Sunday, January 30, 2005

Winterlicious 2005 @ Roswater Supper Club

The Rosewater Supper Club
19 Toronto StToronto, ON M5C2R1
(416) 214-5888
(416) 214-2412

Last night, I had dinner with some of my best friends at the Rosewater Supper Club, one of the participating restaurants of the annual Winterlicious event. While riding over there in the car, D. remarked that he didn't dress up for this event, that he only wore jeans. Oops!

When we got inside, an attendant took our coats (at no extra charge). I felt a bit akward taking off my coat right in front of the entrance to the restaurant, especially since there were two more parties that had arrived behind us.

After the matter of the coats was settled, we were led through the lounge and into the main dining hall. Our table was in the corner, with a dramatic black "bay-window" seat. Shortly after we had ordered our drinks, the manager of the restaurnant came and introduced himself. Unfortunately, I have a very bad memory and I forgot his name right after he said it.

As we were waiting for our drinks to arrive, I observed the decor of the dining hall. I don't know for sure period style in which was the building designed, but it does look stunning. The lighting was not too dark, and I could see the mouldings that framed the windows and that decorated the edges of the ceiling. It was bright enough that I could see some of the paintings on the walls, which gave me a very homey, yet elegant feeling. It did not feel like I was eating in a restuarant. Our secluded "bay-window" seat gave me a sense of privacy, even though the surrounding tables were all filled with guests.

Our drinks finally arrived, and after we ordered dinner, we sat there nibbling on the bread. I was very happy to see a slice of dark rye bread (one of my favourites), but when I bit into it, I realized that it was chocolate bread (huh?). Knight, who is a chocoholic, loved it. Princess complained that the bread was too hard. I thought the crust was a bit tough, but whole grain breads of this kind are like that. They were very soft at the centre and I quite liked it.

For appetizers, I had the parsnip soup and Princess had the salad. The soup was quite flavourful, but nothing that made it memorable. I didn't get to taste the salad, but Princess, who loves vegetables, actually couldn't finish hers.

For the entree, I had the lamb shank in bow-tie pasta with mushrooms and cheese. Princess had the steak with mashed yams; D. and Knight had the seared salmon with bok-choy. Presentation-wise, the dishes were not memorable in any way. Taste-wise, Princess' steak was the best. She called it "perfect!" She also announced to us that she loved the texture and flavour of the yams. D. and Knight both felt their fish was negligible. Upon trying a bite, Princess actually complained that the salmon tasted fishy, like it was not very fresh. BOO!! My pasta with lamb shanks was too salty, and the cheese was laid on a bit too heavily. I was not able to taste any of the lamb flavours, and the mushrooms were very disappointing. The only part of the dish I did like was the wilted spinach, and I wish they had given me more of it.

Before dessert was served, Princess and I made a trip to the ladies' room. On the way there, we saw the staircase section of the restaurant, which was made of glass, and on one side was a waterfall over a brick-stone wall. It was quite stunning and it felt heavenly to walk down those steps. Imagine what it would feel like to walk UP those steps to the 2nd floor!

The dessert consisted of a lemon tart for me, and apple creme caramel for D. His was essentially an egg custard, which was so smooth and so soft; it was positively exquisite. The highlight of my lemon tart was the orange tomato (?) that garnished the dessert. The tart itself was nice, but the blueberry sauce was a bit too sour.

At this point, I must emphasize that this is the Winterlicious event menu, not their regular menu that contains all of their best items. Having said that, I would have expected the food to be more impressive. The point of having Winterlicious is for these restaurants to showcase their goods and attract more clients. If the decor and the ambience are the only truly exemplary assets of The Rosewater Supper Club, then I can't say that I have any reason to go back there in the future.

That concluded our dinner. As we approached the coat check area, we saw that the restuarant was really starting to fill up now. The were guests waiting in the lounge, and people were arriving at the front desk. While we waited to retreive our coats, the manager led some guests past us to their table. A couple of ladies had to walk past us to get to the stairs that led to the ladies' room. While we were putting on our coats, the new arrivals were being led past us again to their table. Behind them was a throng of several more guests, waiting by the entrance. This is an aspect of this restaurant that I do feel is a bit inadequate. Perhaps they are not accustomed to receiving this many number of guests in an evening, but the dining room size would contradict that hypothesis. Why is it that they would place the coat check right at the front entrance, and not off to the side? There was so much traffic going back and forth, it was quite an uncomfortable scene to endure.

All in all, the service was very good (excepting the arrival reception). The food was negligible and the highlight was definitely the decor.

If I were to return to this restaurant in the future, it will certainly not be for the food.

I give it 3/3 for ambience; 2/3 for service, and 1/3 for the food.

Friday, January 28, 2005

MOVIE REVIEW: Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek, Dir. John Polson
Stars Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Jensen

What an eventful day it was at the theatre! I went to the Rainbow Cinema to see Assault on Precinct 13 with my friend. She had checked the showtimes on the theatre company's website last night, and this movie was listed for today. When we got there, we realized that it was not going to be shown afterall. Disappointed, we bought tickets to see Hide and Seek. I was thoroughly surprised with the result.

Hide is about a psychologist named David Carraway (De Niro). His wife commits suicide, and in an effort to help his daughter cope with this trauma, he decides to move him and his daughter into a small town in upstate NY, away from the sad memories of the city life. Jensen plays the child psychologist, who tries to help little Emily (Fanning) through this tough period in her life. Emily's father wants to help her as well, since he is a psychologist, but Jensen and Emily have a very special friendship that is irreplaceable, just like Emily's relationship with her mother. As much as David loves his daughter and wants to help her, he can't, and she won't let him either.

Before selecting Assault, I had read some reviews about Hide at Most of them were very disproving of the film, saying that it developed too slowly, that the story followed too many horror cliches, that the ending was a cop-out and the twist was blah blah blah blah blah. After seeing this movie, I have to wonder, did those critics go into theatre expecting it to be a failure? Did these critics already have all these colourful reasons why this movie should be so poorly crafted before the opening credits even came up? I'm puzzled, because I thoroughly enjoyed this film, as did my friend, and the rest of the theatre audience.

Like The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense, the story does start off quite slow -- as far as the action is concerned. What was put in place of the action was a lot of imagery, dialogue and character acting, all working together to create a mood. The atmosphere of the setting for a horror story is primary to its effectiveness. If you can create a creepy atmosphere that makes your viewer expect something dreadful to pop out at you (and they do several times throughout), then you would have succeeded, and the rest of the film just has to keep up the pace of revealing the creepy elements bit by bit. Polson's directing did just that.

Suspense is also an important part of any horror movie, and Polson sure knows how to work it into his film. As a viewer, you always got the sense that everything was not right with any of the characters, from David to Emily to the neighbors. Even the real estate agent, played by David Chandler, appeared a bit creepy -- and he only got a few lines! Polson's pacing constantly made you wonder what evil act is this character going to commit?

Acting-wise, I am simply speechless when it comes to Dakota Fanning. She can make an expressionless face look so creepy! Every time the camera settled on her pale and hollowed countenance, you'd wonder, what is she thinking? Why is she behaving this way? And, when she does crack a slight smile, you'd wish she wouldn't do that. You can't help but feel for her because of what she's suffering through. De Niro was good, as was Jensen and Amy Irving. But, undoubtably, the star that carried this film was Fanning's creepy portrayal of Emily Carraway.

When the plot does pick up and the action starts to tumble, it is intense, mysterious, nerve-wracking and even excrutiating to watch, all at the same time. As a huge horror film fan who longs for more films that rely on atmosphere and characterization rather than action and gore, I strongly recommend this film.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

2005 Canadian Figure Skating Championships

I was very happy to finally see some of my most anticipated skaters compete last weekend. Unfortunately, I missed the Ice Dance competition. What I did manage to see on Saturday night were the Pairs LPs and the Men's LPs.

I won't go into a list of all the elements that the skaters performed, but I will try and highlight some of the key aspects that distinguished one from the other.

Pairs LP

New Entry -- Anabelle Langlois and Patrice Archetto
This team showed what an advantage they have over other pairs teams: their experience. Langlois (pronounced lang-loh-wa) and Archetto had a very nice start to their skate. The opening poses were full of edges and spread-eagles, very interesting to watch and not easy to perform. The next element for them was supposed to be a throw triple loop, but Langlois didn't feel very secure and so she downgraded it to a triple toe instead. That would have been fine, except she two-footed the landing. This is usually a solid element for her, but having missed it, she became rattled and it showed in the next 2 minutes of skating. Both partners missed the SBS 3toes, and Archetto did not catch Langlois as securely as he should have in the throw triple twist. They did have a lot of height in this latter element, though. They attempted a second set of SBS triple toes, and they both missed again. After this, their nerves seemed to settle down a bit, to the relief of their fans and themselves, too, I'm sure.

Their star lift into a carry lift was very nice, their SBS spins were well in synch, and the rest of the program began to pick up momentum. Their BODS and spiral sequences were exquisite, showing the nice clean lines and curves. The highlight for many people was surely the "leap of faith," a hop and then right into the throw triple salchow. That ups the level of difficulty for the throw jump because right before it, the team did not have a chance to prepare. Just when you thought they had delivered all the goods, they showed us a straightline footwork sequence that was intricately woven between edgework and toe tapping, fast and electrifying. It took my breath away. They finished very strongly with the FIDS and a combination spin.

If you're confused about my "experience" comment, let me explain now. For any other younger team to have made the mistakes L/A made at the beginning of their program, they would not have been able to recollect themselves to spectacularly in the second half. They would have been too devasted and too nervous. L/A's experience saved them, and it helped them to earn the bronze medal. Score wise, they were only 8 points less than W/F, but the reason for that is the intricacy of their program. At no point in L/A's routine did they stand around and make gestures. Even when they were trying to "take a break" from performing all the big tricks, they were still doing some kind of footwork. Had they not made the crucial mistakes of missing both the SBS triple jumps, they would surely have won 2nd place.

Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin
Marcoux (pronounced mar-koo) and Buntin started very strong with some very nice footwork that involved edges and turns on their skates, and went straight into the SBS 3toe, then a hop into the 2toe. This is a beginning with fireworks. It was absolutely thrilling! The SBS (side by side) 3 toe is hard enough as it is, but to make themselves do footwork before they got to jump, and then to do it in combination with the 2toe! That requires perfect timing and perfect execution. If either of them lost an edge in the preceding footwork, the crucial SBS 3toe would have been ruined. If the 3toes were to be faulty, then the 2toe combination would have suffered. This sequence of footwork and jumps is worth so many points, and there are a tonne of places they could have messed it up. It's BIG RISK!

This is the pattern that repeats itself throughout their program. Their elements were not performed one after another, but in sets. For example, they did a set of Russian folk dance steps into an overhead lift. With most other teams, they'd do crossovers and crossovers to prepare for the lift, which requires precise timing and balance. What M/B did was they added to the difficulty of that lift by doing footwork preceding it.

Their BODS was exquisite and their combination spins were also very nicely done. The only problem they had was losing synch in the SBS spins, and they missed their 2nd set of SBS 3toes.

I have to say, though, I love the lifts performed by the teams of Richard Gautier. They all change position at least once in the air, and then they have the most flirtatious exits. The woman is always swinging out or twisting out of the lift. Both these qualities add to the difficulty of the lifts.

Wakamatsu and Fecteau
This is another team that can perform incredible lifts. I think this is the first time that I've seen Gauthier working with a female pair skater who has such incredible flexibility. Wakamatsu is originally from Japan, who discovered that her singles skating is not going to take her to the top of the Japanese National Team. She then moved to Canada and skate pairs with Jean-Sebastien Fecteau. They make such a lovely skating pair because he always treats his partners with such care and grace, and Wakamatsu is so lovely on the ice. Her flexibility allows her to make such nice clean lines in all her poses.

They started off with a Japanese style greeting, and there was not a lot of skating involved. Next, they did crossovers to enter the throw 3salchow. The 3twist was nice, very high, and then they did the SBS 3toe + 2toe combination. That was lovely. At this point, their skating starts to degrade because they are skating very far apart when they enter their SBS 2axels, which he missed. At the midpoint of the program, nothing much happens. They perform a sort of dance, but it's not really skating. Then they pick it up again with a star lift that changes position to a carry lift, and then back to a star lift. The changes of position is very difficult to do, especially if you're going from a regular lift, which requires the man to skate these steps and he makes these revolutions across the ice. When he goes into the carry-position, which does not have steps, he has to change his skating tempo. Then, while most other teams would just end the lift there, Fecteau changes tempo again to resume the revolving steps to complete the lift. All this time, Wakamatsu assumes the nicest positions in the air. She has such lovely extension in her legs down to her toes that it makes the lines so clean and exquisite.

At one point, W/F are performing the BODS and she loses her edge. then they do some SBS spins, and they prove that they can regain their focus after a major mistake. They follow with the BIDS, completing 2 revolutions on the ice, and then a straightline set of footwork. This was really nice. The finale is one of my faves of all time. They go into a lift with her doing the splits, her body stretched forward and her head resting next to her foot. The flexibility on this girl is amazing! Then, just when you're catching your breath at such a lovely sight, she folds out of the split and her body "tumbles" out of his hand and they strike their end pose. It's a ballet pose where her entire body is suspended by her legs, which are clinging to his arm. It's so beautiful!

I'll end my reviews here and I'll return later to write some more.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Overdue News

I was away from the internet during the holidays because of a downed network. After that, the modem was messed up and so I was unable to log on to tell everyone about what's been happening.

I'll give a very brief overview right now.

1. Christmas dinner was very good. There was too much food, as usual, but it was all very good food. The roast beef turned out all right.

2. Christmas dinner with my friends at this new hotpot restaurant at Warden and Steeles was rather pathetic. It was a buffet style, but the selection of food for hotpot-ting was very limited. I had mostly fishballs, other seafood, some veggies and some BBQ meats. They didn't have the veggie called "tong-ho," and they only had salmon for fish. It was very disappointing.

After dinner we went back to "Knight's" house to watch movies. He rented Shaun of the Dead, and this was a very clever movie. It was hilarious at the end, but rather slow at the beginning. Then we exchanged presents and went home.

3. Hearing about the tsunami disaster in S.E.Asia was very disheartening. It made me realize how lucky I am to live in a region of the world where the worst we'll get is 3 meters of snow. Apparently, this is normal in the prairie provinces of Canada, and they have no idea why we were so upset cause we got 3 meters of snow and had to call in the army to help us clear it. Anyway, where I live, we don't have hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcano eruptions, floods, droughts and so on. It was very embarrassing to see how slow the Canadian government responded to this disaster.

4. New Years was fun. I went out with friends to the restaurant called Peter Pan, and then we went to the First Night Celebrations at the Distilleries district. I'll write full review of the event later. That night, my friends and I talked about how we should help out the disaster in S.E.Asia, such as making monetary donations to aid organizations like the Red Cross, World Vision and so on. Today, I learned that there is a list of organizations that are reputed to manage their funds very effeciently, and to support them, the Cdn. gov't will match any donation made to these organizations. I will find out what is on that list and try to publish it here.

That's all for now. I'll write more later.