Cafe Le Jadeite (****)

Posted on May 9th, 2004 in Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Cafe Le Jadeite

1952 West Gray

Houston Texas 77019

713 528 4288

After work the other Friday night, Engineerboy and I each craved Chinese food. There are, of course, several Chinese and Vietnamese food destinations within striking distance of our office and home. However, I have many non-food requirements for a chill-out-after-work dinner destination, especially after the end of a grueling work week. I especially like cushy seating (you’ll notice that as a theme in many of my restaurant reviews), and I like a little “see and be seen” atmosphere somewhat on a Friday, especially if I like my outfit :-). So some of the corner Chinese food joints, even if they have good food, just don’t quite cut it for the “indulge yourself” attitude at the end of the work week.

But we didn’t know where to go that fit both our culinary jones and my ambiance requirements. We drove aimlessly through River Oaks and I spotted Cafe Le Jadeite. “Wait! Isn’t that Chinese?” I exclaimed. “Um, I don’t think so,” said Engineerboy. “I think it’s French.” “No, no. Jadeite. That’s Chinese. Plus, look at those horses,” I said, referring to the Asian sculptures outside the glass doors. We decided to give it a try. The management had even helped us out by posting their menu outside the restaurant in glass (which is actually a quite French thing to do) and it was decidedly Chinese in flavor, but not exclusively so.

As soon as we were inside, I knew we’d made the right choice, at least from the non-food aspect of what I was looking for. The interior was unbelievable, truly River Oaks fabulous: custom etched glass panels, more giant horse sculptures, other unreal decor I don’t have a language to properly describe. Absolutely beautiful. The staff was formal but not stuffy, and led us to the perfect booth with wonderfully cushy seats, crisp linens, and hand polished flatware. We ordered a pair of drinks from their custom drink menu; they were shortly delivered by two folks who shook them up and poured them from individual shakers into chilled glasses right there at the table. I knew I was at the right restaurant, alright.

Well, if you’re wondering about the food quality after the promise made by the décor and service, it actually surpassed them. It was amazing. Our meal consisted of:

Appetizer:

Duck crèpes with hoisin sauce and fresh scallion (shared). We snarfed these down. They were so fresh tasting and light. The duck was so tender, Engineerboy said he was wishing he’d ordered the duck as a main course.

Soup course:

Asparagus lobster soup. Engineerboy says he loved it.

Pumpkin seafood soup. Unbelievably light, with just a little cream. So tasty!!

Main course:

Shrimp with garlic and mushrooms. Very tasty and delicate.

Lightly fried shrimp on apple ginger sauce (house specialty). Unreal, so good I could not believe it. The sauce was sweet

American Idol 2004 Weekly Scoreboard: Fantasia Wins!!

Posted on May 2nd, 2004 in American Idol by mynagirl

This is 2004′s American Idol page. Click here to see the American Idol 2006 Dashboard!! This week:

The impressively sized Kodak theatre may have gotten the better of Diana DeGarmo. Both divas got to sing three songs — two of their own choosing, and one written by former Idol contestant Tamyra Gray. I was disappointed that both sang songs they’d previously sung in prior competitions, however. I was really looking forward to something new and different that I hadn’t seen and heard before. Was this something the producers enforced for some odd reason? If so, boo hiss. I wanted something fresh!

Diana:

Her songs were okay but not great. She led off with the Tamyra Gray song, and she did a good job with it. Her other two songs, No More Tears (the Donna Summers tune) and another torchy number, were good and shaky, respectively. I think she really got rattled, either by the pressure of the event itself, by the size of the auditorium, or both. Her last song she went terribly off key for a few notes, and I’ve never heard her do that in any performance before. She didn’t really bring it the way she’s done in the past three or four weeks, however.

Fantasia:

Her first song, which I didn’t recognize, was really awkward and choppy. She sang it well, I guess, but it didn’t ‘gel’. As Randy would say, it was just ahight for me. Her second song was a repeat performance of Summertime, from Porgy and Bess, right down to starting her performance sitting side-saddle on the floor. Boring.. didn’t we see this about 7 weeks ago?! Her performance was unreal, however. She really is a riveting singer. She finished off with the Tamyra Gray song. I intially thought Fantasia might’ve made a strategic error, choosing to go second, especially since she and Diana were going to have to sing the same song. I should’ve had more faith in her decision. She did a phenomenal job with that song, and singing it second only highlighted how much style she brings to her performances, as well as what a great voice she has.

Prediction

Fantasia.

The Results

Fantasia.

Unfortunatly, for the first time this whole year, I did not get to watch the show (alas, my TiVo and I were parted and I haven’t watched it yet). I, of course, did finally get the results via CNN and was relieved to see that the better performer won. I myself had voted for Fantasia, although I didn’t go into the final competition with preconceived notions of who I was going to vote for. I truly was going to vote for whoever gave the best performance, although truth be told if you look over the course of the entire comptetion, Fantasia is a better overall singer, performer, and artist. Diana is wonderful, and I think she can sing the heck out of stuff, but Fantasia puts some real guts into what she sings. It’s hard to believe there are only three years separating the two. Maybe

Troy (**½)

Posted on May 1st, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Troy tells the story of the siege of Troy by the Greeks, sparked by the romantic defection of Helen, wife of the king’s brother. I hope I didn’t just give too much of the plot away, but since the story has been around for thousands of years I won’t feel bad if this is the first time you’ve heard it (but you should…what do they teach in schools nowadays, anyway??). Although the story on which it is based is an incredible epic, this film version is light on substance and depth, but deep on action and melodrama. It’s not a bad film, but not really great, either, and when a film strives to tell a great story, but is not itself great, the effort rings hollow and leaves the viewer unfulfilled.

Er, unless the viewer has come to see the un-CGI-enhanced, god-like display of Brad Pitt’s new physical form. Speaking from a staunch record of unblemished heterosexuality, I still have to say…wow. The combination of Pitt’s looks, physique, and smoldering charisma make him very believable as Achilles, the greatest warrior of his day. I was heartened to hear that Mr. Pitt gave up smoking in order to be able to undertake the grueling training that was necessary for his transformation, and then equally disappointed to hear that he had taken that nasty habit back up. I will never understand smoking.

Anyway, that’s not why you called. The film contains some very good performances. As mentioned above, Brad Pitt easily embodies the role of the fearless, undefeatable mercenary Achilles. I was equally impressed with Eric Bana as Hector, one of the princes of Troy, who is also a great warrior, but also a great leader and a great (and therefore tragic) man. Brian Cox portrays Agamemnon, the king of Greece, with ferocious kingliness and believable world-domination abilities. Peter O’Toole plays Priam, the fading but still great king of Troy. Orlando Bloom sort of fades into the background as Hector’s weaker brother Paris, giving a lackluster, translucent performance (I don’t know what that means, but it sounds right).

There are also a couple of chicks in the movie, but they seem simply to be props for imperilment and/or lust, and none of the female characters have much to do, unfortunately.

The majority of the film has to do with the siege of Troy, and includes many battle scenes. While grand in scale these scenes aren’t very moving, as it is apparent that 90% of the actors, horses, boats, and chariots in each scene are CGI, which immediately takes me out of the flow of the film and into a sort of dispassionate observer role. I would have preferred the combination of a couple of hundred extras and the skill of the director to make them feel like much more, rather than this overblown pseudo-real-cartoon-ish display. The actual face-to-face confrontations are quite compelling, with everybody obeying the laws of physics (thank

Zydeco Diner (****)

Posted on May 1st, 2004 in Restaurant Reviews by mynagirl

Zydeco Diner

1119 Pease Street

Houston, Texas 77002

713 759 2001

http://www.zydecodiner.com

I can’t say enough wonderful things about this place. I’d driven by it for years as I worked at various buildings downtown, but it wasn’t until I starting working at my current building about five blocks away that I finally gave this place a try. Its unassuming brick structure belies the wondrous culinary treasures that await within.

Offerings include ettoufée, red beans and rice, smothered pork chops, and (my personal favorite) a heavenly basket of fried shrimp on french fries with the most divine mayonaise tartar sauce ever created. Side dishes are wonderful — fluffy cornbread (you have to pester the guy at the window for some butter, however, I’ve learned), great broccoli with cheese sauce — everything you might love at a traditional cafeteria “meat and three” but with true New Orleans flavor. You can see back into where they freshly hand-prepare each order with the proper type of breading (cornmeal, flour, etc) for the fried items. It definitely shows in how tasty and fresh the food is.

Not to be missed is dessert stacked up at the checkout stand, however. Although there’s a chocolate cake that looks quite tempting, I’ve never tried it because the bread pudding with cream sauce is absolutely irresistable. (I get it every single time I go and I’m not in general a huge dessert eater). It’s one of the most amazing cinnamon-infused tasty treats I’ve ever had, and it’s worth a trip there all by itself.

Also worth the trip is how friendly the place is. The proprietess, Gail, is always so cheery and happy to see you when you’re in there to eat, and she’s done wonders for me when I needed to reserve a big table for an office lunch or baby shower. (Plus, the pay-as-you-get-your-food cafeteria checkout is perfect for an office get-together, so there’s no awkward math when the check gets delivered at the end of the meal). Often during lunchtime there’s a guy playing some live zydeco music, which provides some nice background noise; he’s really quite excellent, actually. An added bonus is that both dining rooms are non-smoking, which I really like, especially since it’s a fairly smallish restaurant.

All in all, it’s one of my favorite spots. The place tends to get packed by 11:30, however, so if you head there, I recommend you go early. And definitely get the bread pudding.