“Are you Chinese, sir?” The very first interaction with the staff of this Chinese restaurant, located along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City, left us wondering why our companion was asked this question. But the puzzlement lasted only for a second or two. We had no time to deal with the finer questions in life. We were very, very hungry. And so we were more than glad to be immediately ushered to a table in the middle of the sprawling, well-lighted interiors of the Golden Bay Fresh Seafood Restaurant (we later learned that, what the Filipino staff meant, in her best English, is whether we’re part of the Chinese organization holding an event at the second floor; and they, of course, welcome all Filipinos and foreigners).
Sprawling is an appropriate term to describe the ground floor of the restaurant. With a high ceiling to boot, it exudes an ambiance of elegance. The accents and colors, predominantly red as expected of Chinese restaurants, together with the warm lights, evoke a relaxed disposition that would soothe even a raging bull seeing red.
This setup is no surprise.
The Golden Bay Fresh Seafood Restaurant, according to its website, is “the brainchild of a group of friends who wanted to showcase the Chinese culture, tradition and cuisine…[E]ncouraged by the strong outlook of the tourism industry in the country, they decided to build a grander and more exquisite restaurant which would offer a dining experience that is unparalleled on this side of the world. They also wanted this convenient and satisfying dining destination to be big enough for a multitude of people to converge in and share fond memories.”
And so with our temper in check by the soothing atmosphere, we proceeded to order our food. No easy task if there’s a lot on the plate, er, menu.
We started with the usual suspect, the favorites. Steamed Lapu-lapu. Check. And before we could utter our next order, the complimentary items arrived. Hunger could make a person very happy with sweet peanuts, and those, uhm, yellow thingies (anybody knows what it’s called?). The house tea warms and balances (we think) the stomach, preparing it for an exciting gastronomic experience.
To the menu once more. There! We found it! One order of beef with broccoli flowers. It’s not seafood, obviously, but we had to pick it first to complete our food groups. And the assorted cold cuts, too: century egg, chicken, uhmm, more meat. We didn’t have time to find out what those other cold items are called. Imagine that, cold cuts with no names (or at least we don’t know the names) can be so hot.
There is, or was, a proposed law banning shark fishing in the Philippines, and shark dishes, particularly shark’s fin soup, in Philippine restaurants. It’s good that the debate is ongoing, although it’s far from being a vigorous debate. Any such proposal will face an uphill battle considering that shark’s fin soup is a delicacy.
Anyway, as quick as we were ushered in, food was served on our table. Let’s just say that we didn’t include all the dishes that we’ve ordered, just so we’d be compliant with the chinese dining etiquette that dishes should be ordered in even numbers. And in order not to mess with the rule on turning over the steamed lapu-lapu when one side is done, we ordered the waiter to serve it, removing the flesh on both sides without flipping it over.
There’s this belief that flipping the fish is like capsizing the boat. That means death or bad fortune. But would that apply if you’re not chinese or if you don’t believe in this omen? Would that apply if you’re hungry? We don’t know and, quite to be honest, we don’t want to know.
We simply wanted to enjoy fine food at the Golden Bay Fresh Seafood Restaurant. Yeah, we know, that’s a mouthful to say for the name of a restaurant. But not as mouthwatering as the dishes served in this restaurant, called the, uhm, Golden Bay Fresh Seafood Restaurant.