I looked at the dish in front of me, “it looks dead.”
Mike snorted, “Of course, it’s dead! What are you expecting it to do? Moo?”
I shifted the overcooked vegetables around in my plate and gingerly lifted the steak on its side. It slipped off my fork and flipped over with a thud, revealing uneven leathery dry spots on the underside. Freezer burn.
Mike cleared his throat and hissed, “Can you please stop playing with your food and eat? People are watching us.”
I smiled mischievously at my co-worker. I tilted my head slightly to glance over my shoulder to see if people were indeed watching us.
The place was dimly lit although it was early afternoon. Streaks of sunshine streamed intermittently through gaps in the heavy brocade curtains.
There was one other booth that was occupied. Three men in suits, huddled over a large blueprint.
I shook my head. I can’t see how this restaurant was going to last till the end of the year. Best to turn this old place into one of those artisanal-whatver joints which are fashionable with hipsters now.
“I hope you are not going to do what I think you are planning to do,” he said in a low voice, pointing his finger at the no-camera sign painted on the side of the booth.
“Hey, can you please hold up your napkin in front of you for abit? Pretend that you are wiping your mouth,” I chuckled.
“We are going to be thrown out of this restaurant for this,” he protested, obediently holding up the napkin which I was going to use as a diffuser.
I angled my small mirror against Mike’s napkin to bounce off some soft light. I took a couple of quick shots on my smartphone before bringing it down to my lap to review.
“Satisfied?” Mike huffed.
“I like you, yunno. You are not like my husband, so grumpy whenever I want to take photos of my food,” I said sweetly.
I raked the garnishes off the top of my main course and made sawing motions as I sliced off a small bite. I held it up to my nose, closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. Then, I put it into my mouth and swirled it around my tongue.
“This is so good,” I moaned theatrically, “like hav —.”
Mike coughed lightly. I opened my eyes and nearly choked on my food.
The young chef was grinning at me. “Is everything alright, Madame?”
“Yes, yes,” I said hurriedly, scratching my brain for a “politically correct” compliment.
“This…” I pointed at my dish repeatedly, “wasn’t what I expected.”
He looked at me anxiously.
I stared at my dish as if to find the right words. “It’s …hmm.. interesting!” I decided, finally, in a measured tone.
He gave a slight bow and said, “Thank you for your kind support,” before hi-fiving his way back to the kitchen.
Mike looked at me and started laughing. “You are a bloody soft Aunty person underneath, ain’t you?”
“No, I’m not!”
“C’mon, say that you will give this place another chance.”
I shook my head.
“That bad, eh?”
“How can you even think of serving meat with freezer burn? At least I won’t feel guilty when I sign the eviction letter. I’ll splash these photos over social media if they threaten to sue. Anyway —,” I sighed, reaching out for an empty doggy bag in my handbag, “the dog would be delighted to have this.”