Flavors: the Ultimate Swedish Restaurant in Taipei!

January 31, 2010 in Food, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

 

Before you freak out and call Ghostbusters, that 'orb' you see is from the rain

(Update: I went back again!  For new pics, click here)

Restaurant: Flavors
Cuisine: Swedish
Location: No. 13, Alley 26, Lane 300, Section 4, Ren Ai Road, Taipei
Price: Realistically around TWD 1000 per person (minimum spend TWD 500 per person)
Contact: (02) 2709 6525
Website: www.flavors.com.tw (English available)

Flavors is one of those restaurants you go to and come out thinking ‘Did I really just have the best freaking tasting Swedish food ever...in Taipei?’

Yes, it is.  And yes, I have been to Sweden.

The reason is because Flavors is owned and operated by top Swedish Chef Ola.  Ola is the real deal, not one of those ‘I can pretend to be a proper chef and people will believe me because I’m white’ guys.  In my humble opinion, the man is as close to a culinary genius as I have met.

So Ola cooks, while his Taiwanese wife Stephanie (they met while studying at a restaurant school in Switzerland) runs the dining floor.  Apparently when they first started it was just the two of them, but now they have a few additional helpers both inside the kitchen and out.

Usually I wait until the end of the post to give my rating, but for Flavors I’m going to just come out and say it: 10 out of 10!

Now, you just have to see these food pics.

(Click on ‘More…’ to continue)

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Movie Review: The Road (2009)

January 30, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

There are quite a few excellent posters for 'The Road' - this is my favourite of the lot

Pound-for-pound, The Road is the most depressing movie I have seen in years, but it is also moving and strangely uplifting.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy (my review of the book here) and directed by Australian John Hillcoat (The Proposition), The Road stars Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as a nameless father and son duo making their away across a post-apocalyptic America.

At first glance, The Road is a survival movie.  The world in which they live is not a pretty one.  Nor a safe one.  I don’t want to spoil it for those who don’t know much about it, but let’s just say McCarthy (and Hillcoat) don’t have much faith in humanity.  Even though I had read the book, seeing that brutal, horrific world on the screen still made my skin crawl.  There are a few scenes in particular that I will remember for a very long time.

However, at its heart, The Road is about a father’s unconditional love for his son.  Then tenderness with which the man cares for his boy brings a sense of hope into a hopeless world.  Despite how futile their efforts seem, you want them to make it.  You want them to live.

Visually, the film is amazing.  Hillcoat’s interpretation of the world McCarthy created on the page is grey, lifeless and frightening.  It’s not so much a visual style (like say Harry Potter 6) as it is a depiction of what our eyes would see if we were there in person.

As for the performances, Viggo Mortensen is sensational.  I can’t think of another actor better suited for the role than him.  On the other hand, Kodi Smit-McPhee as the son felt more replaceable.  He was more than adequate, but I wouldn’t call it an outstanding performance.

The book and the film have a number of differences – more flashbacks, less repetition and increased action – but the essence is identical.  Most of these changes are welcome and necessary for the adaptation to work, so I don’t have a problem with it.  Well, maybe except the extended cameos of Charlize Theron, some of which felt like were there just to give her more screen time.

The Road is terrific (in both senses of the word), but be warned – it is a slow paced film.  There are some short bursts of excitement, and though it is never boring, there are lengthy periods of patient observation.

On the whole, The Road is a worthy adaptation of an award-winning novel.  It might not have quite the same emotional punch as the book, but when all said and done, The Road may very well be the most important movie of they year.

4 out of 5 stars!

[PS: I can’t believe that ‘The Road’ is receiving a limited release in Australia.  For a film based on a best-selling, Pulitzer Prize winning novel and directed by an Australian with two Australians in key roles (Kodi Smit-McPhee and Guy Pearce), this is mind boggling to me.]

[PPS: Contrary to popular belief (okay, just mine), this film has no relation to The Lord of the Rings…except maybe Viggo Mortensen is actually Aragorn and Kodi Smit-McPhee is the son he had with Arwen…and the world is the way it is because Sauron finally got his hands on The Ring (ie Frodo’s ring, not the Japanese horror film).]

Raohe Night Market in Taipei!

January 29, 2010 in Food, Taiwan, Travel by pacejmiller

The number of places I visited in Taipei for the predominant purpose of eating over my two-week stay there is really starting to repulse me.  It was really a Guinness-World-Record-type feat of gluttony.

Nevertheless…I cannot go on without telling you about the Raohe Street Night Market in Taipei, one of the most famous, and in my opinion, one of the best tourist night markets for food in Taipei.

Yes, there are a quite few odd things to buy in the shops lining either side of the lengthy strip (like any other night market), but it’s the food that sets Raohe apart.

Let me take you on a trip through the Raohe Street Night Market in pictures.

(Click on ‘More…’ to begin)

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JD Salinger, author of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, passes away

January 29, 2010 in On Writing by pacejmiller

Sad day for the literary world.

Reports today confirmed the death of JD Salinger, the author of The Catcher in the Rye.  Salinger was 91 years old.

Salinger’s life after The Catcher in the Rye wasn’t what you would have expected.  The overwhelming success of the controversial book was probably the last thing Salinger wanted.  It brought him too much unwanted attention, turning him into a recluse that never published anything after 1965.  He said he still wrote, but he never had the desire to publish his works.

I have only read The Catcher in the Rye once, when I was in a lost youngster in high school.  I don’t think I ever gave the book the attention and respect it deserved.  I can’t remember much about it except that I didn’t really get the message and I only read it because I had to.  All I could think of was finishing the thing so I could go play video games or something.

I’m sure if I read it again today it would be a completely different experience.

Book Review: ‘Eclipse’ by Stephenie Meyer

January 29, 2010 in Book Reviews by pacejmiller

Eclipse is the third book in Stephenie Meyer’s mega bestselling Twilight Saga.

I had read the first book (Twilight), but to be honest it didn’t do much for me.  I could see the appeal of the story and characters, but it just didn’t appeal to me.  Nevertheless, being a ‘watch-anything’ movie buff, I watched the movie adaptation of Twilight, which was average, and then more recently watched its sequel, New Moon, which I thought was pretty good (review here).  Watching the movie, however, didn’t inspire me to read the book version.

I didn’t intend to read any more of Meyer’s books, but friends from work started telling me that Eclipse was the best book of the series, and eventually I ended up borrowing it off one of them.  The movie wasn’t going to be out until July, so I thought, why not?

Well, I have now finished the book, and I must say it was another pretty ‘meh’ affair.  Now, before you berate me, please remember I am a guy.

Eclipse has a good premise.  It picks up where New Moon left off, with Bella Swan torn between her love for her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen, and her werewolf best friend Jacob Black.  And the whole 600+ pages of the book just goes on and on about that.  There is an imminent threat brewing in the background the entire time, but it takes a back seat to the romantic tensions.

If you’re into teenage love triangles and star-crossed lovers, then I imagine Eclipse will be a pretty good read for you.  For me, however, I just felt as though not much happened.  There was a lot of talking and a few minor incidents, but for the most part the story just dragged on.  The biggest disappointment for me was the final climax, which was supposed to resolve that whole imminent threat issue I mentioned earlier.  Unfortunately, the action was predominantly emotional, as opposed to the physical action I had hoped for (I know, that’s such a guy thing).  I imagine, and hope, that the movie will do a much better job of handling it.

My main problem with Eclipse was with the main characters, especially Edward Cullen.  I know the dude is supposed to be the perfect man (vampire), but he didn’t feel real to me.  He was simply too ideal.  Everything he did or said felt like it was calculated by Meyer to make girls love him more.  Men like that don’t exist!  But I guess that’s the whole point of his appeal, isn’t it?  I used to complain that Robert Pattinson (who plays Edward in the films) was too wooden, especially with that pained expression permanently fixated on his face – but now I am starting to think that he captured the essence of the character perfectly!

And Bella Swan.  I don’t even know where to begin with Bella Swan.  All I will say is she really is, when you think about it, a total bitch!

The saving grace of Eclipse is Jacob Black.  Now Jacob might be a selfish, manipulative dick at times, but his emotions are much more real and capable of empathy.   His pain is what keeps the book afloat.  Consider me ‘Team Jacob’.

The way I read a book is usually quite indicative of what I thought of it.  I ended up reading Eclipse in about three weeks, primarily while travelling to and from work.  I never felt like I didn’t want to read the book on the train each day, but I never felt the urge to read it when I had spare time at home.  I suppose that means Eclipse is a 2.5 out of 5!

[PS: I have no desire to read the final book, Breaking Dawn, even though I was told today by someone else that it’s the best book of the series.  I think I need a break from Twilight.  I’ll just wait for the movies.]