Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Much ado about beef

Tonight the Japanese embassy celebrated its national day with a large reception at the residence of the ambassador in Forbes Park. Japanese embassy receptions are always very impressive and well-attended events, and tonight was no exception. I walked into ambassador's home just after 7 PM and for an hour, I literally could not get past the living room and into the garden as there were so many people to talk to.


So many prominent politicians and businesspersons -- including a number who I know don't usually go to parties because they dislike socializing -- had made the effort to attend the celebration of Japan tonight. Security was tight and there was a very large battalion of military personnel outside the ambassador's residence.


Inside, I bumped into a high-profile businessman who I'd seen so many times at events in the past weeks that I'd lost count. I teasingly said to him: "I can't figure out who works harder. You or me. But I probably work at least as hard as you." Fortunately, he agreed with me on that one.

But so many things really get decided in events like this, so oftentimes it's crucial to attend. Just tonight, for example, over a couple of glasses of red wine, I've shaken hands on two new and very exciting Travelife Nights for next year with one ambassador and one minister. More on these two groundbreaking events in a future entry.


At the same time, I bumped into one of the country's biggest businessmen who I know almost never goes to parties because he dislikes socializing. There's a big aura around him and his family but he and his wife are actually one of the most down-to-earth persons I know in Manila society.

We'd had dinner together in Hong Kong at a mutual friend's lovely house overlooking the golf course in Shek-O, once, and I vividly remember my surprise when his wife began talking about how she washed their clothes and cleaned their apartment in Hong Kong herself.

Tonight we discussed the developments in Fort Bonifacio and particularly how nicely everything is growing in the Burgos Circle area. We'd been looking at that area at the same time years ago, and he still remembered this; and tonight he brought it up. "That was really good timing," he said.


Meanwhile, the highlight of the evening was some wonderful Yamagata beef flown in straight from Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan just for the party tonight. They'd flown in a chef from a famous restaurant as well, and he spent most of the evening carefully grilling slices of this luscious beef for the many guests tonight.

Of course, there was a very long line for the beef. When I first saw the line, I decided to wait till the end of the evening, foolishly thinking the wagyu would last forever. Does anything ever last forever? Of course not. And neither did the beef tonight.

Fortunately, I saw a good hotelier friend and while we were talking, we realized we were actually in line for the beef. We really weren't, but we were right next to the line and the people behind us let us in, so we sort of jumped the queue for the beef.

And, boy, was that just in time. The beef ran out exactly three people behind us. I didn't know this until I'd already gotten my beef, but I certainly didn't dare look at the people four places behind us again.

Since I go to Tokyo quite often, I'm quite blasé about wagyu when it's offered to me in Manila -- and that, too, was my attitude tonight. However, when I took a bite out of that beef, I was so sorry I hadn't lined up earlier. It was incredibly good.


That made me think about asking my friend J to take me to a really good place that serves Japanese beef. He used to know one place but it's gone now. He's invited me for a meal somewhere this week, you see, and it's supposed to be French and very good. I was pretty much looking forward to this. But today, while I was at lunch, I got a BBM from him asking if I wouldn't mind a change of venue as he's going to be eating at this pretty hot French restaurant several times this week already.

I BBM-ed him back: "I don't mind. Someone actually invited me to the same restaurant the next day so I was going to eat there two days in a row as well." It was true. J and I had already decided on the venue and over the weekend someone else had invited me to exactly the same place the day after J's invite.

Then he asked me: "Where do you want to go?" It wasn't a tough question. I said: "You decide. Anywhere quiet and cool. The last place we ate at was noisy and hot." The last restaurant we went to was pretty good but it was so noisy and hot that I couldn't relax.

A bit later he asked me again where I wanted to go, so I said: "Up to you. If you ask me, you already know the answer. I'm a creature of habit and I have three favorite places right now: Tivoli, Masseto and Old Manila."


Then I added: "Or we can just stick to our original choice. But if you go there any more frequently, you'll probably have to buy the place." It's not a cheap restaurant, you see, so anyone going there three or four times in a week had better start doing their math.

He sent back a big smiley face and the message: "And add to my many problems? No thanks. I'd rather pay and pretend I own the place."

I'm sure he was laughing while he typed this out, and I was certainly laughing when I read it. It was an allusion to one of our earliest conversations and dinners together, at a restaurant he too practically owned. We both have very good recall of these times, for some reason. So I sent him back this message: "Wow. That brings back memories. Where have I heard that before?"

Just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


Travelife Magazine's
Oct-Nov 2011 Issue


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