Thursday, August 21, 2008

going to town

S. Smiles

Meeting up and going out with your ex-girlfriend is always an interesting experience. Some people have mastered the ability of remaining friends with their exes, others are unable to remain friends, I'm somewhere in the middle.

For whatever reason I've remained on good terms with my ex S. for the past sixteen years. Until this trip, the last time I saw her was on the day we broke up in 1992. How odd that we've remained friends. Through those years, she's lived all over: Atlanta, Chicago and now back to Honolulu. She dated guys, got married and then divorced when her husband cheated on her. Over the years, we would talk from time to time, eight months here, two years there and then a few calls somewhere in-between.

I still have her Ocean Blue CD she lent me to listen to in 1991. Don't tell her I still have it.

We went out last Friday and had nice (if a bit strange) time of it. We've both been busy this week and didn't have the chance to get together again until tonight. That's when she tells me she has to be home early, like around 9:30pm cause her "boyfriend" is coming over. Boyfriend? You could have told me that earlier.

It's 8pm.

Truth be told, boyfriend or not, I really don't care. If a girl has a boyfriend or someone they're seeing, that's not my problem. Maybe that sounds cold and unfeeling, but this is the real world and I've learned that none of that matters if they've agreed to go out with you. That's his problem. 'Cause I've spent far too long worrying about "respecting" that when there was nothing to consider.

If I really cared about getting her home early, I would have chosen a quick and simple place, like McDonald's or Zippy's. But I'm interested in checking out a place I'd been hearing about. A place that's concerned about the locality of their ingredients. A placed called town.

Located on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki, town is a respite from the normal local food in Hawaii. It's a respite from the Hawaiian fusion that's so popular at the fine dining places. town is supposedly a restaurant concerning itself with locally produced ingredients prepared in simple fashion. In other words, it's my kind of restaurant.

When I pick her up, S. is wearing just a plain, dark blue t-shirt, baby blue shorts and slippahs. The simple, casual wear surprises me and catches me off-guard. I live on the mainland where girls wear lots of clothes when you go out. Her outfit is typical local girl and feels immediately comfortable - even though I'm slightly off-balance because the sheer casualness and comfortable-ness throws me off slightly.

Like most any joint in Hawaii, town doesn't blink an eye at our casual attire. It's a neighborhood restaurant with warm lighting and a psuedo-industrial, tropical feel to it. When we arrive, it's busy. Actually, I had checked Open Table earlier and discovered that they were pretty full but decided to chance it anyway. A table was opening but S. decided that we should sit at the bar - the view is better anyway.

Sumida Watercress, chicken sausage, carrot, daikon and chicken pate crostini.

Our bartender was this attractive Nepalese girl who had recently moved to Hawaii from New York City. Today was her first day and she wanted us to question her as much as possible about the menu. We didn't disappoint. After starting with a round of Italian Chianti, it was time to get into the menu.

Simple. That's the best way to describe town's menu. It's not extensive but it covers a lot of ground. After some discussion and suggestions, we start off with a salad of Watercress from Sumida Farm, chicken sausage and chicken pate crostini. The pate is tasty on the toasted bread and the chicken sausage is seared to a brown crisp. Me likey.

Even though it's been over a decade and a half since we've gone out to eat together, we fall into a comfortable rhythm and share plates. It's a better way to have a variety of tastes without the heavy commitment of single plates.

Our hostess comes up and chats for a bit and somehow our thread about her being my ex-wife who took more than half my fortune in the divorce and six kids (but only five are mine), but we're still friends begins. It would be a thread that would continue throughout the night.

house made mozzarella, eggplant caponata and basil.

After a few moments, the chef steps out to check on things. How is the salad, he wants to know. Good, but there's something strangely familiar about him. Wait a minute, I know that guy. Turns out Dave was the steersman for Imua Canoe Club in the late 90s when I used to come out and paddle with Imua. Small world. S. notes that some things never change.

Next up is the house made mozzarella with eggplant caponata. The caponata is good and a nice accompaniment to the mozzarella, which is mellow and hints of saltiness. Making homemade mozzarella can be quite difficult so I was really interested to taste their house made mozz.

Kulana Ribeye, Roquefort butter, french fries

Of all the steaks from a cow, the ribeye is one of my favorites. It's fatty and marbled and full of flavor. Give me the ribeye any day. Since there's two of us, our bartender suggests ordering the bone-in ribeye for two, but that's a bit too much for us to eat and we opt for the regular cut to share. S. asks for it medium rare, please - hmmm, maybe a reunion with this girl wouldn't be so bad afterall.

The steak arrives and it's brilliant. Carmelized and crusty, it looks delicious. One taste and I'm loving it. How refreshing it is to eat at a restaurant where the kitchen isn't afraid to liberally season the meat. The meat comes to life because of the salt. The flavor is delicious and robust. It is how steak was meant to be. Rub the butter in and grab some fries and it's bistro heaven.

Gnocchi, Hamakua Mushrooms, soft herbs, Pecorino Cheese.

In addition to the Ex Who Stole My Money thread, we touch on a world of topics, including the laden question of: if we were to get back together, would you want me to live on the mainland? The night's dialogue is flirty, light and full of implications.

Truth be told, I would be open to exploring a relationship with S. again. It's been a long time and we've grown into different people than who we were back in 1992. And while part of this is comfortable and familiar, there's still a lot to learn and explore together.

Finally, the gnocchi arrives and it's the best gnocchi that S. has eaten. It's good stuff, cooked just right. The mushrooms and cheese meld together into a tasty, smooth coating that makes the gnocchi irresistible.

Crepe Cake

I'm not sure what time it is, but it's way past 9:30pm. Probably closer to eleven and there's still no rush to leave. The crepe cake layered with whipped cream arrives and it's delectable. A pile of crepes layered with whipped cream - what is there not to love? It's light, fluffy and just right. A heavy dessert would only weigh us down.

The meal was delicious and worthy of all the accolades. As we bid the staff good night, we make our way around town and back to her place to drop her off. I'm leaving Honolulu in the morning but as I walk her to her door I have to ask if there was any truth to all the stuff we've touched on. Was it all just flirtatious fun or was there an underlying message to address?

Back in 1992, she had wanted a serious relationship but I wasn't ready for that. I wanted to go out and have fun. I didn't want to get serious with anyone. I was too young to handle that. But I couldn't lead her on, so I told her the truth and that was the end. Maybe things are still the same because she replied that she could never see me settling down with one person. No matter how much possibilities might lie between us, the fact that she believed that I could never be with just one woman meant that we were doomed.

Personally speaking, it pissed me off. I'm not the same person I was in 1992. But I didn't have the time left to change her mind. I think there's part of her that's bitter that we broke up back then and it's manifesting itself now. Who knows? Maybe they'll be time to change her mind the next time we eat at town.

3435 Waialae Avenue
Kaimuki, HI 96816

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