Sunday, September 4, 2005

Time Warp at Maxim's Tea House

They were playing some cha-cha tune when we came into the restaurant for an early lunch. We'd gotten lost a few minutes earlier, thinking Maxim's was still in the basement of Shoppesville Greenhills, not realizing Pancake House had moved into their old location. What had been the slightly seedy but popular Maxim's Teahouse had moved to the upper ground floor. It was given a snazzy interior design facelift and a trendy name to match -- MXT.

While commenting on the (so far) positive changes, Tristan remarked, "Whatever happened to Ling Nam? Didn't they try to become a Chinese fastfood?" "It didn't work," Joy replied, "Chow King is the only successful one in its niche. See all those billboards along the highway that make you hungry?" "I remember the teahouses then all had names like North Park, West Villa, East Ocean…," I added. Maxim's has had a branch in Megamall for several years. Luk Yuen and Le Ching are still in their old Greenhills locations. Hap Chang moved from Wilson St. to Megamall. North Park, which opened a branch in Metrowalk Ortigas, is currently our favorite.

As "My Melody of Love" (the one that sounds like a Polish folk song) played in the background, Tristan announces: "Did you know that there's currently a remake of 'Mr. Lonely', and it's a hit now in Europe?" "Isn't Mr. Lonely the station ID song for some radio station advice show?" I reply, as I order a Special Jumbo pao (P48) and a shrimp-and-vegetable one (P24). Joy adds, "All of a sudden golden oldies are in again. Even the Cascades are coming." "Yeah, I heard they're going to perform at the Manila Hotel soon," I nod. Dream dream dream, dream dream dream…

A Tom Jones hit from my early childhood plays next ("Please release me let me go..."). I roll my eyes up, saying: "Remember that song 'Let Me Try Again'? Wasn't that Frank Sinatra?" As I pinch some of the soft white bread off my Special Jumbo pao, Joy suddenly sings the dramatic refrain, "Just forgive me or I'll die, please let me try again…" Man, the things we remember. If publicly quizzed I think it's much cooler to admit that I learned the complete lyrics to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" from my older cousin Mely back in elementary school. That and the Eagles' "Hotel California". Mely liked "I Shot The Sheriff" too. In those days if you were riding in a jeep you'd hear any hit by the Scorpions, or that British long-hair group The Animals singing "House Of The Rising Sun."

Tristan identifies the next song within ten notes: "Those Were The Days!" (as in, "those were the days my friend we thought would never end, we'd sing and dance forever and a day." Yes, the one that sounds like a folkie beerhouse polka.) He failed on the next try, which turned out to be the Beatles' "Till There Was You." I think it's lovely how hearing the Beatles never feels dated.

The shrimp-and-vegetable pao arrives, tinted a beautiful pandan green. It was freshly steamed and flavorful, the vegetable being kuchay (the dark green part of green onion shoots). I enjoyed both my siopaos, but the hakao (shrimp dumplings) Joy and Tristan ordered were a major disappointment. The rest of the food was satisfying, but not special (North Park food being our standard). I suppose you could say the food was better when MXT was still the seedy- but-popular Maxim's Teahouse. Those were the days, my friend.