In Ocean’s Thirteen, nothing smells sweeter for the crew than revenge, especially when it involves getting justice for one of their own. This time the one who has been wronged is Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), who is conned out of his rightful stake in Vegas’s newest and brightest hotel casino The Bank, by his unscrupulous business partner Willy Bank (Al Pacino), an odiously self-absorbed, ambitious hotelier. Reuben consequently suffers a heart attack which leaves him bedridden; and Danny and Rusty come up with a complicated scheme to ruin Bank by essentially rigging all the casino games to force a payout of over $500 million in winnings at one go, coercing Bank to cede control of the casino to the board.
While there are lots of moving parts in this movie, Ocean’s Thirteen manages to juggle all these plot twists and turns (unlike Ocean’s Twelve) without losing sight of the end game and more importantly its emotional core—loyalty and honor among thieves. This is symbolized by the “taking down” of the slick, mechanized, monolithic new Vegas hotel casino by old school Vegas ingenuity. True, technology plays a key role in the con, but it’s the characters—the con men themselves who work the system. Rusty impersonates a seismologist to convince Willy Bank to implement an earthquake evacuation code, while Basher masquerades as an “Evel Knievel” wannabe to distract him. The most memorable con is Linus, wearing a prominent prosthetic nose, posing as the right hand man of a Chinese high-roller (aka Yen). Nicknamed “The Nose,” he works to seduce Bank’s assistant Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin) to gain access to the four diamond necklaces on display at the hotel.
Since everything about Linus’s Lenny Pepperidge persona revolves around the sense of smell, we thought it would be fun to come up with a couple of things that play on the idea of “fragrance.” Of course, the first is a cocktail. Now you wouldn’t necessarily think a Mai Tai as fitting the bill (okay, Rina was very insistent that we make a tall, frothy, fruity tropical drink), but my version uses the sweetly aromatic calamansi (inspired by our Max’s Restaurant outing) instead of orange juice, combined with fresh ripe pineapple, two kinds of rum, orange liqueur, and my delicious (also aromatic) homemade cherry vanilla syrup, a byproduct of the macerated cherries I used for Tess’s Regret from the previous Ocean’s post. Besides, Lenny works for a Chinese man and they are staying at an Asian-themed hotel, which by the way has inspired the rest of the Ocean’s Thirteen menu. Be forewarned, this pleasantly seductive cocktail packs a punch! Sip leisurely.
The Bank Mai Tai
1-1/2 oz. Dark Rum
1-1/2 oz. Light Rum
1/2 oz. Orange Liqueur (e.g Triple Sec, Cointreau)
4 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice
2 oz. Calamansi Concentrate
1 oz. Cherry Vanilla Syrup (or Grenadine)
juice of 1/2 Small Lime
*pineapple wedge for garnish
Combine all the ingredients with 4-5 ice cubes in a blender and blend until frothy. Pour drink into a tall hurricane glass and garnish with a wedge of pineapple.
Fragrant Shrimp Dumplings
We tossed around several ideas for an accompaniment to the Mai Tai. What I ultimately decided upon was a steamed shrimp dumpling perfumed with a blend of aromatics–lemongrass, ginger, garlic and a touch of toasted sesame oil–which is an excellent fit for my Asian-inspired menu, not to mention an inside joke because the poor hapless Five Diamond Award reviewer gets treated to a toxic dumpling courtesy of the Ocean’s gang. But don’t worry, these dumplings are perfectly safe to eat…unless you’re allergic to shrimp that is.
Yields: about 30
9 oz. Raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp. Finely Minced Lemongrass
2 tsp. Finely Grated Ginger
1 tsp. Finely Minced Garlic
2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Scallion
2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Shiitake Mushrooms
1 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Red Bell Pepper
2 Tbsp. Rendered Pork or Bacon Fat
1/8 tsp. Ground White Pepper
2 tsp. Corn Starch
1/2 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp. Rice Wine
1/2 package Wonton Wrappers
1 egg white
Combine the chopped aromatics, mushroom and bell pepper in a bowl. Cut the shrimp into peanut-sized pieces then add to the bowl. Mix in the remaining flavorings. To assemble, place about a teaspoon of filling into the center of a wrapper, dab the edges with a little egg white, then fold in half to form a triangle. Dab one corner with more egg white and pinch the ends together to form a bonnet shape. Place the dumplings on a greased and lined steamer basket and steam on high for about 7-8 mins. Serve dumplings with soy sauce mix with a little rice wine vinegar, lemon juice and chili oil.
Stay tuned for more recipes…