Saeed Adyani
Clooney's candidate says what we wish Obama would say.
The Dinner : Chicken Teriyaki, at Kyoto Sushi & Teriyaki (4743 Brooklyn Ave. N.E.).


George Clooney for President? Sure, He's Got My Vote

Saeed Adyani
Clooney's candidate says what we wish Obama would say.
The Dinner: Chicken Teriyaki, at Kyoto Sushi & Teriyaki (4743 Brooklyn Ave. N.E.).

The Movie: The Ides of March, at Seven Gables (911 N.E. 50th St.).

The Screenplate: In movies, politics, and restaurants, sudden reversals are the norm. The negative advance buzz on a blockbuster is disproved by eager filmgoers. The underdog sometimes wins an election. And an eatery that's been ignominiously closed can suddenly emerge under new management. So it is with the former Kyoto Teriyaki in the U-District, which just reopened as Kyoto Sushi & Teriyaki. So it is, too, with disgraced press secretary Stephen Myers (played by Ryan Gosling), who's suddenly fired from the biggest job of his career, advising the Democratic favorite in a presidential election, then schemes to get his old gig back. In the movie, the catch is this: Would you trash your old idealism and blackmail your boss for the sake of professional salvation? In the restaurant, the dilemma is this: sushi or teriyaki? Gosling and I make very different choices...

Director George Clooney plays the front-runner in the critical Ohio primary in The Ides of March, adapted by the play Farragut North by former political consultant Beau Willimon (with help by Grant Heslov). Gov. Mike Morris tells it like it is. He says exactly what we'd like to hear President Obama say in standing up to the Republicans who've gridlocked Congress with no-new-taxes pledges and filibuster threats. Americans, says Gov. Morris, "should be judged by the how well we care for those people who can't care for themselves." Never mind the Tea Party cry of "Let them die!" for the uninsured. If he's not sufficiently pious, says Gov. Morris, or if he doesn't share your religious faith, "Don't vote for me." (He even flirts with atheism, the greatest political taboo.) And more, regarding taxes: "The richest people in this country don't pay their share." He's got my vote.

No wonder the idealistic Stephen worships his employer. And no surprise that his worshipful idealism will be betrayed. Even if you haven't seen the play, which never reached Seattle, its schematic outlines are too easy to guess. As soon as a comely blonde intern (Evan Rachel Wood) starts flitting with Stephen, alarm bells go off. If she's this forward with the help, what's she like with the boss? (And Wood, of course, is no Lewinsky in terms of sex appeal.)

Another telling contrast is the east-west axis of the U-District between the Ave and Roosevelt. How many times have I (or you) walked along 45th or 50th, seeking to link dinner and a movie? N.E. 45th Street was once almost civilized, with a jeweler's and clothing shop (yes, I'm thinking all the way back to the Yankee Peddler), while N.E. 50th was a backwater. Now, the former is a congested raceway flanked by American Apparel and other cheap T-shirt vendors. For food, you could try the bubble tea shop or gas station. But on 50th, at least there's still the Star Life cafe at the Grand Illusion, the Cedars, and that Italian joint below the Seven Gables (previously Mamma Melina, now Ristorante Doria). The traffic seems slower, too; so it's less life-and-death for a pedestrian to cross the street. On the other hand, none of the food in the U District is particularly good. Students generally can't afford quality; and tired moviegoers don't have time for fine cuisine. The old Kyoto Teriyaki was aimed at the former demographic, but it was also cursed with a location on Brooklyn opposite the worst Safeway in the city. The new Kyoto Sushi & Teriyaki can't really escape that stigma, but at least it's trying for a second chance. And, unlike Gosling's ambitious political operative in The Ides of March, you're more inclined to give it that chance.

Surrounded by older, savvier political veterans (played by Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti), Gosling's golden boy gradually loses his luster. The political establishment values "trust over skill," he's told. And, unlike most movies with big, bankable stars, The Ides of March slowly reveals its skillful, blue-eyed hero to be profoundly untrustworthy. Unlike, say, The Candidate (made over 40 years ago), disillusionment is here a narrative given. The governor and his servant will both be brought low, succumbing to different temptations. Yet the political process--as viewed by us outsiders--continues on just the same. As an ex-insider, playwright/screenwriter Willimon wrongly assumes we, mere voters, are less cynical than he about the process. Though well acted and directed, Ides is fundamentally dated and unsurprising in its writing (sub-Sorkinesque, to say the least). It, like the old Kyoto Teriyaki, could stand a refresh.

However, just as Gosling's character is tempted to jump campaigns for a better shot at White House glory, I study the menu at the new Kyoto Sushi & Teriyaki, consider the options, and opt for the safe route. Bad sushi can ruin your evening, but teriyaki is a proven commodity, hard to screw up. My dish ($7.44) is nothing special, but the rice and chicken are fresh, and the salad hasn't been doused in dressing. The decor is amusingly random, with a bicycle-wheel clock, various tchotchkes of non-Japanese origin, and big murals of jazz musicians who aren't actually jazz musicians but catalog models. (For music, instead of jazz, the radio is tuned to an AM station that's 90 percent advertising.) So, not a place to linger, but a swift, reasonable spot before a movie.

Kyoto isn't the kind of restaurant where the posh pols and consultants of Ides might dine (though fine for lowly interns). However, if you wanted to take a back-stabber like Stephen out to dinner at an out-of-the-way spot (to fire him discreetly and seize his cellphone), then go ahead and try the sushi. It might surprise you, unlike Ides.

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