Many of the parties that occurred in my childhood years were in this establishment, long known in the Chinese community, and while I have read reviews that have varying accounts of the quality of food it serves compared to the newer Chinese restaurants now, it was a tug and nod to nostalgia that I prevailed Art to take our pre-museum jaunt meal there.
As it was still before lunch time, I was reminded that dimsum was still being served, which made my heart skip a bit: their giant siopao (meat-filled bun), called Emerald Special (PhP 99.00) was the item to have.
Which, of course, was no longer available by the time we got there. (Talking to the waiter, I found out that at 6AM, they begin serving this, cooked in a specific quantity daily, and by 10AM, you would be lucky to even see a whiff of it anywhere. People actually pass by just to have it wrapped to go - while we were seated, at least three parties came in within a span of 5 minutes asking for it as well.)
Art rolled his eyes, and said that since we couldn't have "the" siopao, we should probably go elsewhere. But it was hot that day, and we decided to take our chances with the other items in the menu.
Shrimp Rice Roll, PhP 90.00.
Fish Congee, PhP 90.00. (Art had the Mixed Congee,
which was in a larger bowl, PhP 150.00.)
Spare Ribs and Shark's Fin Siomai, PhP 55.00 each.
Notice the table "cloth" - I think the material is vinyl. The place seems to have retained the exact same snapshot I have of it in my mind - faded wallpaper, the requisite green theme courtesy of the name, waiters who seem to be half deaf and also seemed to be working here for decades.
To Art, it was an odd place, although he had to concede that the food was good. But for me, I can still see my cousins and I around a giant table trying to get the crab "hands" (pinchers) when the plate came from the kitchen.
Emerald Restaurant always symbolized a gathering of family and friends to me. I guess Art and I have to start a new tradition then.
After all, the Emerald Special has still eluded us. That means we will be back.
*When we were paying our bill, a long time politician of the city entered, and sat two tables away from us. Lo and behold, from the noisy kitchen, an Emerald Special materialized. The waiter saw my quizzical look - he told us it had run out - and said that this politician came here frequently and had called ahead of time to reserve one.
Is that what it takes to get one? Yoohoo, Comelec, I want to run for office.