Around 6:15 Thursday night, Colin decided to ring up a friend of his family’s who lives in Taipei and has grown quite wealthy in the textile industry (supplying Ralph Lauren and the like). Paul answered and knew who Colin was right off, and told him we’d be dining with him and some other American friends that evening. “You should leave now.”
I clicked off the leftovers Colin had started heating on the stove and hurriedly changed. To Colin’s query of a dress code, Paul had replied, “Oh it doesn’t matter. You can wear shorts!”
Not true. When we arrived at Lulu’s 20 minutes late (we left lickety-split from our apartment, honest), starchly pressed hostesses opened the glass doors to the elegant restaurant. A group of five, with one man in shorts, hailed us from the corner of the intimate dining room, and the hostesses graciously allowed us past. Our places were set at the far end, and the group was waiting for the appetizer course as we sat down.
Our dinnermates were Paul, in his late 50s or early 60s and with a ready laugh, his wife Tina, and three American-born Chinese about our age. The two ABC men were Cory and George, visiting George’s sister, Rose, who has been living in Taiwan for several months to pursue a singing career.
Paul encouraged us to have the set meal, and I could feel Colin doing the same math I was as we studied the menu. The waitress filled my glasses with wine—wine!—and Evian water, and I followed Colin’s lead and ordered a set.
At some point during my salad, the wait staff noticed I was eating with my left hand, and when our soups came, the waitress mirrored my new setting to Colin’s: without a doubt the first time that has been done for me.
My salad was refreshing, but had bacon bits sprinkled on top, and the soup was not as good as the squash soup we’d been reheated back at home, but my chicken was perfect and accompanied by a delicious fluffy risotto that could have been whipped with marshmallow crème.
A fair bit of the conversation was in Mandarin, as I got the impression that Tina didn’t speak very much English. I engaged Cory, sitting across from me, in conversation about his culinary aspirations and his opinions on foods in Taiwan. When we learned of Rose’s singing career, we awkwardly asked questions around George—What kind of music do you sing? How long have you pursued this?
It came out that she’s been the first runner-up in the most recent season of Taiwan’s answer to “American Idol.” She’s uber famous and gets recognized everywhere she goes—even her boyfriend gets stopped when he walks around town. We also heard about Paul’s cars: a collection of ten between America and Taiwan, including a Ferrari and an F1 car.
And then I noticed Colin wasn’t eating. He’d accepted a piece of lamb from Paul’s plate earlier, but certainly not enough to spoil his healthy appetite, especially for gorgeous pieces of salmon like the one sitting before him. “What’s wrong?” Grimace. Poor guy got a wretched stomachache not three bites into his salmon and had to leave the rest. The waitress asked if it wasn’t to Colin’s liking as she cleared the very full plate, and Colin tried to explain his stomachache.
It would have repeated during dessert had Paul not asked if there was a problem; instead, Colin’s tiramisu was wrapped to go. I had no problem savoring my chocolate soufflé, which was more like rich chocolate ice cream than what I think of as soufflé.
On our way out, the wait staff asked for a picture with Rose, and we thanked Paul for dinner, which he had taken care of when getting Colin’s dessert wrapped. He encouraged us to call again, that he’d take us out for fine wine and food.
We hadn’t even gone as far as the MRT station before Colin said he felt not only better, but also hungry. Poor guy.