Friday, April 24, 2009
Fish On Sticks
This Tuesday, we had our annual Christmas dinner. No, I don’t mean Easter dinner, I didn’t mix things up. Now that tulips and crocuses are popping up, our office organised a late Christmas party.
Last time we went to a horrible Mexican restaurant, and before that to a rather good Rwandese restaurant in the famous Quartier Matonge – the Congolese part of town in Ixelles/Elsene. Now we had decided on a Japanese restaurant. I was rather excited, because I’d never eaten Japanese food before. On the other hand, I dreaded any confrontations with raw octopus, raw (or fried for that matter) jellyfish or raw fish in general – especially poisonous ones.
I also hoped that my chopstick-handling-skills would match those of my esteemed colleagues, who all seemed to have a lot of experience with Japanese restaurants.
The final choice was a restaurant on the Chaussée de Wavre/Waverse Steenweg – right next to Matonge. The place was packed when we arrived, so the food had to be good, right? We were guided to a private room in the back, where there was one long, low table – Japanese style. It had a slight modification in that there was a big hole underneath the table to accommodate Europeans that are not accustomed to stay seated with crossed legs for more than five minutes.
Truth be told, I’ve NEVER been served so fast after entering a restaurant, not even in a fast-food restaurant. We had barely taken our shoes off (mandatory) and gawked at the snails that were served as ‘hors d’oeuvre’ when we received our plates. Most of my colleagues had opted for the menu of the day, which was… raw fish. I had opted for grilled fish instead, and got a very nice grilled side of salmon, which had been salted to cure it I think. A bit in the way of Portuguese ‘Bacalhau’. It was served with cabbage with a dressing and a side of vegetables in a sweet-and-sour sauce. After trying a snail – too raw, not enough pepper – I attacked the salmon with my chopsticks, but after successfully bringing three pieces to my mouth without bombarding my immediate neighbours, the waiter brought us little bowls of soup. It was very nice, but a bit annoying to get everything in random order.
We had to wait for ages before we got anything to drink, but that’s the only complaint that I have. As for the battle of the chopsticks: I proved to be quite handy with them compared to most of my friends. I even gave advice to some people about how to hold and use them, cocky bastard that I am.
All in all, it was a nice experience, but it all went too fast. This had the serious downside that after an hour or so, we could return to work. Last year in the Rwandese restaurant we had to wait so long that the afternoon was almost over when we finally had finished our meals. So we didn’t have to go back to work.
Japanese efficiency is no good in a restaurant.