Hangzhou (杭州)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The boss lands the head.

I've been to that fancy restaurant by the lake two times already. The first time was a fun and relaxing "thank you" dinner with the people involved in setting up our operation in HZ. The second time was a business meeting.

This place is built according to some ancient construction code, with narrow alleys, corridors, stairs going in every directions (because ghosts only travel in a rectilinear fashion.) The place is nice but a bit spooky and manned by a small army of waiters carrying around exotic dishes.

During our second visit, our host (an important and respectable chairman) picked the menu and we were treated with more exotic Chinese food that I've seen so far (chicken feet skins anyone?) The plat de resistance was a fish, prepared by the staff to be served in bowls. As I observed the preparation work, I noted that the fish head, of respectable size and still quite menacing, was put aside and I started to have my own idea on what was going to happen to it. Comes serving time, everybody gets a bowl of fish, and the head is being presented to the first guest of honor (the dean of a local college), who deflects it to the second guess of honor -- my boss -- to whom it became quickly obvious that politely declining it wasn't an option. The delicacy ended in his plate and he mentioned (in English) that he wasn't sure how to eat it properly -- I was told you're supposed to go for the cheek and suck the eyeballs out. It's good to be a vegetarian more often than you think.

Our host was getting increasingly drunk, drinking wine from a small glass, transferring it from a larger glass where *gasp* ice cubes were used to cool it down. Then comes desert, a papaya cooked in wine and served hot.

As we leave table and proceed toward the exit, a waiter hurryingly climbs up the stairs carrying a cooked turtle in a clay pot. Downstairs, we're met by more swirling waiters rushing elaborate pieces to their final destination.

We meet the IT admin waiting for us outside in the boss' Beemer that he's asked to drive (and occasionally clean) around at his employer's leisure. I sincerely feel sorry for him, because he's a nice guy.

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