You need to go twice in one week to get a good table, one next to a family. This is because you can be trusted with the food and the manners. The staff remember how you did the first time, behind their inscrutable charm lies an ancient database. The filters catch everyone.
Golden Stuffed Crab Shell with Crabmeat – and Water Chestnut Sauce.
All the meat is grated down and mixed with something we will never know, placed (never put) in the upended crab skull, covered with a crumbed wheaten glistened through and baked as hot and as hard as an eggshell.
The family next door is a husband, wife a month from birth, grandmother with vermillion hair and rings too many to distinguish – a Filipana maid with boy 1, another with boy 2.
Wide-eyed boy 1, about two years old, scopes out his neighbours; traverses his gaze across them, their heads and hands. Then he is passed over to his grandmother’s lap until he squirms, then he is passed to his mother, who is uncomfortable having him sit on her best clothes.
Wok-fried Minced Pigeon with Caviar served in Lettuce Wraps
The babiest of chickens (how did it die?) is spread on the leaf and sprinkled with black egg clods. A tray of 3 sauces arrives, hot to sweet. Three soy sauces. A small porcelain bowl of crushed cashew nuts.
Wide-eyed boy 2, about one year old, sits on his maid’s lap and is spoon fed, they are head to head and sometimes she takes a morsel. Both the young women are dressed for work in jeans and collared T-shirts, a bag for each of the boys under their chairs.
Now that the boys are eating they have to be cleaned of food before being passed to their mother or grandmother again.
The grandmother has just turned her battleship head around. Proprietorial. The majesty of wealth.
Now she traverses her neighbours’ faces and hands, collars and sleeves, rings. Watches. The Omega is over 80 years old, it’s 9.35 pm.
Chilled mango cream with sago and pomelo dessert .
The sweet is covered in a glass dome that geysers up dioxide when Stephen lifts it away. Dried ice, it bubbles for the five minutes eating takes. Mangos, they fall at home in their hundreds, and roll away down the slope to rot in the heat. Stephen finds this hard to comprehend.
The father is about forty years old: none of the children have bothered with him.
A soft looking man with his phone and business only a caress away. He leaves first, on the phone, then the wife and mother. The maids and children last.
Nobody looks back, the meal is forgotten,
The neighbours on a high. Californian reisling, it has fizz.