Thursday, February 17, 2011

Too much Japanese food, too much information?

This evening I went out to dinner with the rest of my team from work, to Haniguchi, a Japanese restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong.

It's in a rather unfortunate location, next to the fake Irish pub, and in Lan Kwai Fong, although that's slightly less oppressive now half the bars have shut while Alan Zeman turns the whole place into a corporate hell-hole of Hard Rock Cafes. (I wonder if there's space for a Planet Hollywood too, to really demean everyone drinking there.) A year ago, LKF would have been rammed full of drunken gweilos, but on a cold Thursday in February, it's eerily deserted. Perhaps the Rugby Sevens will bring the drunks back. I hope so.

Haniguchi does a set meal for four for 1,200 HKD, and another for two for 600 and change, so as there were seven of us and I'm vegetarian, that seemed to work out fine. Except we hadn't realised exactly how much food was included: wave after wave of sushi, sashimi, yakitori, and random prawns assailed us.

I thought that by ordering a few vegetarian yakitori skewers I'd be safe from the onslaught, but I still had an almost unstoppable tide of food to deal with myself: garlic, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, a head-sized mound of tempura, more yakitori, more yakitori, yakitori ad infinitum, yakitori without number.

After the last of the prawns had been brought forward, looking grumpy and resentful in that way that only cooked crustaceans can, another wave broke upon us: this time bowls of meaty soup and soba, and when the team had done their level best to dispose of that, the fried rice was delivered. And then the red bean dessert.

It was almost like a fiendish Japanese plan to make us burst to death from overeating, like revenge for invading Hong Kong in the 1940s... No, that can't be right, surely the Hong Kongers should be mad at the Japanese?

(If you go to the Hong Kong Museum and read some of the exhibits there, you get the sensation that the Japanese will never be forgiven for anything, which doesn't explain the popularity of Japanese food and pop stars and kawaii-everything. It would almost read like Chinese agit-prop - and what are the chances of that?)

So although the food was good (didn't like the mushroom yakitori much) the amount was a bit overenthusiastic, and the service was as far from omnipresent as could be without them leaving and going to the Irish pub next door. Oh, that would be "non-existent" that I was groping for.

Because it was a team night out, there had to be the obligatory team building exercise, this time chosen by a colleague to be where we wrote three statements about ourself on a piece of paper, and the others had to guess who it was, and which of the three statements was a lie. On pain of eating wasabi if they got it wrong. (It would have been shots of Goldschlager if we were in England, but Hong Kongers are a little more abstemious.)

This was interesting, as we got to find out strange things about our co-workers, and also discover how they approach lying: each person would come up with something very close to the truth for their lie, but some of the truths were very strange too: who would have thought one of my co-workers had never eaten wild boar? That seemed strange to mention. It would be like me saying I'd never eaten a car battery, or never attempted to build a hydrogen bomb.

But one also discovers things about one's co-workers: are these things that one should know? Or are they secrets you shouldn't share? More to the point, what if we play this again, and again, and have to carry on thinking of new and more rococo secrets to reveal. How long will it be before we exhaust the normal alternatives and are left with "I've never murdered anyone" and "I'm not a transsexual" as our only remaining true statements.

Not that I've got anything against transsexual murderers, whether they're my co-workers or not. Er, murderers who happen to be transsexual, not murderers of transsexuals. Basically I don't want to offend any big bloke accessorising a floral print dress with an axe.

Unless they're rubbish with spreadsheets, but that's a whole other story.


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