Posted by: nastypen | November 8, 2008

Reminiscing at a Corner Table at a Restaurant

To celebrate my mother’s birthday, I dropped by a restaurant I haven’t visited for 13 years.  The last time I was here, it was a time of relief and massive expectations.  It was just after my high school graduation.  I yelled at my graduation exit march “Fuck you, hope  I will never see you again! Good-bye!” to most of my schoolmates and teachers and rushed to the car.  The family went to one of our favorite restaurants in Cebu, Ginza.  It was the last time we were complete in that restaurant.

I haven’t returned for so long because my life has swung to the University of the Philippines Diliman.  I barely went home when I was an undergraduate.  Then my father died.  It is painful to eat at that restaurant because of the memories.  More poignantly, my dad’s resting place is near the restaurant and I don’t want to be reminded that my father’s bones are just a few minutes away from my dining table.

Of course, I had nobody to dine with at Ginza for a long time.  The last time both my sisters and I were in Cebu with our mom was to bury Daddy.  I see Ginza as a place with memories of my family, it is just right that I dine there with family.

Hence, on my mom’s 59th birthday, I took Addie there.  Addie has never dined there because of the impression that it was expensive.  Sure, it was not as cheap as the several eating places of Cebu, but it is not horrendously expensive like a lot of hyped up Manila eateries. I’d forgotten the price list of the menu.  I was pleasantly surprised that it is affordable and, mind you, I earn shit as a UP instructor.

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I saw the table with the heated metal plate where the chefs can cook your dinner in front of you.  The memories come flooding in.

I remember the time when I saved for several months to buy the Archie Comics collectible of its 1940s pages.  I would visit the bookstore and hold that copy for several months and set aside money because I will buy this as my Christmas gift to myself.  I trooped to the bookstore one fateful day, and the copy has been sold.  I was absolutely dejected.  I bought instead a copy of collected strips of Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey. I read the copy as the chef made a batch of most favorite fried rice on earth: The Ginza Rice.  I was laughing so hard.  I eventually outgrew Archie and went into the path of newspaper comic strip, hoping to emulate the hilarity of work-related dementia I read from Beetle Bailey.

The Ginza restaurant right now relocated there at the mid 90s.  Before, Ginza was located at the now-defunct Belvic theater near Fuente Osmena.  I pass by Belvic now and it has a new name and it hosts several DVD pirates and no hint of what it was before.  I have developed a love for cinema from this theater.

I remember my elementary graduation.  We had dinner at Ginza then i insisted on watching a movie.  It was that horrible action flick of Clint Eastwood with Charlie Sheen in The Rookie.  Absolutely stupid.  Clint Eastwood had to have a “love scene” with the token crazy bitch.  He was tied down and the woman was hitting him and licking his wounds.  I remember trying not to spew the yummy teppanyaki I just ate minutes before.

Before Ginza, my staple diet consisted of bangus, spaghetti and cheeseburger.  Dad insisted I try out other things.  Although I am still a massive picky eater, it was Ginza that introduced me to sashimi.  At first I thought it looked disgusting with its slabs of raw grossness.  But I took a bite and that was that.

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I learned how to use the chopsticks in Ginza.  My mom instructed me on how to use it because my sister was deftly wolfing down with chopsticks while I am stuck in fork and spoon.  Then, we had a visitor, a mayor from a farflung place who whsipered to me that she does not know how to use chopsticks.  I told her I had a hard time at first, too.  Then I stabbed my Ebi Tempura with my chopsticks so that she may not feel a bit out of place.

I liked the old curtains of Japanese woodcut prints in the old Ginza.  what would catch my eyes is this massive red figure that I later found out as the Daruma doll.  I thought it was cute and it looked like my daddy.  Years later when i was in Japan, my translator said that I look like Daruma.  Ah memories.

Ginza’s present restaurant is a far cry fromits Belvic roots.  It now has snazzy booths and even a zen rock garden for effect:

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The Ginza today offers dining in austere elegance and in updated Japanese aesthetics.  The wooden laterals to separate the cubicles, the black chairs with its lacquer-like finish, the drumbeat for every time a visitor arrives.

I see a portly gentleman take orders from the next table.  I remember that man.  He would greet my father every time we arrive.  He was a waiter then.  Now, he is the head of the staff.  He has been doing this for 20 years.  I am sure he has a steady stream of loyal customers that find him a familiar sight.  The loyal customer keep coming back because of the quiet dining experience away from the congested and sad malls with screaming brats.  We are here for that and for the food.

The food!  The food tastes the same.  13 years of absence did not make me forget.

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The thick ebi tempura.  The rich texture of the Ginza Rice.  The mixed seafoods terriyaki.  My favorite appetizers of radish and anchovies greeted me as I eagerly waited for my orders to arrive.  When they finally did, I had a wistful look that Addie thought I looked like a kid at Christmas day.  I was silently chewing thinking of the memories I can muster growing up celebrating with family in this restaurant.

I will not go into lengthy descriptions of the food.  I am not a food blogger, thank God.  I just relish that moment at the corner of a Japanese restaurant whose food has seen me grow up and learn new things; has seen me with my family in happier times and perhaps will see us again laughing at the memories.

This is not an entry about why you should eat at Ginza.  It’s about why I eat at Ginza.

After all, memory has a sense of taste.  And memory is my most favorite meal of them all.

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Responses

  1. i never tried ginza when i was in cebu, maybe on my next visit….

    i like this entry. really.

  2. Hmmmm… Ginza’s no longer at Belvic? So where is it now???

  3. the “new” ginza is in between the paradise village entrance and cempark


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