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Gung The Palace review

By on Nov 15, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

I used to fret whether searching for “authentic” cuisine in non-native countries was a pretentious thing to do. Now, I’ve reconciled to the fact that people who try out a fake version of a foreign cuisine and gush about it are far more pretentious, and hence I have my own right to be more smug than them. IT HELPS ME SLEEP AT NIGHT, OKAY. Anyway. I’m back in Delhi while I’m waiting for my visa to be sorted out. During this time, I’ve gone around meeting friends and I’ve quite often been disappointed with what is passed off as foreign cuisine in Delhi. The other day I went to Boombox Cafe, much-beloved among the Delhi crowd for its variety of cuisine as evidenced by online reviews. I haven’t eaten Mexican food for ages now, so I ordered a chicken quesedilla…and got a random mix of diced chicken inside a paratha. Another day, at Cafe Morrison, I ordered nachos with cheese only to get a hardened, dried nachos with “cheese” that was yellow-coloured running water. Such is the state of eating out in Delhi, with many popular restaurants trying to serve dishes from multiple cuisines to customers who wouldn’t know better, as long as they have an illusion of choice. It was in this context that, you must realise, when one of my friends suggested a place in Green Park that served “really authentic Korean food” I wanted to reserve my judgement until I saw it with my own eyes. Tucked away in a side road from Green Park Main Market is Gung The Palace. The lobby that greets you when you walk in is littered with Korean pamphlets and memorabilia, with private rooms where you sit down on the floor in front of low tables for your dining experience. My friend (Karmanya) and I walked in today asked for a table for two, and the hostess who greeted us at the door asked us if we had a reservation. We didn’t. She gave a look as if that never happened in this establishment. I was almost about to blurt out “Look here lady, I don’t know how they do it in False Korea, but in True Korea we would have been greeted warmly” when we were ushered upstairs to a standard seating area with normal dining tables and chairs. The decor in this section of the restaurant was somewhat incongruous. There was a TV, much like in a dhaba, playing a Korean TV channel showing a Korean version of Takeshi’s Castle where competitors were running around over giant inflatable pools and eating noodles. (I presume on their breaks from running on top of giant inflatable pools.) In another corner was a disco ball on the ceiling for…I don’t know. Impromptu karaoke parties? We got served cold tea right away – I assume it was barley tea, or hell may rain wrath upon them – along with a selection of appetisers such as soft, sweet peanuts (my favourite), kimchi, fried chicken pieces (kinda similar to Japanese chicken karaage), brussels sprouts, spinach, et al while we perused the menu. The menu is cute in how words in the story of the restaurant are randomly missing spaces to make breathlessrunonwordsthatmakenosense. Helpful pictures guide first-timers to Korean cuisine on what the dishes look like, and it took us a while to decide on dishes because there are around 70-80 items on the menu. (Options available for vegetarians too, asthemenubreathlesslyinformsyou.) I was salivating at pictures of prime sirloin and prime jowls already. Perhaps the only item that looked out-of-place were the California rolls. Ultimately, I ordered marinated chicken – dak bulgogi – with glass noodles (it’s been a while since I’ve eaten glass noodles) while Karmanya ordered sour pork with rice. Part of hesitation with the menu came from the eye-watering prices (by Delhi standards) with most dishes in the range of Rs 700-1800. We also ordered sweet plum soju, which came in a teapot for multiple servings. We’d seriously underestimated the quantity of food we’d get. Unlike other expensive places, Gung doesn’t skimp on portions at all! My noodles were served hotpot-style with a burner on the table a huge plate with a generous serving of bulgogi with noodles. In fact, to anyone who goes there I’d recommend being restrained with how many dishes to order since each can easily feed 2-3 people. (It was the same with the portions Karmanya got.) The bulgogi was done just right – with deliciously tender pieces of chicken. A superb meal in all! The total for two people came to Rs 3000 – exactly as predicted on Zomato – and neither of us wanted dessert because the only option was ice shavings with red bean. I’m not a big fan of desserts with beans in them. To me, that’s the antithesis of what dessert should be – sweet! Especially when paired with something cold like ice, the resulting taste is bland. Overall, I’d say Gung The Palace is an excellent place to go for a meal. It’s pricey, but totally worth the money if you’re looking for authentic Korean food, and the portions are huge. The decor’s nice too, as long as you don’t get shunted into the ghetto dining area on tables on the first floor. Would definitely recommend. Rating: 7.5 / 10 *** One thing I noticed at Gung was that all the waitresses were Nepalese...

‘Gravity’ film review

By on Nov 3, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

Gravity is the latest critically acclaimed film from Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron. With a minimal cast of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, both in the role of NASA astronauts, the film tells the story of a disaster in space where the two astronauts are left adrift in space after debris from a disintegrated satellite causes a chain reaction of collisions with other space satellites. Even though the plot might seem outlandish, it is in fact based in a scientific hypothesis (called Kessler Effect) which predicts such as situation can actually happen. When their space shuttle gets shredded by debris and communication satellites get taken down too, leaving no way of contacting Earth, the two astronauts have to use their own wits to survive as long as they can. Gravity is a film truly enjoyed in 3D, to capture the full effect of zero gravity so exquisitely captured in this film. The desolation and beauty of outer space is accentuated by the carefully-planned 3D shots and judicious use of dead silence in the soundtrack. The writers (Cuaron and his son) get the balance between the human aspect of the situation and the technical realities behind a story just right. I wouldn’t be surprised Gravity is a shoe-in for at least a couple of Oscars this year. Make no mistake: this is a serious film with slow plot development that might turn many moviegoers off. Yet, if you are willing to look past that, it’s a brilliant film about the brave men and women who risk their lives in outer space for broadening the horizons of human knowledge. Rating: 4 /...

‘The Fifth Estate’ review

By on Oct 23, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

The Fifth Estate is the highly-publicised film about the story of Wikileaks, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. While I have followed Wikileaks closely ever since its “Collateral Murder” leak of the US Army killing Reuters journalists in Afghanistan, for most viewers the entity of Wikileaks is something they certainly would have heard of in the news, but not know in detail about. The story is primarily told from the perspective of Daniel Berg, played by Rush star Daniel Bruhl, an early Wikileaks volunteer who gets involved because he almost hero-worships Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder. The plot then follows the rise of Wikileaks through its initial teething stages, and eventual notoriety through its leaks about the US military and diplomatic regime. Much of the attention around the film has been focussed around Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the larger-than-life persona of Julian Assange, because of the rabid fandom Cumberbatch has accumulated in recent years because of his role in BBC series Sherlock. It’s only fair to take to Cumberbatch to task, then, for a half-assed effort, speaking in a British accent for most of the time and only occasionally slipping into stressing Assange’s Australian accent by saying “nitwurks” instead of “networks”. (In terms of bad effort, this was only slightly better than Daniel Craig’s “Israeli” accent in Munich – “The only blid that matters is Jewish blid”.) A major problem with the film is that it feels like a dramatic reading of Daniel Berg’s book about Wikileaks, which is the source material for the story, rather than trying to stand as a screenplay of its own. Director Bill Condon – formerly associated with Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Twilight Breaking Dawn – feels like a terrible choice as he resorts to dated visualisations of rows of desks to try and represent the technical concepts in the film. A lot of screen time is devoted to watching people type on a screen in an effort to portray “the drama unfolding”. Yet, this misses the point: what makes the story of Wikileaks interesting is not the use of technology per se, but the confluence of different personalities that gave rise to it. The Social Network, for instance, was a film that understood this motivation well and focussed on the personalities rather than the technical details. My friend commented that she learnt more about Wikileaks by reading its Wikipedia article rather than watching The Fifth Estate. In attempting a documentary approach, it misses the exciting story of the people behind the story as well as feels too long a film to properly portray all the events. The only redeeming feature was a fourth-wall breaking piece-to-camera from Cumberbatch at the end of the film, but by that point it’s a silly gimmick from a dumb film attempting to appear smart. Rating: 2 /...

‘Insidious Chapter 2’ review

By on Oct 7, 2013 in Reviews | 2 comments

Insidious Chapter 2 is a sequel to the indie horror hit Insidious. For those who haven’t seen it – and you should! – Insidious was one of the best horror films of 2011; the story revolved around a couple’s son who enters into a coma and becomes a vessel for spirits. The first film got many things right with suspense and pacing in the first half, but totally lost the plot in the second half of the film. A sequel was never planned for Insidious, so when Chapter 2 was announced based on how well the first film performed in the box office, I was curious to find out where the story would go. Insidious Chapter 2 picks up the story from where the previous film left it, with a seemingly familiar ghost-follows-family-to-new-home plot. And while this has been done many times, what shines is how well the sequel’s plot meshes into events from the first film. It’s pretty impressive for a retconned storyline. I also liked the frequent use of colour red throughout the film – through red-coloured objects, door, and lighting – to add an eerie atmosphere in every scene. Joseph Bishara’s score, especially the use of piano sonatas, complements the sense of tension throughout the plot. I never quite understood though why Insidious – and this sequel – sometimes turns to slapstick humour through the characters of two paranormal investigators during intense scenes. It almost feels like a formulaic decision made by the studio to ease tension during highly strung scenes. If there’s one thing that detracts this film from being “great”, it would be this. I confess I’m a huge fan of director James Wan’s work: Saw is a perennial favourite among horror films for me. Insidious Chapter 2 is heavily influenced by The Conjuring (PS – I fucking hated that film), another recent Wan film, as he has confessed himself. But while The Conjuring felt mainstream, I loved how Wan presumably had the freedom to try out a bolder story in this smaller budget film. I don’t have high hopes for the planned third film the Insidious series, but for those who liked the first film, Chapter 2 gives a well-rounded to closure to the story. Rating: 3.5 /...

‘Rush’ review

By on Sep 23, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

I love biodramas, especially when they carry the pedigree of the team that was put together for Rush. Directed by Ron Howard – with previous hits such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man – and screenplay by Peter Morgan – with the experience of screenwriting for Frost / Nixon, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Last King of Scotland, and The Queen under his belt – Rush tells the story of the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. There possibly couldn’t be a better team than these two for attempting to tell the story. I am not particularly fond of or follow Formula 1, despite having attended two F1 races in person. Yet even for someone who absolutely has no idea of the backstory or an interest in motorsport racing, the film has enough going in the drama aspect to keep the most disinterested viewer engaged. This is partly helped by the colourful character that Hunt was, a sort-of playboy who stumbled onto race driving when not sleeping around with anything with a pair of legs and boobs. I can’t think of anyone other than Chris Hemsworth to play the part. The counterbalance to Hunt’s character in that of Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl, couldn’t be starker in contrast. A fastidiously disciplined driver who didn’t believe in showing off like Hunt did, nor enjoying the popular support among his peers for his personality, it’s apparent that Lauda was a character at once to be admired and respected without being likeable. Lauda suffered one of the most horrific car crashes in Formula 1 history which left him in a searing inferno, with much of his face burned off. You can’t help but admire his resolve as he fights for his life in the hospital and makes it back onto the track in time to defend his world championship position. It’s fascinating how Hunt and Lauda start with despising each other, and then eventually learning to respect each other in how they both drove the other to accomplish what neither thought they could motivate themselves to do. As always for a Ron Howard film, the cinematography is spectacular. He works magic in being able to take filming cars going around on a racetrack – never an easy task during live races due to production constraints – and breathes life into it. Fast cars, gorgeous women, larger-than-life characters – Rush has it all. Rating: 4 /...