lunch buffet.  It’s worth starting there and returning for dinner a la carte on another occasion.

Flavorful Chicken Dishes
     Delhi Palace can nail chicken every time.  Regardless of the dish and the protein’s preparation, it’s always tender, which can be harder to pull off than one might initially imagine.  The Chicken Tandoori is tasty and served in smaller portions than at other restaurants.  That’s a good thing because a whole thigh or breast can sometimes be tough in spots.  Plus, it gives the diner more room on the plate for 
A Lunch Sampling
some of the other dishes.  Chicken in Butter Sauce is beautifully flavored, though mildly spiced.  It’s a rich sauce like others at this restaurant, but it’s worth it.  Their version of Saag Paneer, a staple on local Indian menus, is hands down the best in town.  It’s creamier than others, but also more complexly seasoned.  The Dal (Lentil) Soup has a citrus after-bite, which is intriguing.  The Tomato Soup was also very good when I had it in the past.  The Mango Lassi has a purer mango flavor and color than other versions I’ve drunk in the past.

Remodeled Dining Room
     The dining room has been spruced up recently, which has cut all decorative ties with the previous restaurants in this location.  Unlike some other popular or well-established Indian restaurants in the region, Delhi Palace always looks neat and there isn’t spilled food from maladroit patrons.  The gentlemen that serve and host are invariably competent and friendly in a quiet manner.  One caveat:  whether dining buffet style or a la carte, the portions are far more filling than they initially appear. 

Delhi Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato