For a rootin’-tootin’ date night, try pairing Boa with the Coen Brothers’ new Western
By Angela Matano
A little escapism can be a healthy thing, and who better to help you take a mental break from reality than directors Joel and Ethan Coen. Their format-busting new film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is an anthology of six short films that are not related in any way, except that each is of the Western genre.
The movie opens with the insert of a book cover, and with the commencement of each different tale a page turns — a conceit that manages to be somehow both cozy and subversive. The opening vignette finds Tim Blake Nelson crooning his heart out in between (at times even during) shootouts, the tradition of the Singing Cowboy never having looked quite so cheerful and immaculate, while at the same time projecting pure ruthlessness.
As in most of their movies, the Coens love to mash up themes, tones and plot lines in such a way that I often leave the theater wondering what exactly has just hit me. The genre-bending continues with Tom Waits as a prospector, James Franco as a bank robber, and Liam Neeson as an impresario. Each segment of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” celebrates a different kind of Western, culminating in a finale that pays homage to the classic John Ford picture “Stagecoach.”
While the movie will be playing simultaneously in movie theaters and on Netflix, I very much recommend venturing out into the night to soak it up on a big screen. Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography is astonishing, and the best way to take in the world of the Coens is to completely absorb yourself in their strange, wonderful universe — cell phones off, distractions be damned.
And to complete your evening of escapism, indulge in a 40-day dry-aged New York strip at Boa Steakhouse in Santa Monica. While this glamorous restaurant is not exactly ye olde saloon of yore, this is the place to get a seriously manly steak. For those who dream of the open range, order up a Tomahawk or a Porterhouse and go cow-wild. (P.S. I recently sat next to an aging movie star who played a cowboy or two, a footnote out of central casting.)
In addition to serving a mean steak, Boa delivers side dishes and appetizers to die for. Choices like the decadent goat cheese baklava and the crab and black truffle scalloped potatoes could very well bring you to your knees. If you’re trying to keep from bustin’ a gut, the smashed broccoli sacrifices nothing in flavor, while getting you your vi-
tamins. The chipotle-lime corn is similarly light, but yummy, with just the right amount of umami.
A full-throated night out at Boa calls for a drink. A big, bold red wine, like the Buehler Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, puts a little swank in your meal. Another direction to go in is a cocktail, and there are two that will pluck your dreadnought guitar strings. The Smoke Show, a mix of Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon, maple syrup, orange bitters and actual Applewood smoke, comes dressed up in a highball, waiting for your server to pour a billow of smoke out of a beaker, a welcome addition of molecular gastronomy. Another great choice to drink is the Fire and Smoke, an adventurous blend of mezcal, pineapple, pink peppercorn, honey, lime and firewater bitters.
While the lure of the Platinum Age of Television continues to give us reasons to stay at home, sometimes a night out reminds us of who we are. If you’re lucky, a night out might even remind you why you love your spouse, or your date, or your best friend. Of course we could fry up the steak ourselves and watch the movie on our TV, but, really, where’s the fun in that?
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is now playing at the Landmark, 10850 Pico Blvd., West L.A. Call (310) 470-0492 or visit landmarktheatres.com. Boa Steakhouse is at 101 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. Call (310) 899-4466 or visit innovativedining.com for reservations.