Year of the DogEric | January 31st, 2006 | 11:39 pm
And it’s a mutt that bites.
But that’s getting ahead of myself. About a week ago, David and Manuel dropped us a line to invite us to a Chinese New Year celebration at a local restaurant called the MahJong Room. There were going to be a whole bunch of us and we had reserved a large table just for their Chinese New Year event. We had been waiting with bated breath (or should I say “bated tummies”?) for Sunday, the beginning of the new year, to roll along and our evening of fun, food, and… I can’t think of another good word that starts with an “F” (to keep the alliteration going). But it was several days away before dinner was to happen, so all we could do was look forward and make sure we didn’t forget the camera.
Saturday had arrived (one more day to go!) and we decided to try a Vietnamese restaurant called NÃ³n LÃ¡. It was a fantastic prelude for the traditional chinese banquet to come. We ordered Spring Rolls for an entrÃ©e and then BÃºn Thá»‹t NÆ°á»›ng (Rice noodles with grilled pork and a sweet and sour dressing) and Canh Chua CÃ¡ (Sweet and tangy soup with fish fillet). It was an amazing meal and I kick myself for forgetting the camera. But no worries, we’ll go back soon.
Anyway, just as soon as we got back from dinner we got a call from Manuel asking us if we were at MahJong. It seems the restaurant was under the impression that we were coming for dinner that night and we of course thought that it was on the actual beginning of Chinese New Year. Oy. So now there is this little drama going on as to whether we can still go the next day and if the deposit will be lost to a meal we’d never have. But most of all, there was this great chance that we’d never have our wonderful Chinese New Year meal!
Luckily, we get an email from Manuel saying that we had not one, but two backup restaurants for Sunday night. The Regal and Zilver. You may have guessed which one we ended up going to based on the the link. Angela noted that Zilver had been written up with a wonderful review on the Qantas In-Flight magazine. So it was settled. We would meet at Beaver’s for drinks at 7:00 and then off to the restaurant for our 8:00 reservation.
Now, if you know me at all you know that I am a big dork about being on time. I have, in my head, calculated that it will take us about 10 minutes to get to the restaurant by cab – and that isn’t including the time it will take to find a cab. At 7:45 I make a polite nod to the fact that we should probably start making our way downstairs. “Don’t worry, we’ll be fine!” my Aussie friends assured me. At 8:10 we finally made our way downstairs and the collective wisdom was we should walk to the restaurant. Walk to the restaurant! Now I was really getting beside myself. So we started to walk, but halfway there David miraculously hailed two cabs at the same time and we were whisked the rest of the way there.
On our way to Zilver’s in the alley behind our building
Of course I shouldn’t have worried, as the place was packed and we ended up having to wait about 5 minutes to get a table. Score one for the Aussies. Still, I hate being late.
As we made our way through the restaurant, we preceded a large colorful muppet that was preparing to make its way amongst the diners. We had timed our arrival to concur at the same time as a huge Dragon with its own drum and cymbal corps began its long and winding path through the the vast 300 person establishment. Now, this deafining procession would be all well and good, but it was now 8:30, and most of us hadn’t eaten anything since noon – if even then. Our wait staff quickly brought us drinks, but we were refused the honor of ordering while the Dragon did its thing. So we sat, drank beer and wine, and pretty much said nothing as the din was too loud for conversation. To be fair, the Dragon was very cool and the kids in the audience were ecstatic. It reminded me that you lose something very special with age. I could only really enjoy the spectacle vicariously through the wide eyes and open arms of all the kids shadowing the the Dragons. I was glad that I had remembered to bring the camera, as this was going to be a night to remember! As I powered it up the battery warning came on and noted that I had about 3 minutes of juice left. What the heck? Three minutes? I had recharged it just the other day. At this rate I was only going to one or two chances to get a picture of our Dragon and I’d be lucky to be able to get any of our upcoming dinner. After several failed attempts I finally got one of our colorful friend. But then the camera went belly up. So much for proper planning.
The New Year’s Dragon makes it way through the restaurant
Now, as you may or may not know (I sure didn’t know) it is customary to offer the Dragon gifts of money (not real) and drinks (real, but small amounts) when he comes around to your table. Russell, another member of our troupe, and Beaver had stopped by Chinatown and procured copious amounts of New Years money. It’s like Monopoly money that knows someone. The Dragon dutifully bounded by our table and Russell proceed to hand over the equivalent of 10 gazillion dollars. The Dragon jumped around and hovered over the offering before throwing open his gaping mouth and swallowing down the moolah. In hindsight I should have remembered that the Dragon seemed to suffer a slight case of indigestion. As it came to pass, we learned from our Host that the money we were so proudly banding about was actually hell money used at funerals. In all of our Gwai Lo excitement to join all the fun, we basically prayed for the death of the New Year. This was going to be a tough night.
Soon enough the Dragon and entourage said their cacophonous goodbyes and we were left with ringing ears and growling tummies. Our waiter finally came and took our order. None too soon, as we were starving. Tina became our official menu guide and ordered for the table. After about another 30 minutes, the dishes started to arrive.
Tina, Leroy, and Wendy waiting for dinner
Unfortunately, since this was the year of the “biting” dog, most of what we ordered had run out. So we ended up getting only part of what we wanted. It was all still very good, but several of our party were denied having their favorite dishes. I guess it serves us right for having late reservations on the busiest day of the year. So between short tempered waiters, missing dishes, loud Dragons, and a camera on the fritz, it was quite an adventure.
All in all it was a fun night and we ended up having enough to eat to keep everyone sated. I particularly liked the steamed fish and the fried rice, which was seafood based. Superfantastic! But it was time to call it a night so we all headed off home to sleep with visions of dancing magic dragons in our heads.