The Viking Smokes Their Own, Sorta Like the Characters in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Lisbeth Salander's metabolism is such that she could dine at The Viking regularly and still not gain weight
The Dinner: Brisket sandwich, smoked potato, and a pint of Old Seattle Lager at The Viking in Ballard.

The Movie: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at the Cinerama.

The Screenplate:The latest screen adaptation of Stieg Larsson's wildly popular Millennium series sets an English-speaking cast of actors in Sweden, sort of like an old World War II movie where all the Nazis speak English. There are a few other tweaks and twists that differentiate the new one from the stellar Swedish version, but mostly the novelty is that you speak the language. Such as it with The Viking, a restaurant that is a quintessentially Ballard blend of America and Scandanavia.

The Viking was established in 1950, and, as its website proudly proclaims, "it has remained the same to this day." Of course a few things have changed over the course six decades, but the place does have an anachronistic vibe. It's just a row of black and red vinyl booths along the wall, an area in back with a shuffleboard table, and a old fashioned bar topped by a mirror that reflects the patrons in the booths. Although one can no longer light up indoors, the aroma of a thousand cigarettes smoked in years past still lingers.

The name of the place implies a Nordic theme, but the cartoon viking logo is one of the only obvious nods to the old country. The menu is American barbecue, with brisket, pulled pork, and smoked turkey among the staples. I opted for the brisket, while my date chose the "smoked spud," a russet potato slow-cooked in the house smoker and topped with salsa, cheddar, sour cream, and pickled jalapeños.

The brisket came smothered in a vinegar-heavy barbecue sauce and sandwiched between a halved onion roll, with a pickle and Tim's potato chips on the side. The meat was a tad chewy, but it had a strong peppery seasoning that was more than palatable. The bun was a soggy mess from the sauce, and it was easier to eat the sandwich with a knife and fork than to pick the thing up. The potato was smothered in toppings, negating any subtle flavor imparted by the smoker, but it was still a damn fine spud. The pint of lager extinguished the pleasant jalapeño fire.

The slogan on the Viking's menu is "We smoke our own," and it could equally be applied to the characters in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. There's no sense in spoiling the thriller's plot if you haven't already read the books or seen the films, but the family at the center of the first installment is about as fratricidal as they come. Disgraced Swedish investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) teams up with a brilliant but troubled computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to solve the coldest of cases from the family's dark past.

The film feels frigid. Director David Fincher is known for making discomforting movies (Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, etc.), and the way he transfers the bleak Swedish winter to the big screen almost makes your teeth chatter. Leaving the theater to a light snowfall and whipping downtown wind only made matters worse.

In fact, everything about the movie leaves the viewer feeling anxious and uncomfortable. The soundtrack, scored by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, is interspersed grating blips and fuzz. The infamous rape scene is less graphic than the Swedish version, but will still make you wince and squirm. And the climactic scene where the killer is revealed is hide-your-eyes tense.

With his face hidden behind a scruffy coat of whiskers, Craig is more reserved than in his previous Bond/action hero roles, and Mara ends up stealing the show with her fearsome yet fragile portrayal of Salander. Yorick van Wageningen, the rotund, curly-haired actor cast to play the über-sleazy Bjurman character, is an upgrade over the slightly less repulsive guy from Swedish version.

But for all it does right, Fincher's Dragon Tattoo can't help but seem like a retread of the Swedish original. Though slightly more faithful to the book, the plot just doesn't unwind quite as smoothly. Oddly, it felt like the biggest flaw (other than the gratuitous product placement) was the characters speaking English while the newspapers and signs were in Swedish.

Perhaps the director would have been better off adapting the story to somewhere in the U.S., substituting the frigid Swedish north for somewhere in the upper Midwest mid-January to freshen things up a bit and set it apart from the nearly identical Swedish version. After all, that American-Scandanavian hybrid works like a charm for The Viking.

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