Newport Coast Center
21103 Newport Coast Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92657
Part, the first. Valentine’s MORNING:
The door whispering open woke me. I blinked, but couldn't see. At least I had the sense to take my contacts out last night. I didn’t have to look at a clock – hell, I didn’t even know where there was a clock in this room – but I knew it was way too early for me on Valentine’s Day. Much earlier than I ever wake up on a regular Wednesday morning. I was warm, hot almost, under the silk-duveted down comforter in a gorgeous bed in a gorgeous room that wasn’t my own. It was strange, but not totally unfamiliar. I heard footsteps on the carpet. I smiled, then hurriedly slid down further under the covers, and buried my head between the pillows.
Sarah in the morning is not a pretty sight. I need to shower before I see anyone. Or at least brush my teeth. Gargle with mouthwash? Something.
Part, the Second. Valentine’s DAY:
It’s a Wednesday, for fox ache. It's a work day. “Don’t leave,” was the gentle plea. “Just work from here. You don’t want to drive all the way back, do you? Stay. We can have Valentine’s Dinner together tonight.” I had my laptop with me. I don’t go anywhere without it. I blogged. I worked. From there. I laughed thinking that the housekeeper was probably wondering who I was and what the hell I was doing there. She didn’t need to know.
Part, the third. Valentine’s EVENING:
I didn’t even notice anyone sit down in front of me on the other side of the desk. My head was deep down in the folds of my laptop.
I looked up, peering over the top of my open laptop. Sushi. I smiled. “Oooh. D-e-luscious, lovely.”
“Say, about ten minutes?”
“Ten minutes?” My eyes fell to the timestamp in lower right hand corner of my screen, then snapped back up, straight ahead.
“Um, it’s five o’clock right now. You want to go to dinner at 5:10?!?!”
Why was Sarah blogging instead of *ahem*, you know, on Valentine’s Evening?
Because I drove down to my sister’s house in Newport Coast on Valentine’s Eve and stayed there with her while my brother-in-law was in Vegas. No, not for that. Or that. Business.
Because my itty bitty baby niece tiptoed into my room at some wee hour on Valentine’s Day when only Midsummer’s fairies and babies under the age of 18 months can legally be awake, and started laughing her head off. I tried to hide under the covers from her, but she stomped over to the side of the bed and banged her tiny fist on the mattress while speaking in tongue like she was exorcising some invisible Dora the Explorer demon out of the bed. I had to wake up. I think it was 6:45 AM. Maybe earlier. I guess I would wake up with the sunrise if I took 25 naps throughout the day, too.
Because I worked from my sister’s home in Newport all day. I mean I had to really work. Like for real. Not working "from home," but really working. Emails. Project plans. Phone calls. Panicked IMs about feature changes and duplicate items. It’s Valentine’s Day. I work in "shopping." Valentine’s Day is the pink-hell version of Christmas.
Because I went to Valentine's dinner with my sister and my baby niece, and apparently, kids are The Anti-Nightlife. They force you to eat dinner during that time that normal people call Happy Hour, rush home before rush hour traffic even starts, and fall asleep by 9 PM because remember? Babies wake up when the Marines do.
Apparently, it's not just babies. Apparently, eating early is a syndrome in Orange County. When we got to Kingyo Sushi, which is naturally, in a supermega strip mall, the place was so packed that we had to wait for about 15 minutes with two parties ahead of us. I thought perhaps this was the set that had gotten too busy with whatever it is they do in Orange County that they had forgotten to make a Valentine's Day reservation in 1998 for tonight, so they had to settle for a hopeful walk-in at 5:00. However, the parties were all...families. Ok, so it is babies.
Taking a baby to a sushi restaurant is a bad idea. Sitting at the sushi bar with a baby is worse. A sushi bar is supposed to be calm and zen and quiet and clean. A baby squozen into the already fairly impacted space throws the whole balance into a frightful fray. It was much ado about something. We had to squeeze a chair away from the bar, sidle a high chair up to the edge, then with the sweep of one arm, my sister cleared the bar top of the placemat, chopsticks, and napkin to plaster down a plastic table protectant screaming with primary colored, bug-eyed Sesame Street characters. She whipped out a bright blue high chair covering, snapped it open with the flick of her wrist, plopped my niece into the chair and strapped her in. When it was all said and done, my niece looked like she was ready to be launched into orbit. I'm surprised my sister didn't put a helmet on her.
At such an early hour, I was nowhere near hungry. I sipped on a glass of wine to build up my appetite and picked at a sunomono salad with occasional hand-off of innocuous strands of carrot to my niece. Kingyo's menu has all the fare to be expected from a Japanese restaurant. My tuna sashimi starter was well plated, and the fish was a gorgeous ruby red, but I was slightly put off by how the flesh was falling apart at the seams. I am not sure if that is any indication of the quality, but it didn't taste too bad.
For some reason, my family seems to think I love tofu. Granted, I do, but the vegan phase during which tofu was the only protein I would eat was but once and a very long time ago. Now we cannot go to a Chinese restaurant without ordering braised tofu or a Japanese restaurant without ordering tofu salad. Then again, my niece also loves tofu, so maybe I am just being self-centered. Kingyo's tofu salad overall was nothing special in either appearance or taste, but I did notice that the tomatoes were remarkably sweet. I couldn't eat much of the salad, but plucked up all the tomatoes. My niece mashed cubes of tofu between her tiny fingers.
I didn't touch either order of nigiri sushi because I was already feeling full. My sister liked the salmon, and if I didn't have a mental block against salmon sushi (not worth explaining today), I probably would have tried it for how gorgeoous glossy it was.
Shishito peppers are a personal favorite of my family's but on Valentine's Day, I couldn't enjoy our order from Kingyo. My mouth had been slightly out of whack (and still is) after repeated rinse cycles with a lethal combination of grain alcohol and stomach acid from a Saturday night which may or may not get full disclosure at some point here. The roof of my mouth was raw from having had multiple layers chemicaly burned off and my throat was swollen and throbbing. Raw, cold, slippery fish felt good, but anything else was fire, including a butterfish that quite literally smelled exactly what "butter" and "fish" should smell like. My sister said the peppers both the peppers and the butterfish were good, though she didn't eat more than a couple of the peppers either. I'm sure there was nothing wrong with the peppers.
My last bite of the night was a piece of a Caterpillar Roll, though I had to force it. I couldn't bear the thought of an entire order going untouched, and besides, I am in the habit of ending a sushi dinner with unagi because its fatty sweetness is like dessert. The roll was pretty and the slippery avocado certainly made it easy to swallow, but I still felt every grain of rice and every microscopic pin bone in my mouth. Even the sweet brown unagi sauce was a little much for my throat.
By the time we left Kingyo, I think it was 6:15. On a normal day, I don't even leave the office before 7. My sister chased after my niece who was waddling her way across the restaurant while I did my best to leave our place at the sushi bar in at least half as decent a state as we found it. There was tofu smashed into the tabletop along with unidentifiable pureed vegetables that my sister had brought from home, spilled soy sauce, all manner of food particles on the floor in a shape that just outlined the base of the high chair, and crumpled napkins everywhere.
I think it was one of my better Valentine's Days, and when I go back to Newport to visit my sister, I will probably eat at Kingyo again (if they'd let us back in).
And I even got home in time to blog.