K’s Restaurant 318 E Main Street, Westfield

Witnessing a hibachi chef’s mastery is a true spectacle. The swift, precise movements, the artful knife work and the shrimp-slinging accuracy, are nothing short of astonishing. It’s a dining experience that leaves you in awe of their craft.

One of Western Massachusetts’s hibachi hotspots is K’s Restaurant. An upscale purveyor of Japanese cuisine, K’s welcomes patrons indulge in a sleek atmosphere. Every piece of decor is exquisite, and the ambient lighting sets a great vibe for a night out on the town.

K’s offers a versatile menu bursting with worthwhile options. My go-to is always the hibachi dinner meals. Few meals in existence are more comprehensive than K’s hibachi dinners. Diners start by choosing between soup or salad. I always select the miso soup — a rich broth seasoned with earthy vegetables. There is something so comforting about this soup; it is the perfect cozy blanket for your stomach.

Now, as I sit on the edge of my seat, the larger-than-life dinner plate arrives. Split between four quadrants — a protein, egg fried rice, noodles and vegetables, the plate radiates an arresting aroma. Each distinctive section showcases expert preparation.

My protein of choice is typically the steak and shrimp. Both ooze with flavor, with the steak radiating savory splendor and the shrimp serving up a flavor bomb of soy sauce and Japanese seasoning. The noodles radiate starchy goodness, the egg-fried rice soaks in a medley of intense flavors, and the vegetables are a comforting source of hearty greens. Just writing about this meal makes me want to rush back for more.

New to Theaters: “If”

John Krasinski, better known as Jim from “The Office” by many, continues his Hollywood evolution with the family-friendly adventure “If.” In 2018, Krasinski parlayed his accomplished acting resume into the mainstream writing/directorial venture “A Quiet Place.” The film quickly became a horror sensation, transfixing viewers through its clever, high-concept premise and unnerving craft. It also catapulted Krasinski to a new level of Hollywood superstardom.

With his newfound creative carte blanche, Krasinski crafts “If” as an earnest ode to child-like imagination. The film follows Bea, a teenage girl who shies away from adolescence following her mother’s passing. When her quick-witted father must receive a life-altering surgery, Bea is comforted by the presence of vivid imaginary friends, known as Ifs. The Ifs each feature eccentric personas, ranging from a giant purple fuzz ball to a prickly glass of ice water. Bea and the Ifs, led by a wily human, Calvin, gradually form a kindred bond as Bea works to find the Ifs a home.

For better and for worse, “If” presents an eternally optimistic worldview. Krasinski’s film is sugary sweet, taking the mold of a live-action Pixar film bursting with bright set pieces and wholesome sentiments. “If” is a Pixar film only in spirit; it certainly sinks below the animation juggernaut’s threshold of masterfully articulated family features. Krainski’s film often feels the excess of an auteur filmmaker. His narrative meanders and struggles to articulate a cohesive thesis. The tone here is also erratic, swerving between comedy and hard-hitting melodrama without coalescing the dissident emotions.

The film is a wholly imperfect creation, yet “It” still discovers a sincere sweet spot. Krasinski wisely assembles a cinematic A-team to help convey his sunny subject matter. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, the well-regarded Steven Spielberg collaborator, conveys remarkable vibrancy in every frame he captures. Each imaginative If and sensational setpiece, including a magical music montage, buoyantly bounces with a lively pulse. Accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s well-tempered score, “If” displays an elevated craft far superior to most family films.

The cast is equally accomplished. Ryan Reynolds and Cailey Flemming make for a strong team as Calvin and Bea. Both deliver delightfully whimsical work that still uncovers the beating hearts of their characters. The voice cast is the ultimate who’s who of actors. Most play a fleeting role, although each brightens the screen in brief appearances (Steve Carrell, Matt Damon, Awkafina, George Clooney and Brad Pitt are on the endless list).

“If’s” imaginative streak soars highest thanks to the film’s well-calibrated infusion of real-world dynamics. Bea’s journey toward self-discovery is not a coming-of-age story; it is a tale of rekindling the adolescent spark that drives us all to dream up endless possibilities. The film thankfully presents its conceit without the after-school handholding that often belabors these narratives. Krasinski’s screenplay is certainly straightforward and conflict-free, but it retains enough breeziness and charm to mask its sleight nature.

“If” ultimately warmed my heart despite its shortcomings. I think the film will be a perfect fit for families of all ages.

Matt Conway
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