May 28, 2013

Somewhere in the eatery-filled maze of alleys at station three in Boracay is a little Chinese place called Lee's Cook. Round clothed tables, wooden chairs, ceramic plates. On the walls were neon papers with Chinese characters written on them and smiling stick figure drawings and English words like "love", "fun", and "Boracay!!"

Everything was in Chinese apart from a small laminated menu that listed dishes I was wary of. I'm always wary of Chinese food. They smell funny. In a Chinese place even the simplest chicken dish smells funny.

The menu says that fried chicken costs P400, small, and P600, big. "How big is the P600 chicken?" our managing editor asks the waitress, who makes a long oblong shape on the table. She makes another gesture over that oblong shape. Big chicken? Big chicken. Nice.

"This chicken is good for how many people?"

"Good for ten people, ma'am."

Okay, we'll have two big fried chickens, two beef somethings, some chopseuy dish, two bottles of Coke, and serve them as quickly as you can. Twenty minutes later, she comes back and excuses herself as she puts a plate on our table.

At Lee's Cook, this is what P600 worth of fried chicken looks like. Chicken lollies. Our managing editor beckons the waitress over. Is this it, or should we expect two plates per P600 fried chicken?

This is the fried chicken that we serve here, the waitress says.

But you let us understand something else. This is not the fried chicken we expected, not the big chicken you implied. "Let's compromise," our managing editor says, "P400 instead for each plate." No compromise, no money, we walk out, to hell with Lee's Cook. 

The restaurant owner refused to see us, but the atmosphere had become hostile. I butt in. "Forget the misunderstanding about the chicken size. You said this was good for ten people." I pointed at the plate. "Does this look like it can feed ten people?"

"I'm sorry ma'am, but I'm not the cook here," she says. "I can't be sure how much chicken the cook makes. I only serve the dish, not cook them."

"So you're saying that today Lee's Cook fried chicken is good enough for five? Should we come back tomorrow then and maybe expect a dish that's good for ten? Or should we have come here yesterday?" Instead of blowing up, I felt like laughing out loud at her excuse.

The next ten minutes passed by with the waitress going back and forth from us to the owner, who says no deal, you ordered it, you pay for it.

To walk out was not a good option, and with twenty-two hungry stomachs to ease off, we can't waste more time finding another place and order a new set of lunch. Arguments tend to get weary when the other party refuses to face you or compromise or even apologize anyway. So the least we could do then was to suck it up, eat, pay the bill to the last centavo, take photos of the place, and spread the word about it.

Somewhere in the eatery-filled maze of alleys at station three in Boracay is a little Chinese place called Lee's Cook. If you find it, don't bother getting inside.


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