Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
The Night-In: Prime Top Sirloin ("Jak's Size," cooked rare) with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, House Salad, and Mixed Vegetables from Jak's Grill>"/>
Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
The Night-In: Prime Top Sirloin ("Jak's Size," cooked rare) with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, House Salad, and Mixed Vegetables from Jak's Grill to be eaten in front of HBO's Game of Thrones.
The Restaurant: Due to Seattle's noticable lack of Medieval Times, or really any service that will deliver roast-beast-on-a-spit to my front door, I had to settle for a more subdued carnivorous experience to go alongside Game of Thrones' often visceral excess. Jak's Grill is the prized West Seattle steakhouse too often overlooked in the bloody-slabs-of-meat department in favor of downtown Seattle heavies like Metropolitan Grill or El Gaucho (although it does currently rank above either restaurant in Yelp's Best Steakhouse category).
Jak's touts a commitment to farm-fresh ingredients, which in our organic age is a quality as distinctive as advertising your restaurant has tables, but here it just seems a little more earnest. That's probably because of Jak's excessive minimalism: preparing heaping portions of modestly dressed food.
Perfectly tender, succulent meat and judicious seasoning are all offered with a boatload of choices in sauces or opulent presentations like the Oscar, but even bare, this steak was easily one of the best I'd ever had in my life. Keeping its deliciously stark philosophy throughout its sides, the garlic mashed potatoes are consistently pillowy and Jak's is just as generous with a heap of perfectly cooked, mostly adorned veggies as it is with the protein.
Jak's also prides itself on a friendly atmosphere, a refusal to grant reservations, and prices incredibly reasonable to your average steak snob. This makes the divine spread all the more jarring when brought home in brown, unmarked boxes, prompting the giddy feeling that I'd robbed some kind of upscale steak depository (or beef bank, if you will).
The Entertainment: Game of Thrones is HBO's brand new period drama that's riling up all sorts of excitement on the YouTubes and the blogospheres as it winds up for its thrilling first season's finale. For those of you who haven't caught up yet, I'll try to keep this section as short on plot specifics as I can, but know that you should probably get on that soon, seeing as how there's over four novels worth of lavishly detailed spoilers currently circulating in bookstores nationwide . . . so watch out for that.
While some say that Thrones is a paint-by-numbers boy's tale that will immediately offend the tender sensibilities of viewers uncomfortable with "the Dungeons and Dragons aesthetic." Others say it's an intensely dramatic political drama that has saved audiences from often mercilessly plodding period pieces like The Borgias and Camelot. Either way, Thrones certainly makes a good case for finally giving the genre of High Fantasy a worthy, accessible television show that doesn't elicit the uncontrollable snickering that hallmarked most of Xena: Warrior Princess or the acrid bile associated with any given episode of Merlin.
Admittedly, Game of Thrones starts a little slow, throwing a lot of exposition at the viewer that's hard to really get immersed in before you've grown attached to the Kingdom of Westeros and its people. There are three main conflicts at work throughout the drama of the first season--the political struggles between two powerful families of House Stark and House Lannister for the imminent fate of the kingdom, the culmination of an avenging barbarian horde by the last known surviving members of outcast House Targaryen, and lastly, the brewing of supernatural forces to the mysterious north, who are storied to render the land of Westeros unto a bleak, lifeless Winter upon their return.
If the source material is any indication, all of these plotlines converge more frequently as the series progresses, but at first viewers might have troubles keeping track of the seemingly disparate events happening on different corners of the imaginary world. However, as momentum builds, each episode not only draws its viewers deeper into its ever-intensifying plot but also makes a point to get you further interested with another one of Westeros' denizens -- especially the ones that first come off as insufferably evil and one-dimensional.
One of the most admirable traits of Game of Thrones so far has been its versatility in adding depth to its characters, not relying on the same pithy tropes, uncharacteristic dialogues or happy coincidences that permeate so many TV dramas. Game of Thrones made quite a stir with a substantially explicit lesbian sex scene front and center to one of its brothel-owning secondary characters' backstory-fueled monologues. While some would write this off as HBO trying to cram in as many (*ahem*) sensational elements to satisfy the lowest common denominator through dense character development, it really does seem effective in introducing the libidinous, corrupting influence of the character at the scene's core.
The main pitfall of so many of these adaptations of sprawling, complicated texts (in both television AND film for that matter) is how much their creators seem bound to dry, expository dialogue to keep viewers from getting lost in the tale's intricacies. This is, of course, a Catch-22, as there's few things you can do to lose an American audience quicker than mire them with dry, expository dialogue.
I overheard someone talk about how they couldn't focus on anything the aforementioned character was saying while the dirty business was going on in front of them -- but to an extent, the entire point of the scene was illuminating this character's use of deception and mindless indulgence to make up for his inability to gain power over the kingdom in a conventional, broadsword-centric sense. Game of Thrones showed this man's power to construct affecting, wildly distracting scenarios that carry a whole lot of weight in some of the most crucial moments to the show's plot. This is done without having to explain his deceptive tendencies in some eye-rolling, otherwise pointless scene where Sean Bean's character offhandedly sees him picking someone's pocket or twirling his moustache.
Some moralist critics will decry pretty much anytime a blast of fake blood or a bare breast comes on screen to the point of outright ignoring any possible underlying meaning to the images in relation to their text. While it's anyone's prerogative to not watch anything they aren't comfortable with, it comes off as pretty arrogant and narrow-minded whenever someone draws attention to themselves as a voice for their entire gender or age group in saying that you can't have a layered, emotional narrative amongst bloodbaths and orgies. Setting a television drama against a contemporary backdrop in a conventionally "grown-up" workplace like a law firm or a hospital doesn't ensure the story you're going to tell is going to be relevant or even intelligent -- those qualities are left to the multifaceted characters, the exploration of universal themes and the communicability of the memorable images within.
The Pairing: While it's true that an austerely prepared, thick hunk of red meat is one of the most token "manly" foods, one would be sorely remiss to call Jak's Grill one-dimensional. The food is prepared with such near-perfect technique that it seems petty, maybe even pompous to take your top sirloin up another price bracket.
Certainly, if red meat and you have irreconcilable differences, the steak dinner isn't for you, but if you're in the market for one of the most bold, suspenseful pieces of serial drama since the first few seasons of Battlestar Galactica, you might just have to cover your eyes through the naughty bits.