Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (31)

Situated in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district, the Red Pepper restaurant had been popular with tourists and local residents alike for decades. Specialising in the fiery, chili-laden recipes conceived in the kitchens of China’s western interior, the pungent flavours of its signature Sichuan dishes would waft on to the street from its constantly revolving door. The simple décor of this unassuming, family-run eatery was adorned with the many culinary commendations it had been awarded since first opening. Like the Conrad’s Brasserie, it had become a regular lunchtime haunt for Blake and his mentor. John was already sitting at their regular table as the erstwhile Country Manager: Hong Kong stumbled through the doorway, managing to produce a smile for the pretty cashier sitting just inside, in spite of his foul mood.

“Red wine, sir?” asked the head waiter, knowingly and without need of a response, as he deftly uncorked a bottle of Wolf Blass’ President’s Selection. Pop! The man poured two full glasses without offering either guest the opportunity to taste, before reeling off their regular order with smug dispatch. “Crispy beef start, scramble egg with shrimp, sizzling prawn, beef with spring onion, Yung Chow rice?” Sharing a nod, Blake and John clapped shut their menus and returned them to the waiter, unread.

“And a box of paper tissues,” added John, whose nose would generally begin to run by the time they were halfway through the prawn course. “Tell all,” he continued, eager to hear Blake’s story, now that the formalities of ordering had been concluded. Keen to oblige, Blake began to recount his regional boss’s surprise visit, with John laughing aloud as he described with typical flourish the moment he had raised the bird finger. “Not a lot of come-back opportunity from that point, my friend,” John remarked. “So you’ve finally done it, despite my entreaties. Least I won’t have to keep pumping you with advice, now.”

As Blake reflected upon this, he felt the force of several Gs suddenly pushing down on his shoulders. Hadn’t thought of that, he admitted inwardly. Guess I’m on my own then, now. Cheering himself with a large gulp of the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon he then began prodding inexpertly at the crisp strips of chili-coated beef with his chopsticks. Absently, he began to reflect that the dish had arrived, for once, at the start of the meal as intended. But his thoughts soon gained greater focus, returning to the previous day’s episode with the soulless, mechanical Deeds.

“I reckon it was the Chairman who told him to pull the trigger,” Blake abruptly said, speculating on how his enforced departure was engineered. “Who’s that?” “The wanker in New York. Harmann. Harmann the hammer, they call him. The one with the orange face. Must spend half his life under a fucking sun lamp, the tosser.” “Fake tan, fake man,” observed John, wittily. “So what do you think you’ll do next?” “I think I’ll just chill for a while. You know, spend more time with the family. Well Sophie, at least.” “Four o’clock,” said John, a propos of nothing. “What?” asked Blake. “Japanese tourist nymphs. Sitting at four o’clock. Don’t look no–”

But Blake had already swung around to stare directly at the two attractive young girls, who he took instantly to be JAL stewardesses, and who now giggled while covering their pretty mouths with tiny, cupped hands. They let out excited squeals as the prawns that had now arrived at Blake’s table sizzled when making contact with the poker-hot skillet. The cloud of chili oil vapour that was sent up stung the eyes. “By the way,” John spluttered, “why didn’t you answer your phone when I called you?” “When?” asked Blake. “Just before you arrived. I called ’cause you were late, but you didn’t answer.” Blake patted his pockets and then pursed his lips. “Shit! I must’ve left my phone back at the apartment. I was in such a rush to get out, catch the eleven fifty ferry.” “Where’s the rice?” John demanded, as the head waiter topped up their glasses with wine.

posted by Kirk at 10:06 pm  

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress