Recently, our days have been full of Js for some reason, and it's making lots of people curious. Since we wrote about our wonderful dinner last night at a very private Japanese restaurant in Makati, we've been besieged with text messages (and no, not by J of a thousand texts, who was curiously in absentia today..maybe someone ran over his mobile phone) wondering where on earth this restaurant was and who exactly J is. J's existence has piqued lots of people's imagination -- so many want to know who this guy is, who knows his Japanese beef and who seems glued to his Blackberry when he's not eating at his permanent seat at his favorite and very expensive restaurant.
Well, on both points, as my friend Maurice Arcache likes to say, "My lips are sealed." Not for anything else but because someone else's privacy is involved. Still, it's fun to keep lots of people miffed and guessing.
Another steak with another J
Today we had another steak lunch at another of our favorite restaurants with another J, who I'll call J2 just to avoid confusion. And don't ask me which steak or which J I liked better. I recently met J2 at a very strange place -- we found ourselves sitting together at a table that was actually reserved for Senator Bong Revilla at an intimate political gathering in which former President Ramos was giving a real rah-rah speech that made me wish he was still president. And later on, Senator Revilla did join us at the table while his wife Lani took over the microphone and sang "I Will Survive." And actually, she sang extremely well. Then I found out that J2 had been to all these fantastic places for all sorts of reasons, and one of the countries he knew particularly well was Syria.
Lunch at Masseto
Today, J2 picked me up and we had a late and long lunch at Masseto. Interestingly, the choice for a venue was either the Japanese restaurant last night or Masseto. What a funny coincidence. Just for kicks, I was sorely tempted to go back to the Japanese restaurant and see whether they would actually give me J's permanent seat there; but I decided to choose Masseto as otherwise it would have been two meals in a row in the same restaurant with two Js. Now that would be surreal.
Lunch began with some chorizo and parmesan crisp appetizers courtesy of chef Tippi Tambunting. Then, because we were feeling rather ravenous (you would think I hadn't just had a pretty giant serving of beef the previous night with my other J!), we ordered freshly-made pasta with baby squids (which is not on the menu but which was incredibly good!) to start and then shared all kinds of main dishes including steak, sole, garoupa and yes, a hamburger. Yes, we ate for an army.
Everything was washed down with a very crisp and young wine with a sweetish overtone. I don't usually think much of very young wines -- this one was a 2009 vintage -- but we were told that this particular wine, from Domaine Huet, was a new discovery and particular favorite of Jojo Madrid, one of this city's top wine connoiseurs and a very good friend and travel buddy. We were very glad we ordered this as it went very well with our food. It's also excellent with foie gras, which is one of the specials ongoing now at Masseto.
Memories of Syria
Over lunch, J2 showed me his beautiful photos of Syria, which is one of the countries at the very top of my bucket list. Readers of an earlier blog post about the other J and sunsets may remember that a sunset as seen from the ruins of Aleppo is among my personal best twelve sunsets in the world. Well, J2 had been to Syria late last year and he returned with hundreds of beautiful photos of Damascus, Aleppo, and Palmyra, which we looked at on his Mac propped up on the table. But perhaps one of the most interesting photos I saw from his collection today was a group shot in front of a restaurant in Damascus.
"What's this?" I asked him. J2 replied: "Oh that was my birthday dinner. I celebrated my birthday in Damascus with the people I traveled with."
I looked more closely at this photograph and spotted a familiar face right in the middle -- a tall and good-looking foreigner among a group of Filipinos. That was when I realized that I actually recognized this foreigner! I'd seen him lots of times in Newsweek and Time Magazine, among many other publications.
"Isn't that the president of Syria?" I asked him. J2 nodded as if it was the most natural thing in the world to have one of the world's most elusive leaders in his birthday photograph; and so I asked, "What's he doing in your picture?"
"Well, he was the one who treated me and my friends for my birthday," J2 replied. "We went to a great restaurant in Damascus."
Some people just know how to invite the right people to their birthday parties.