Off the Menu

Grace Lee directed this documentary about Asian food in America, exploring the traditional roots of such millennial favorites as kimchi and dim sum and spending time in immigrant communities that maintain a spiritual and cultural connection to their native cuisine. This has the same slight, affable air as Lee’s previous work, including The Grace Lee Project (2005), an essay film about her racial heritage, and American Zombie (2007), a faux documentary about a world in which the walking dead are second-class citizens. The mood shifts significantly when Lee visits the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a white supremacist and U.S. army veteran killed six people and then himself with a semiautomatic pistol in August 2012. Here, the ritual of langar, a free vegetarian meal served to visitors of any race or religion, proves therapeutic as the congregation mourns its loss. The segment is powerful, but it feels out of place next to the other jokey subjects, including a third-generation Japanese-American businessman in Texas who serves sushi covered with Cheetos.