“You look good,” he says.
Liar, I mutter inwardly, but manage a bright smile. “You’re looking good yourself,” I reply.
“Yep,” he beams. “Been working out at the gym more and I’m gearing up to run a 21-k.”
With those introductions, I know I’m being set up for a “healthy” lunch. We’re at Red , one of the premier restaurants in the city that features chilled steaks, and I’m geared up for a primal carnivorous experience. But now I quickly see that possibility literally wilting before my very eyes.
He orders the lobster roll (P325), a visually riveting dish of minced lobster and pear formed into a sushi roll. The individual portions are misted with a hot and sour jus which sit contentedly on mint oil, a flavor component echoed by the garnish of shredded mint leaves. It is at once crunchy, soft, zesty.
As we peruse the menu, I eye the steak items longingly. I’ve never been to Red and not ordered a steak. I’m never meek when it comes to ordering what I want from a menu, but today I don’t feel like being labeled an “oinker.” Especially since my friend is paying today. I close the menu resolutely. “I’ll have what you’re having,” I say, though it doesn’t come out as determinedly as I hope.
“Wonderful then, let’s both order the sea bass.” He gives me a radiant smile, obviously very pleased with himself for sticking to his “healthy eating” lifestyle.
The crusted Chilean sea bass (P730) is a top seller for those diners at Red who eschew meat, and who, like my friend, are a pain in the a** for carnivores like me who come to a steak place for the other meat, yes red, thank you. I also think that Chilean sea bass is a tired mainstay on gourmet menus. It’s divine yes, but I find myself wishing for other kinds of fish like halibut or swordfish. Chilean sea bass is also an endangered species and I haven’t quite made up my mind yet whether I’m joining the boycott. Lately, I notice that people zero in on sea bass and order it proudly, as if it’s such an uber-sophisticated thing to order.
Though it doesn’t go well with my fish, I request a side of the roasted pumpkin, a favorite of mine whenever I’m having steak at Red. Oh steak, steak, where are you, steak? Made from imported butternut pumpkin, it’s roasted with lots of butter and sugar until the natural sweetness of the pumpkin is brought forth. As I nibble on it contentedly I tell my friend, “It never quite tastes as good as this when I make it at home.”
“That’s because you don’t put enough sugar and butter,” he replies with a wide, naughty smile, his index finger wagging in front of my face. No, no, no, no Lori, sugar and butter are the enemy. Little does he know that if he weren’t here, I would’ve also ordered a side of the creamed spinach, a devilish combination of chopped spinach, cream and nutmeg.
As our plates are cleared away, I sense a bit of my fiery self stirring. “I’m having dessert. And coffee too,” I say firmly. Man, you can mess with my meal but you ain’t taking dessert away from me.
I ask for the Red dessert sampler (P290), and surprise, surprise, so does he. It amuses me to think that he knows me well enough not to ask if we can split a dessert. Good boy.
The dessert sampler is a little of some of the desserts at Red. There’s a pudding of some sort, a lemon-basil sorbet infused with sun-dried tomatoes, a wedge of cheesecake with macadamia nut brittle, the ever-popular Valrhona chocolate cake, and fresh fruit slices in a strawberry sugar cage. I’m mesmerized by it all and pay my friend no mind even when he moans about how he’ll “…have to do double-time at the gym to work this all off.”
I inhale the cheesecake and chocolate cake but take my time with the others. I sip my latte occasionally and notice that I’m much more at ease now. Ah, dessert does that to me. But next time I’m having the steak, no matter what.
Ayala Ave. cor. Makati Ave.,
(632) 840-0884 (reservations only), 813-8888 (hotel trunkline)