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Feasting your eyes on dinner date
By Fangfang Gong

A dinner date can reveal our fears and insecurities, but I’m still convinced that my companion across the dinner table was being, well, just a little over-dramatic when he confided that “It will be time to end my life when I’m not able to squeeze myself into a pair of skinny pants.”

My date — Mr H to you — insisted that he was deadly serious in his concerns about the march of time and the spread of his waistline, but I must confess that I was left cracking up for about five minutes on the other side of the table as he looked on bemused.

In truth, an earnest expression is Mr H’s natural countenance. But while he’s stingy with his smiles, the dinner table is one place where he’s comfortable and at ease, and is able to put the biggest grin on my face.

Dining out shows our compatibility. He knows where to take me, we rarely argue about what to order, we can probably read each other’s mind over the menu.

I never hide my appreciation for food, and my dinner pal can probably rate a restaurant just by three things from me: the sparkle in my eyes; the smile (or absence of) on my face; and finally, the length of the “Mmmmmmm…” after the first bite.

My love affair with food is nothing new. When I was younger, my mother would laugh at me for my over-the-top cheerfulness every time I heard about something yummy.

Anyway, Mr H certainly enjoys my upbeat vibe on eating, and I could tell from the start that he was a pleasant dining companion. And as someone who hates to fail, I felt a real sense of achievement that he had taken me to a restaurant that met with my approval.

As, ahem, two lonely souls matched terribly well on food, I think we can proudly identify our combination as “food-mates”, (although, actually, we match surprisingly well on some other things as well.)

Being able to eat together is one of the most important qualities I consider in a relationship. People who enjoy eating together will enjoy doing other things together.

That was the first dinner date Mr H took me to — Z&Y, one of the best Sichuan-style restaurants in Chinatown in the San Francisco Bay area. It was Feb 1, 2014, Chinese New Year’s Eve.

He had asked me quite a few times already, but I hadn’t responded.

Finally, his persistence paid off and I discovered that he wasn’t annoying at all. That led to the start of a lot of things and if it hadn’t been for food none of these would have happened.

Some time later, curiosity got the better of me and I asked, “Why did you ask me out? You didn’t seem to be interested in me at all?”

“I just wanted a dinner pal,” the romantic Mr H mumbled.

This well-groomed, low-key Asian guy, who I admit I’d barely noticed before, completely won me over in just one meal.

I had someone I’m comfortable going out to dinner with. He’s brutally honest and I can be myself around him — especially unleashing the foodie in me.

If I was a waitress, I’d love to serve a diner like Mr H, because of an endearing thing he does every time we go to a restaurant. He collects the empty dishes and stacks them in order, making life easier for the waiting staff.

He’s someone who tries to be cool, and act sophisticated. Now while these traits are attractive, what tugged at the string of my heart, was this natural thoughtfulness which showed what a caring person he is.

One qualities we should teach our younger generation of gentlemen-to-be — besides ensuring that they’re effusive with compliments — is knowing where to take girls to eat.

Knowing one’s palate is to me one of the most important qualities — though a man with cooking skills is a huge plus as well.

Asking someone out for dinner and planning it properly requires a little effort, but it could be the start of something great.

Here, I can’t help but think of a peculiar experience I had during my awkward puberty years. While I was in high school, out of nowhere, eating in front of a male became one of the most embarrassing activities in my life. The embarrassment level of putting food into my mouth, slurping noodles equaled changing clothes in a public swimming pool’s dressing room.

I would literally stop eating when I sensed a boy I liked was approaching, making school lunch a little tricky.

Looking back, my introvert subconsciousness was probably developing this realization of how arousing and seductive eating can be.

Asking someone out for dinner can be a serious business. Don’t take anything for granted when someone agrees to go out with you — take the chance and impress your possible one and only.

And if it doesn’t work out? Well, maybe we’ll talk about the lonely foodie next time.

Until then, wishing that you all have someone special to dine with, whether or not they can still squeeze into skinny pants.


The dinner date checklist:

• For reconnaissance, pay attention whenever you go to a restaurant and make a mental note of those with a good “dating atmosphere”. You know what I mean: Not-too-loud so you hear each other; Soft lighting to give a nice and healthy skin tone — you don’t want to sit under an incandescent light looking like a vampire, do you? Comfortable sitting — I once had a date in a restaurant where I had to sit-up straight while simultaneously leaning over the table to hear my date, which was no fun at all.

• Don’t take your date to a street food restaurant on the first date unless you have an absolutely perfect reason. I think some street food is better than Michelin star fare, but it will just appear as if you’re not serious about the date.

• Make sure you’re groomed nicely, dress accordingly and check your breath please!

• Be on time. Don’t cancel unless there’s a life-threatening emergency.

• Ask what your date likes to order and what they don’t like — be considerate.

• Having an appropriate conversation. Only your boss (possibly) wants to hear a detailed report about your recent work. We understand it’s nerve racking and your brain has gone completely blank, but wait a minute and swallow that boring stuff with a sip of good wine. Try to take the attention off yourself and focus on your date, their work and interests, and giving plenty of compliments. Ask what restaurant they want to try and suggest going there next time. Voila! There is your second date sorted!

Wine of the week for your special one:

Terra Valentine from Napa Valley — Come on, what dinner date could resist a bottle with a love heart on the label ... and it’s pretty good too.


Restaurant mentioned:

Z&Y Restaurant in San Francisco Chinatown

655 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

Specializes in Sichuan Cuisine

Visited by US President Barack Obama

Customer Service: (86-21) 52920164