On the Friday night of a strange, disjointed week, the weather was having its usual effect on Sydney’s transport. A couple of thunderstorms in the middle of the day meant that the trains would be stuffed until the following day, so Strop and I were going to be a bit late rather than the half an hour early that I had anticipated. No quiet beer beforehand this week.
The target for tonight, the first actual, on-Enmore-Road eatery of the Encore, was a Japanese restaurant. We had thought it was called Oganoya, but it seems to have mysteriously changed his name to Minoya, according the the sign outside. Luckily, it was still Japanese, so the bottle of Reisling I had bought at the bottle shop, wouldn’t go to waste.
Strop and I arrived within minutes of each other but there was no sign yet of Marie. Strop had warned her that we were running late, so she had no doubt adjusted her own travel plans. The room at Minoya is large and sparsely decorated. The main feature is a large and luridly autumnal, plastic Japanese Maple tree in the middle of the room. Like some sort of bento-based fairy tale, the room is frozen between summer and winter. We were directed to a table tucked behind the tree which I suspect may have contributed to some of the erratic service that followed.
Both Strop and I had been subjected to “interesting” work weeks, but now it was the weekend. We opted to save the wine for the moment and have a quick beer before Marie arrived. Strop decided she wanted an Asahi, so I took the other option and went Sapporo. Suffice it to say, I won the beer wars.
Marie arrived soon after we had determined which was the superior beer, and by inference the superior judge of a good ale. It turned out that Marie had been sitting in a bar on Enmore Road, having a pre-dinner drink of her own, and had seen both Strop and I hustling up the road, thinking we were late. Which we were, but as it turned out we needn’t have rushed. Marie had no sooner plonked herself down at the table, than her phone started ringing. She is a popular woman, obviously in demand, even by Strop’s standards.
When the phone calls had been dealt with, the conversation somehow flipped over to Marie’s arrival in Oz 37 years ago (she is originally a French-Canadian), and how she was disappointed when she arrived that no one spoke French. It does make you wonder about who teaches geography in Canadian schools though. As a 24-year-old world traveller, she ended up in Singapore with no money and no visa, so she did what all good travellers do. She married the first Australian she met. It seems to have worked out well for her though, she and her first husband are still good friends. Of course while Strop and I were taking all this in, we had been neglecting the menu. The waiter kept coming back, asking if we were ready to order yet. It was only when we decided to pay attention that we realised that they had only given us one menu. I thought maybe there was a global shortage of menus, but all the other tables seem to have plenty, so I think the maple tree is to blame. When we pointed this out to the waiter, he was very apologetic, but we still had to wait until he had seated a new table and taken their drink orders before we got any more menus.
When we finally made some decisions, we ordered prawn gyoza, grilled eggplant and chicken karaage, to start and for mains, a sashimi platter and sizzling pork. While we waited for the food I grilled Marie about her Air BnB experiences. This was by way of research, my new book has a character who hosts an Air BnB, funnily enough, in a quite similar situation to Marie. This discussion soon veered away from the amount of time that tourists spend in showers, and skipped lightly over vanity-publisher rip-offs, our first Japanese restaurant experience (the Fuji Tempura Bar, of revered memory), travel reminiscences, children’s relationships, tertiary education, and the important question of which is more important in a friendship, loyalty or honesty.
Luckily the food turned out to be better than the service. The gyoza were plump and tasty, the eggplant meltingly delicious, and the chicken sweet and crunchy. The sashimi platter was generous and all the fish very fresh. It even came with a side salad that featured a wedge of orange. Always a welcome bonus. The sizzling pork came with lots of veggies and a sweet soy sauce. It was excellent too.
By this time, the first bottle of wine had disappeared. We asked the waiter for a bottle of sauv blanc from the menu. He was very apologetic again, explaining that his staff had only put one bottle of each white in the fridge that afternoon, so basically we could have a warm sauv blanc, or a cold Chardonnay. We went with the Chardy, even though this goes against Strop’s religion, she had drunk enough by this time to be agnostic on the issue.
The disappearance of the second bottle of wine coincided neatly with the disappearance of the last of the food. We took this as a sign and made our way out onto the street, where we battled our way through hordes of scantily clad and sweaty youngsters outside the Enmore Theatre, and paused for a quick dance to a 70s revival band, playing up a storm outside the Hub. A great way to finish our first Enmore Road outing.