Restaurant Kyo is a place where relationships converge and intersect with food. This is a story of three couples with three very different dining experiences.
There was a queue. L’s legs hurt from the standing, and it was cold. “The wait will be worth it,” N assured her, and L did not doubt N’s impeccable taste in food. With N’s adventurous taste buds, there was never a dull day in the past month that they had dated. True to N’s unconventional nature, they spent most of their time trying different foods. Tonight was Japanese food night.
When their food finally arrived, it took L only one bite to know that N was right. It was worth the wait. They ate silently from large bowls of seasoned rice, topped to the brim with generous chunks of raw fish. The seasoning was delightfully savoury, but left a sweet aftertaste. It was the best thing L had ever tasted.
They wolfed down their barachirashi in content silence. L thought about how the modern dining experience sometimes entailed shallow chatter during the meal. It was as though conversation served the function of filling the void left by subpar food in overpriced restaurants. Today, there was no need for that. Even without words, dining together had become an intimate experience for the both of them.
Before L met N, she was content to stuff herself with convenience store noodles and refrigerated sandwiches from the deli counter. Since then, L and N’s dates always revolved around good food – to N, sharing food was a form of love. “This is how you love yourself and others”, N said. “Food is nourishment not only for the body but also the soul.” She showed L five different ways to prepare linguine, the art of rolling sushi, and the trick behind choosing sweet watermelons. N’s fascination with different foods symbolised her capacity for wonder. It was with small bites that L discovered N’s big heart.
When the last grain of rice had been picked off the bowl, L licked her lips. She was the first to break the silence. “I love this. I love you.” She said.
L’s declaration of love was truncated by the sound of glass smashing against a wall.
Img credit: Kyo Roll En
S and J finished their sushi dinner. S cupped her hands around a cup of green tea. The scent of the green tea wafted to her nose as she brought the cup to her face. The smell of ocha was familiar, but had conjured some discomforting memories.
“You were having a bad day so I got you this!” He revealed a tub of matcha ice cream he had hidden behind his back. “Green tea! Your favourite!”
Like always, we got two spoons and ate from the tub. The ice cream was sweet, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. There were bitter nodes amidst the sweet and I loved it for the very combination of these flavours that constituted its unique taste. Matcha ice cream was not cloying…Just like our relationship. We gave each other sufficient space. But perhaps, too much space.
When you said that I had changed, we were eating matcha ice cream. Suddenly, the ice cream tasted too bitter.
I haven’t touched it since.
“Where shall we head to after this?” S asked.
“I’d like to stay for dessert. I love their green tea ice creams.” J suggested.
S felt her stomach sink as J ordered a matcha and vanilla parfait. J scooped some ice cream using her spoon. S watched as the spoonful of matcha ice cream traversed the space between them. It hovered in front of her mouth. “Try this.” J said to S.
S opened her mouth hesitantly as J fed her the matcha ice cream. It was bittersweet, just as she had remembered. She felt the ice cream melt on her tongue as the memories began its slow spill from the crevices of her mind. It was at this point that J leaned over, cupped S’s face and kissed her firmly on the mouth.
“Does this taste good?”
Her kiss tasted of vanilla.
The vanilla overlaid the taste of the bittersweet matcha, resulting in a delightful combination of sweetness that was perfectly balanced. S took a second spoonful of matcha ice cream. Some of the vanilla ice cream had melted and mixed into it. The bittersweet matcha was in harmony with the subtle fragrance of the vanilla.
The mind forms new associations to sensations when introduced to new memories. With each mouthful, S felt the gustatory imageries of the past overlay, but not override, that of the present. Both old and new lovers had converged and she was slowly beginning to heal. The matcha was no longer as bitter as she remembered.
“Thanks for suggesting we get the ice cream,” she said, knowing that J would not be able to fully appreciate the gravity of her words. A grateful smile spread across S’s lips.
S’ thoughts were cut short by a loud noise in the corner of the restaurant and they both turned to look. “It seems like they’re fighting,” J said.
Img credit: AWOL
“When were you going to tell me about this?” C exploded.
“I was going to –” W tried to explain, but C cut her off.
“How could you do this? You didn’t have the right.”
C fumed as she downed her ninth glass of sake. The bottom of the sake glass was not where she would find herself. Sake warms the body on a cold night, but that night, it burned for them both. C regarded the sake glass. For some people, alcohol provided temporary relief – a sanctuary that they retreated to whenever emotions got too overwhelming. For C, there were times when she drank to forget, and when she woke up the next day, the pain would be lessened. Not this time. This time, she would remember and feel the same hurt over and over. How could she possibly forget?
She felt a fire in the pit of her stomach threatening to unleash its fury in the form of verbal carnage. No. She could not bring herself to yell at her lover. In a fit of uncontrollable anger with no other form of release, C smashed her glass against the wall next to them.
The loud noise of glass shattering had alerted the people around them. Some restaurant staff rushed to the table. C had cut her hand smashing the sake glass against the wall. Her lover looked on in shock and horror as crimson streamed down C’s hand.
W had watched helplessly as the glass shattered. It seemed to be a telling metaphor for the state of their relationship. Sake was her favourite thing in this world, but that was before she met C. Tears streamed down her face as W began to sob.