One of my favorite films is From Dusk to Dawn, a joint project between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I particularly like the fact that the movie has two distinct components. The first half is the cerebral Tarantino and the second the crude and visual Rodriguez with the switch occurring the minute they enter the Titty Twister.
I just went and saw the new Tarantino film, his eighth feature film aptly named “The Hateful Eight”. As usual he is the subject of scrutiny, this time accused of misogyny. Continually criticized for his use the N-word in his films including the latest, New York Times writer AO Scott states that “At a certain point, the N-word gives way to the B-word as the dominant hateful epithet, and ‘The Hateful Eight’ mutates from an exploration of racial animus into an orgy of elaborately justified misogyny”.
I’ll be the first to admit that Tarantino’s sanity is sometimes up for debate, but I will make the argument that his extreme use of violence and language is a form of modified hyperbole. In Django unchained, for example, the N-word is muttered 110 times (which in some cases is equivalent to a Drake song which seems to be acceptable). That said, the movie’s protagonist is black and ends up blowing the shit out of everybody and riding into sunset at the end. I contend that the constant and nauseating use of the word to the point of absurdity creates an immunity that is actually less offensive than if was used only once in a specific situation during the movie. As for misogyny, Tarantino has a history of strong female protagonists in his movies including Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character in the Hateful Eight is far from a victim even is she is shackled for the majority of the three hour film.
Omaw, the newish Matt Blondin on Ossington serves as a tribute to southern snack food. The place is already getting a few nods by the experts so I was keen to test the authenticity of the ode. It was a good start when the menus were presented alongside a a small bowl of a classic southern snack, boiled peanuts. A little less geographically accurate was Oregon’s Dead Guy Ale on tap but I wasn’t complaining. The offerings, served from a very open and central kitchen, ranged from a bit fancy to a bit roadhouse….. all arranged and served in small sharing plate formats.
This is where I get back to my From Dusk to Dawn reference. The first half was Tarantino smart. We started with the aged waygu with beef fat vinaigrette, onion tops, pea relish and coffee. Second was cured flounder (which I believe is no longer on the menu) finished flavoured with parsnip milk, horseradish, almond oil and granola of grains. Third was the shredded kale salad with smoked sturgeon, garlic, jalapeno and cornbread vinaigrette. Each of the dishes were dainty and delicate which fit the Ossington St. mold but was a bit off the beaten path in relation to Omaw’s theme of southern fare.
The second part was Rodriquez crude. This included the fried chicken skin with tabasco, pepper and lime and the kentucky fried squid with white bbq, collard greens, salt pork and watermelon rind. Neither was remarkable, especially compared to the extravagant cold plates served earlier. In both cases, any complex flavour to the dish was minimized by the overwhelming taste of the deep fryer.
The key lime pie was also dichotomous; a combination of old and new. The pie itself was a classic example of this southern staple. It was complete with a tart curd and crumbly crust. It was topped with that crispy, wafer lkie meringue, something that still hasn’t grown on me.
I think many Toronto restaurants, including Omaw, exhibit elements of hipster hyperbole which I define as the use of gross exaggeration in any or all of the Zagat trifecta; food, decor or service to hipsterize the overall experience. Examples include application of the iconic Kentucky fried concept to squid, interiors which overemphasize the arts of parquetry and masonry, the lack of capital letters on menus and waitstaff who carry as much angst as they do ink.
As much as the Tarantino/Rodriguez divide makes sense in From Dusk ’til Dawn, it makes less sense in the case of Omaw’s menu. Sure, cold was served before hot but the fact the greasy snack food was saved for the latter half of the meal made little sense. It was a bit like going to a house party and after the homemade apps are done, the guests bring out the M&M party pak to finish things off. It was far from the Wedding at Cana.
In the end, Omaw is as authentic a southern eatery as The Hateful Eight is an bone fide Western. That said, through other projects, both Matt Blondin and Quentin Tarantino respectively have earned the creative licence to bend the rules a bit. In addition, Omaw fits the blueprint of an Ossington addressee and therefore some flexibility to do whatever it wants regardless of the theme.
This got me thinking that if Mr. Tarantino decides to do another feature film maybe it can called “The Wining Nine”. Nine hipsters can sit around a table talking nonsense for a couple of hours until Leonardo DiCaprio’s character says something Jake Gyllenhaal’s doesn’t like, resulting in Ryan Gosling’s hitting him in the head with an empty bottle of Zinfadel. The ensuing blood storm attracts Samuel L. Jackson as a shot gun toting anti-urban zombie who, after reeking havoc, recovers his bad mother fucker wallet from a pool of hipster blood. Or course with this would come with media allegations of hipster hatred (dogmatry or dogmogyny perhaps?) in addition to the bigotry and misogyny Tarantino supposedly exhibits already. It’s clearly fictitious, however, because nobody could possibly dislike a hipster, right?