BIEN ME SABE REVIEW

VENEZUELAN DELICIOUSNESS

This Venezuelan cafe and restaurant is one I always come back to. One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, it’s cooked simply, with powerful taste, leaving you with a full and satisfied stomach. I’ve only been to the original Ravenswood location and cannot speak for the smaller one in the Loop.

As with any ethnic cuisine, it’s worth sampling traditional menu items as to appreciate meals you wouldn’t be able to eat otherwise. Here’s a guide to the best dishes on the menu.

AREPAS

The main item on the menu that Bien Me Sabe boasts is “arepas”. An arepa is similar to a sandwich bread, though it’s made of corn. If you’re having trouble imagining it, think South American corn pita and that should do the trick. Since it’s made of corn, it’s entirely GF, which I never would have guessed with that hearty dough. Their arepas have the right balance of soft and crunch.

Often times, I’ve found, the fewer ingredients- the better. This is true with the arepa. If you add too much to it you cannot focus on the ingredients in front of you and notice each different taste. The perfect combo (after many attempts) seems to simply be bread, beef, avocado and a sauce that resembles a light garlic aioli [pictured above]. With just those 4 ingredients, you appreciate each bite immensively, each part complementing the other in flavor.

There are arepa options as well for people with food restrictions and specific diets.

  • BEST VEGETARIAN AREPA: Caribbean Arepa
  • BEST VEGAN AREPA: Tropical Vegan Arepa

OTHER ITEMS

One of my favorite things on the menu is tostones (fried plantains), a staple of Central/South American cuisine. They are easy to share and wets the appetite whistle just enough to be ready for the main course. These ones come with some sauces and toppings, so it looks like a min open-faced sandwich.

For any pescatarians there is a great traditional fish stew that looks just as colorful as it tastes [pictured below].

BEST SIDE : YUCCA FRIES BEST DRINK: PAPELÓN

There is no better word to describe these other than tasty. Not often do I get to order yucca fries at a restaurant, so I jumped on the chance to order these salty treats and was very pleased! They are perfectly crunchy, and the exact size for dipping in their light guasacaca sauce (a sort of avocado salsa). The papelón tastes like a thick lemonade, sweetened with what taste like sugar cane extract. Strong and sweet, which balances well with the salty fries.

But, what Bien Me Sabe boasts in taste, they lack in customer service. I went on a weekday and it was not busy. And they took my plate the second i took my last bite. I felt rushed and with barely any time to enjoy my experience while waiters hovered over my half-finished plate. (They even took a dish that wasn’t finished and brought my fork along with it- I had to find another one).

That being said, it is worth it just for the food, just be on your toes and don’t be surprised if you feel like you are eating fast. Take the time- this food deserves your full attention!

If you have any room left for dessert the Tres Leches is worth a try and the Quesillo is a traditionally Venezuelan Flan- if you want to stick to purely Venezuelan cuisine.

RECOMMENDATION:

  • Start off with Tostones + sauces
  • Build-your-own Arepa with Beef and Avocado
  • Papelón (Venezuelan Lemonade) to drink

Come hungry, leave satisfied! – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Learn more here: https://bienmesabechicago.com

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LATE NIGHT REVIEW

As Mindy Kaling ventures into her first feature film, her character, Molly, discovers what it’s like to work for Late Night TV.

One thing that Mindy Kaling knows by now- its how TV works. And writers’ rooms. The writers room she depicts in Late Night is that of a boys club, JUST funny enough, usually assholes, and one thing is abundantly clear: they are lazy.

Her character Molly, on the other hand, is new to the TV world. She doesn’t know any of those things yet. We experience the discovery alongside Molly and empathize with her newness, her work taken for granted, and her efforts to fit in.

When she first walks in, everybody asks her to get coffee not thinking she could be a writer. And then she literally doesn’t have anywhere to sit for her first writer’s meeting (she comically ends up using a trash can). These jokes would’ve fell flat if not for Mindy Kaling’s performance. Another example of a cliched instanced is when Molly comes to work at the studio for the first time, all starry eyed, starting to relish in her new life.. only to be hit with trash a second later. But, Kaling’s execution makes this joke work.

After having her own two-person show and writing on The Office and then creating and writing The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling has proven she can write just as well as she acts. Never ending with ideas and possessing the tenacity of having her voice heard, she is much like her character in this movie. Which brings us to all the other…

CHARACTERS

Katherine Newbury: Molly’s boss and the late night talk show host. Emma Thompson is a brilliant actor. She brings the words to life and goes back and forth between cruelty and vulnerability with such ease. Unfortunately, some things go over rather quickly for this character (her depression isn’t much explored, neither the reason behind her part-time cruelty).

Walter : John Lithgow plays Katherine’s husband and seems like her rock. It appears he was a piano player of once great fame who now has Parkinson’s and stays indoors at all times. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the most likable characters in the whole movie (certainly THE most likable man), brimming with insight and support.

Tom: Some of the character arcs for the fellow writers are a bit small, see: inexistent. The biggest arc seems to come from Tom, the head monologue writer (pictured below). He starts off not accepting Molly as an actual writer, then he starts to see some of her jokes may have value or insight and by the end he’s pushing her to stay in TV writing.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

There is a brief romantic interest with Charlie (played by Hugh Dancy in an American accent.) He is one of the writers that doesn’t seem to have much of an arc – instead taking on the role of the workplace playboy. He flirts with Molly which leads to a confusing conclusion (did they sleep together? will this affect their professional relationship? etc..) and we find out later he had an affair with the show host.

AGEISM, SEXISM & DIVERSITY

This film must take place in an alternate universe, because a WOMAN is a late night tv host who’s been on the air for 30 years. A lifelong late night host, also a woman. Crazy, I know. Which is why this is a work of fiction, sadly.

Within this world, however, it seems there’s still instances of ageism, sexism and lack of diversity. The studio exec (played by fellow The Office alum, Amy Ryan) wants to give Mrs. Newberry the boot, claiming low ratings to make way for a young brash comedian- in touch with the kids.

There was one part of the movie that had an interesting take on the sexism that comes from an extra-marital affair. The secret that Katherine Newberry had an affair leaks out which means she is en-route to losing her show. In contrast, in David Letterman’s similar real life experience, it seemed his show was never in jeopardy. This part of the movie raises the question about our society’s different faithfulness standards and if it seems to be more understanding towards men in that regard.

Otherwise, the sexism and diversity issue are mostly highlighted through Molly’s experience. Not only is she the only female writer but also the only writer who’s a POC.

“I’d rather be a diversity hire than a nepotism hire.”

Finally, the message of this film is that diversity is good for everyone, a win-win that can only cast a wider net of audience members. This is shown with the filmed segments “Katherine Newbury: White Savior” that boost the show’s ratings, and in the final scene where we see the writers room full of faces of different race and color.

Though Late Night takes on more serious topics for a comedy, it does so in a straightforward and pleasing way. Making it a very watchable comedy with some reality check behind it.

Worth it for: Emma Thompson, John Lithgow’s sweet character, and of course, Mindy Kaling.

This movie, although predictable, has charming moments and actors. – ⭐⭐⭐

MIB INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

I SO wanted to love this movie. It was a reboot that was not unwelcome from a franchise that was so entertaining and easy to like, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the movie we all hoped for.

BEST PARTS IN THE TRAILER

It was one of those movies where all the best parts get used for the trailer and the rest seems like plot devices to get from one scene shown in the trailer to another. But props to whoever put their trailer together. I have to say, the trailer was REALLY well developed. Credit where credit is due. Fast-paced, fresh, funny and showing off the lead actors’ charisma. Backed with Missy Elliot’s upbeat: “WTF”- what’s not to like?

The lead duo’s chemistry was undeniable in “Thor: Ragnarok” (incidentally, one of my favorites of the Marvel Universe) but in this one, it kind of fell flat.

CHARACTER COMPARISON

What worked in the first series was how the characters played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were at odds with each other. K’s stone cold faced always provided a laugh and K’s confidence met with his alien learning-curve gave us that audience insight. We were learning the world with him.

In MIB: International, it is less stark of a contrast. M and H seems to operate *slightly* differently. M is prepared, H is go-with-the-flow. But deep down, they like each other. Even awkwardly hinting at a romantic interest, which was confusing. Either make it a strictly professional relationship or make it a love story about a badass couple saving the world. The in-between did not work and came out of nowhere. Which begs the question: why? and: who was this for?

As for the audience perspective, I believe they tried to fit Tessa Thompson’s M into the role J once had, allowing us to see the world through her eyes. M is a noobie (sure) but knows SO much more than J ever did about the alien world going in, so a lot of the comedy about the novelty of the alien world is lost. Even though her “zero chill” attitude was funny at times.

“We are the Men in Black… the men AND women in black”

There were A FEW MOMENTS of laughs. Kumail Nanjiani’s “Pawny” brings about some genuine laughs but not enough to justify him as a character. Agent C seems like a useless character as well, a plot device for us not to be sure who to trust. There just to make things harder for our hero, without much of a personality apart from “stickler nerd”.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

CONFUSING NOT INTRIGUING

The whole movie we are led to believe The Hive is back, a supposedly defeated enemy that can take on other people’s appearance, much like the Lara Flynn Boyle character in MIB II. We get hints that Chris Hemsworth’s character is probably part of The Hive. Everyone says he “acts differently” and is “not the same” since his battle to defeat The Hive a couple years earlier. Then, at arguably the crux of the whole movie, we found out that Chris Hemsworth’s character, H, has been neuralyzed. Thus the logical conclusion being that that’s why he’s not his former self, and that his British mentor (pun-supreme-named “High-T”) and head of MIB London had to be the one to neuralyze him, therefore making High-T the villain, as they two were the only ones who fought The Hive. This was not an ending I particularly cared about because I didn’t care much for H and High-T’s relationship to begin with.

RUSHED, RUSHED, RUSHED

With that said, they build up this epiphanous moment up for the whole movie and then gloss over it in two seconds. The realization happens as a new action sequence starts. H discovers he’s been neuralyzed, that his mentor was the villain all along and then.. the scene immediately cuts to an action sequence. There is no time to breathe or connect, no time to realize the depth of just what that realization entails, no time to care.

And then that fight scene with Liam Neeson’s High-T didn’t make much sense either. H proclaims halfway through seeing the face of his once-mentor change into an aggressively monster-looking creature that “I believe he’s still in there” as if the alien was a poltergeist demon inhabiting High-T’s body, which only confused me even more about the mechanics of The Hive and made me question what little I knew.

Seemed to rely too much on the cast and not enough on the script. A disappointment, sure, but one I probably will be made to forget when SONY and COLUMBIA PICTURES neuralyze me.

Confused and rushed. The best part was the trailer. – ⭐ ½

THE CHICAGO DINER REVIEW

Meat Free since ’83.

The Chicago Diner is a Chicago institution. A classic (almost) vegan diner and a Lakeview and Boystown must that I always come back to.

Not only is it vegetarian, they have a gluten free menu which offers a lot of GF options. Sometimes items share a cooking space – so make sure you check before you order (if GF)! Everything is vegan by default, though they have dairy cheese options as well. Accommodating to those with food restrictions but not limited in choice. A healthy balance of menu options.

I’ve only been to the Halsted location, so cannot speak about the Logan Square one. BUT! GET THERE EARLY! They do not take reservations and are packed on the weekends. Up to an hour wait on a Friday night during peak time. My advice would be to go on a weekday if possible.

STAND OUTS:

  • Sauces (If I remember correctly, a divine seasonal non dairy-ranch dressing)
  • Handcrafted Drinks (Rosemary Citrus and Lavender Lemonade).
  • The seasonal specials are always creative and tasty.

Not a big fan of tofu, but for those who enjoy it, I hear their seitan dishes are ok. Where the taste starts to go, it’s with dishes like the gyro, the soul bowl and the stir-fry.

For breakfast people, I suggest getting their cinnamon roll. For lunch dinner folks, their sandwiches.

On a personal note, I always appreciate how Chicago Diner serves water with no ice. Most restaurants serve 1/3 water with 2/3 ice year-round, which I find is a waste of a glass.

And finally, the grand finale- their award winning shakes. My God! I have not tasted a better shake in my life (dairy or non-dairy). Even though I’m not typically a sweet tooth, I always make it a point to order one while I’m there.

Recommendation:

  • S.U.V. (Straight Up Veggie) sandwich with Waffle Fries
  • and a Chocolate Cookie Dough Shake

A delight to have so many things on the menu and still eat healthy, and the best shakes in town. -⭐⭐⭐⭐

Find out more here: http://www.veggiediner.com/ and their cookbook.