Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Squid Eats: Le Toledo

Montreal is crazy with top-notch bakeries, yet another strong connection with the city's French heritage.  The Plateau, in particular, is home to what feels like dozens.  Thus it was rather bold for Le Toledo to open its doors in 2019.  But if you build it, the people will come.  The place was bustling when we went, filled mostly with young adults, presumably on lunch break.  There were a few families, too (don't these kids go to school?).

We got the Foccacia to share - quite pretty but a little veggie-heavy for my tastes.  A spot of protein would have been nice - more a personal preference than a criticism.  We got something sweet, too, though neither of us quite remembers what.  No faulting the quality of the product.  We'll go again - easy, pleasant and relatively cheap lunch spot in our favorite neighborhood.  It was a little noisy but not oppressively so.  Not exactly a place to sit and relax for a long stretch - at lunchtime, anyway - as demand for seating is high but there are coffeeshops nearby for that.  

I'll order something different next time.  Beyond the pastry options, both savory and sweet, there are plenty of patés, cheeses and such on offer.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Star Trek: Cardassians

Episode: "Cardassians"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 24, 1993

Garak episode!

A Cardassian war orphan arrives on the station with his Bajoran father, arousing the interest of Garak (Andrew Robinson).  When our favorite tailor tries to engage the two in conversation, the boy bites Garak on the hand.  [As our child pointed out, they would have been uncomfortable if a stranger put his hand on their shoulder, too.] Obviously, there's more to this story.  As it turns out, this is not just any orphan but Rugal, the long-lost son of a powerful politician.  Cardassian political rivalries converge at the station while Garak and Dr. Bashir travel to Bajor to investigate.

I am likely to say it every time with different wording: Garak stories are special.  He brings out the best in everyone, both writers and actors.  His mere existence is the perfect enigma to build a story around and Robinson's instinctive feel for the role raises the bar for all involved.  At one point Garak says, "I never tell the truth because I don't believe there is such a thing."  What a line!  What a way to sum up a character in a single sentence!

There's plenty of development to go around in "Cardassians," particularly for Sisko, Bashir and O'Brien.  There are a couple of delicious exchanges between commander and doctor: first when Julian interrupts a communication with Gul Dukat, later when he wakes Benjamin in order to request a runabout.  As for Miles, we see a fascinating conflict between his war-hewn prejudices and his paternal instincts.  An evening meal in the O'Brien's home is layered with meaning: Keiko's naivety in serving Rugal Cardassian cuisine plus Miles's and Rugal's equal revulsion.

Bashir and Garak's friendship has progressed since last we saw them together.  Julian is now more comfortable teasing the clothier regarding his unknown loyalties.  I enjoy the sense that we have missed smaller, more subtle adventures since the last time we saw Garak.  As the audience, we don't need to see all of the minutia in order to feel immersed in this world.

Solid work.  We'll see Garak again in Episode 18.

Acting Notes

Andrew Jordt Robinson was born February 14, 1942 in New York City.  After starting at the University of New Hampshire, he ultimately graduated from the New School for Social Research, then earned a Fulbright scholarship to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  His professional career started on the New York stage as both actor and playwright.  The first television work was a guest role on N.Y.P.D. in 1969.  He made his big screen debut as Scorpio in 1971's Dirty Harry.  

Robinson had a regular role on the soap opera Ryan's Hope from 1976-78, a gig which earned him an Emmy nomination.  He has also had a successful career as an academic as former director of the MFA acting program at the University of Southern California.  In addition to his 37 appearances as Garak - a job he almost didn't take but he needed the money - Robinson directed one episode of DS9 and two of Star Trek: Voyager.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Squid Eats: Kitano Shokudo

We have long been fans of Otto, a darn close to authentic Izakaya in Montreal.  However, until our most recent visit, we had never been to their sister restaurant, formerly Otto Bistro, recently rebranded as Kitano Shokudo.  While Otto specializes in yakitori and other typical (for Japan) bar food, Kitano Shokudo's menu covers a wider range: sashimi, sushi, noodle dishes, etc.  The cuisine also allows for more North American and specifically Quebecois influence.

Case in point, my wife ordered the duck confit with ramen noodles (mazemen).  Duck confit is, happily, a regional specialty.  She was pleased.  

I went more traditionally Japanese with chirashi, sashimi laid over a bed of rice.  It was in smaller pieces than I expect - not less food, mind you, just cut into smaller chunks.  It was all kind of jumbled together, salad style.  None of this was unpleasant.  I cleaned my plate.  Just different.

The atmosphere was less raucous than Otto and the space smaller.  A quieter meal.  It was a younger adult crowd for the most part, plus some families.  One family with little kids, who unfortunately couldn't be seated, was one we'd also seen at breakfast that morning.  Perhaps also travelers?  Our server was clearly gaijin (foreigner), though she comfortably switched between Japanese, English and French.  Eavesdropping on her conversations with others, I was not surprised to learn she'd had personal experience in Japan.  Prices were higher than at Otto's so a bit of a splurge.  A fine meal, nonetheless.

An odd quirk I noticed in the Montreal restaurant business on this trip: quite a lot of proprietors must be stereo equipment enthusiasts as their collections were often on display.  Such was the case at Kitano Shokudo.  

Friday, March 17, 2023

Star Trek: Gambit, Part II

Episode: "Gambit, Part II"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 18, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Last week's episode continues.  The attack on the Enterprise by the pirate ship was a ruse.  Riker modified the pirate weapons so they wouldn't harm the Enterprise.  Data, currently in command of the flagship, plays along with the game, feigning damage, allowing the pirates to run off believing they've disabled their pursuers.  Picard, meanwhile, discovers what the pirates are after in pilfering Romulan artifacts: an ancient Vulcan weapon.

Interestingly, most critics rate Part I over Part II but I prefer the latter for the simple reason that the acting's better.  There's a lot more Picard and Patrick Stewart spars wonderfully with guest stars Richard Lynch and Robin Curtis.  The secondary narrative tension between Data and Worf is satisfying.  A spin off series with Data as Captain and Worf as First Officer?  I'd be excited for that show.

I'm not such a fan of the ending - too hokey.  It's rock solid Trek but (and) it's hokey.

"Gambit, Part II" includes the most surprising cameo of the NextGen run: NBA superstar James Worthy as the Klingon smuggler Koral.  Worthy, one of the key figures in the Lakers' dynasty of the 1980s and an eventual Hall of Famer, was still an active professional basketball player in 1993.  He met Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) on an airplane and expressed a desire to appear on the show.  O'Reilly encouraged him to meet with the producers.  It takes a big man to make Worf look short.  At 6'9", Worthy towers over the 6'3" Michael Dorn.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Robin Curtis played the role of Tallera/T'Pal, a Vulcan isolationist disguised as a Romulan member of the pirate crew.  The last time I mentioned her on The Squid, Curtis had taken over the role of Saavik in the Star Trek films when Kirstie Allie left.  Curtis was born June 15, 1956 in New York Mills, New York.

Other television work includes Knight Rider, General Hospital and Babylon 5.  Films include Hexed, Ghost Story and Shootdown.  Curtis had a long stage career, including her own one-woman show: Not My Bra, You Don't! - The Sexual Odyssey of a Forty-Nine Year Old Woman

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Squid Eats: Le Petit Sao

Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) is one of the more touristy parts of the city, containing the Notre-Dame Basilica, upscale hotels, souvenir shops, etc.  As such, it's not our first choice neighborhood as a place to stay but there are still good reasons to visit when we're in town.  Our excuse this time was the Scandinave Spa where we spent a decadent late morning soaking in warm water and such.  Afterwards, we were hungry for lunch.  Google Maps led us to a lovely spot...

Le Petit Sao is a Vietnamese restaurant, a long and narrow set up ideal for a quick lunch and take out - I would guess less accommodating for a sit down dinner in the evening.  Most weekdays, I imagine they do well with the work lunch crowd.  The name translates from a combination of French and Vietnamese to the little star.  We both got banh mi sandwiches.  My wife got the pork, I the chicken.  Both were excellent.  The price was quite reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food.  Service was friendly.  

Le Petit Sao was a nice find.  I don't think I'd head across town for it but it's a good place to remember for future lunches if we're already down there.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Star Trek: Invasive Procedures

Episode: "Invasive Procedures"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 17, 1993

Verad, a disgruntled Trill, hijacks the station, demanding that Jadzia's symbiont be removed from her and implanted in him.  Verad is resentful of the fact that he himself was passed over for the joining and has decided to take matters into his own hands.  

"Invasive Procedures" is an important Trill story which further explores the separate beings which are the symbiont and the host.  It's not an especially good Jadzia story as she is not conscious for most of it, though it does help to establish her self-sacrificing nature.  It's a more interesting Dax story, especially regarding Dax's friendship with Benjamin Sisko.  We see where the lines of loyalty are drawn for Ben - to Curzon (his pal back in the day), to Dax and, most importantly in the long run, to Jadzia.

The episode is also notable for a guest appearance by Tim Russ, the future Tuvok in Voyager.

Acting Notes

John Glover (Verad) was born August 7, 1944 in Kingston, New York.  He grew up in Salisbury, Maryland and graduated from Towson University.  Films include Annie Hall, White Nights and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.  Glover had a principal role on Smallville and also had appearances in Miami Vice and Murder, She Wrote among others.  He is currently the voice of the Riddler in the DC Animated Universe.  

Glover has won his greatest accolades on stage.  After his DS9 gig, he won a Tony in 1995 for the lead in Love! Valour! Compassion!  Glover is gay and has been married to sculptor Adam Kurtzman since 2016.  They've been together since 1993.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Yakitate!! Japan, Volume 4

Title: Yakitate!! Japan, Volume 4
Writer and Artist: Takashi Hashiguchi

via Amazon

Young bakers Kazuma and Kawachi work their way through the Pantasia chain's Rookie Tournament, repeatedly pulling victory out of the jaws of defeat.  Each round's challenge is a specialty (oddity?) of Japanese bread: melon bread, fried noodle bread, animal bread.  Kazuma wins with creative vision, Kawachi with grit.

There isn't much in the way of sexual reference in Yakitate!! but what there is tends towards the dirty old man vibe: objectifying talk regarding a woman's breasts, a competition judge so excited he nearly exposes himself and such.  The manga series is classified as shōnen, comic books targeting teenage boys.  So while somewhat offensive, the sexualized material is not entirely surprising.

Even so, Yakitate!! Japan continues to amuse.  The superhero action comic take on cooking competitions is a lot of fun.