Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Ken had a birthday. About a month ago, he he had one. But as is customary with all my friends, finding a date when more than one person can make it to specific place at a specific time took about a month.

We decided to give newbie GUI a try.

GUI, pronounced "goooey", meaning barbecue, is the lone Korean on McKinney Avenue. In fact, outside of the more gritty Harry Hines & Royal Ave. Korean neighborhood, its about the last stop for Korean fare until you hit the burbs.

That GUI is residing in the exact same spot that has killed many, many other restaurants like Watel's and Yellow, is a little scary. Add to that a $25 plate of Bul Go Gi (which is $8 in the Korean hood) and it's almost Jamie Lee Curtis hiding in a closet with a maniac on the loose kinda scary.

But, I liked GUI. Its a typical uptown, 20-something, loud party music kinda experience but the food is quite good and the service is incredible. While there are other items on the menu aside from Korean, I'd recommend sticking to the Korean. The sushi rolls we ordered as appetizers were good, but there are better places for sushi.

The Bul Go Gi (BBQ beef) here is amazing, highly recommended! I found out a while back from a nice Korean lady that the secret to making Bul Go Gi beef so tender is to grate a whole pear into the marinade. Apparently the pear is the only fruit containing some enzyme that specifically breaks down beef. Who knew!

The sake list is nice for such a small place and they even had the wicked, evil Soju, which is like Korean firewater. Desserts are not the strong suit here, so you might as well make it a progressive evening and walk on to another spot if you are wanting a sweeter ending.

2719 McKinney Ave
Dallas, TX 75204

(214) 720-9229

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Músicos Cubanos

Its amazing to watch them, some were in their 90's when this was made. Despite their advancing years, you could tell they loved what they did, what some of them having been doing for upwards of 70 years - singing and playing music. Not for the money, rather for the satisfaction of doing what they were meant to do.

This is one of the most entertaining documentaries ever. Ry Cooder and his son Joachim traveled to Havana to revive and record some of Cuba's pre-Castro musical legends. These musicians, in a genre I can only classify as Latin Jazz, were (are) incredibly talented. They were collectively known as the Buena Vista Social Club, a brief but bright entity that performed their last concert at Carnegie Hall in 1998.

Buena Vista Social Club

Aside from the music which is haunting and powerful in its own subtle way, there are other fascinating facets to this film. One that I really liked was the voyeuristic journey through the charmingly dilapidated streets of Havana. Maybe when Castro kicks off I'll go to visit Cuba, it really has a magnetism, at least from my living room vantage point.

Old Havana

Filming was interesting; from the jagged hand carried variety through the streets of Havana to the interesting transitions between a song that had been filmed in the recording studio and its counterpart filmed in concert. I really liked the sleek concert footage in Carnegie Hall juxtaposed with gritty Cuban street scenes. The footage following one of the older musicians around on his first time in NYC was heart-warming and priceless. You just don't get that kind of genuine dumbstruck awe from anyone anymore in our age of continuous sensory overload.

Now if that isn't enough, it won 18 different awards. Its also a good one to watch to learn the g-dropping, s-swallowing Cuban version of Spanish.

Or you could just watch it to see Joachim Cooder, he's quite the looker.

Buena Vista Social Club

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Friday, March 14, 2008


Friend Leslie was up from Austin for her very first visit since I moved to downtown. We had a great time catching up and taking a culinary tour of downtown. She was pretty impressed by the Chili fried Oysters at Dallas Fish Market and this place, the Dallas Arboretum. Now I have to admit, this was my first time to the Arboretum in the 15 years I've lived in Dallas. What makes it worse is that its only 15 minutes away.

Better late ...

Bonzai Exhibit

Statue @ Reflecting Pool



Thursday, March 06, 2008

Postmodern Goliath

Does anyone else love Tommy Lee Jones, or is it just me? I realize he plays small variations on the stoic, well-leathered man with dry humor, but still. His role in No Country For Old Men was a hand-rolled fit, almost no one else would have brought the same feeling to the film. But in his latest, he goes more subtle and its exactly that damping of character that netted him the nomination for best actor in this film.

In The Valley of Elah

This is a hard one to watch at times since the storyline is brutal. A father learns that his Army son, stationed in Iraq but returning on leave, has gone AWOL. But he's AWOL for a reason, just not a good one. Jones steps in to help the investigation, only to get the run around by the Army and local police, both of whom are in a pissing match over case jurisdiction. As the investigation proceeds, Jones learns the son he handed over to the Army, he really didn't know. Systematically you watch Jones' heart break into atoms at the realization, stoically but with a subtle agony that makes you want to turn away.

I liked the way they brought in footage, apparently recovered from the son's cell phone, to explain in almost a separate storyline, what the son experienced in Iraq.I also liked the son's soldier friends who told their stories one by one, each of which lied for their own reason, each of which unearthed another ugliness about war and its effect on those involved, directly and otherwise. Jake Mc Laughlin was particularly memorable - and creepy.

Jake McLaughlin & TL Jones

Overall this was a great film, almost entirely carried by Jones but definitely propped up by good performances from Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and Jake Mc Laughlin. The director (from Crash) also did a fantastic job at tweezing out the heartbreak and wreckage imposed by war without preaching. Even the Goliath reference from the film title (Elah is the valley where David whacked Goliath) resonated with storyline in that familiar overcoming-your-fears-and-slaying-your-demons kind of way.

What I didn't like was the upside down flag that was flown over the last scene. I understand an upside down flag means we are a country in distress, really I do. But after watching two hours of a family tossed about in the wake of the Iraq war, it seemed redundant and almost insulting.

In The Valley Of Elah

9.5 / 10

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Sunday, March 02, 2008


Ritz Carlton Dallas

You know, I probably shouldn't have had those two glasses of champagne before Laurel and I got into the cab. She got an earful of my thoughts on recent life dramas, not to mention my potty mouth. And so did the cab driver. Not that either really cared and in fact, cab driver seemed pretty entertained by the whole affair.

There was more wine to follow at our monthly group outing. Pretty much all social protocol was out the window for me. Figures I would be going to the Ritz Carlton that night, about the only place left where social protocol is a requirement. But it all turned out well.

I wasn't able to get a reservation for a group of 10 on my own. Apparently the anchor restaurant, Fearing's, is still quite the hotspot. Hotel Goddess flexed her director-of-stuff muscle and presto, we magically got a table. Thank you Hotel Goddess.

The Ritz in Dallas was not what I was expecting. Certainly beautiful and elegant by any definition but the details were funky and very different from the more stately, regal Ritz's in other cities.

In order to get into Fearing's you must first pass through the insanely crowded Rattlesnake Bar. Also beautiful, what you can see of it, but an obvious Cougar and Cougar-bait den. Kudos to 40-something women chasing down 20-something men but there is a point at which your 40-something self is trying too hard. These women have sincerely crossed over that line. I won't be visiting the Rattlesnake Bar.

Rattlesnake Bar @ RC Dallas

Fearing's itself is a group of cozy dining areas, each having it own atmosphere, all of which were beautifully done. Each room spoke to a special occasion night. And at the nose-bleed prices of about $45-$50 a entree, I can see only going for special occasions.

The menu leans quite heavily to the southwest and asian, which has become a new fusion craze in the Dallas area.

I could not resist trying the Lobster Bisque with Lemongrass and Coconut. Good thing it was only a small bowl because no matter how much was in the bowl, I was going to eat it all. The best bisque I've had in years! I really liked the little lobster "donut" at the bottom and the fact that they brought the bisque out separately in a "decanter" and poured over the donut. Its a good thing we waited to try the restaurant when we did since this item just went on the menu last week.

While all of the entrees sounded great, I decided to go off menu for the special - Virgina Bass with Pumpkin Seed and Chili Mole served over Jalapeño Queso Fresco Matzo Balls. I know, it sounds crazy, like there are too many flavors and textures on one plate, but it worked fantastically well. The heat from the matzo balls spiced up the layer of mole, which enhanced with out overpowering the bass. I'm a fan!

Reactions were mixed on desserts but overall everyone loved this place and we will definitely go back when our pocketbooks allow.

Oh, fair warning, if you use the valet service at Ritz be prepared to wait 30 minutes (both entering and exiting) most nights. Its a work in progress trying to keep up with demand in very small space.

2121 Mckinney Ave
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 922-4848

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