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I’ve always liked dining at Fish & Co. Sometimes I lie awake thinking of the tender, peppery juiciness of the grilled calamari. Okay, I don’t. But I was so giddy about Sunday’s lunch that I want to wax poetic.
Sunday, of course, as the whole Republic of the Philippines knew, was the day of the Pacquiao – Dela Hoya fight. And those who wanted to watch the fight live, real time, ahead of the can’t-pay-per-view hoi polloi (which included us -- we were just being treated by our host) had to watch it in cinemas, bars, restaurants, or fork up 80 grand to Solar to watch it at home sans Ricoa and Motolite TV commercials.
We actually had reservations at Italliani’s but something conked out and so they couldn’t serve the fight together with pasta and pizza. What?!!? How will we watch the fight?!?!, was the silent scream inside our heads revealed only by our panicked faces. They tried to compensate by telling us they’re going to try getting us seats at Fish & Co.
Fish & Co. had a fight day promo -- 600 pesos per head for a little pan of fish and chips plus watching the fight from the LCD TV and giant screens scattered throughout the establishment. A successful promo it was as the place was packed. Those who had reservations were seated; some not so comfortably as booth chairs designed for 3 lithe diners had to carry 4-5 people. Gym-going men had to practice some butt contraction and semi squatting exercises as 2 men shared one stool. The kitchen couldn’t serve their fish and chips fast enough. Those without reservations were hogging the entrance doors, shouting reservations to the floor manager as if they were brokers at the NY Stock Exchange. A mass of non-paying humanity was inching dangerously close to toppling the velvet ropes and flimsy barriers (see pic). Some jerk of a guy was whining about his food not being served and extra seats blocking his vision. Testorone, adrenalin, and other violent hormones were on the rise as the excitement was building up as people were waiting to watch Pacquiao clobber dela Hoya or vice versa. It was madness. With all the potential for restaurant service disaster.
But it all turned out well. We got seated. We had good food. We got beered up. Pacquiao won. And the Fish & Co. service crew delivered top quality service. An altogether pleasant experience.
Aside from the promo fish and chips, which were served bite sized, we also ordered the non-promo version which is served as a big fillet of fish (P465). I liked the latter so much better. Tender, moist, flaky fish in light, airy breading, and a pretty good dill sauce. We ordered the fried calamari (P405) too; I like the grilled version better. The good food highlight was the Marsala pizza (P380), which I’m about ready to declare one of the city’s best, not just because of the piquant sauce and fat shrimp topping, but because of the unusual crust. Crust like croissant bread. As if layers of filo pastry, and not the usual dough, were used. Really good.
It was hard not to feel guilty having our lunch and watching the fight in our seats when inches behind us were people who stood up the whole 8 rounds, hungry, straining their necks, and probably touching other people’s sweat. There was one senior citizen near to me to whom I was tempted to lend my chair until he started smoking, a dangerous and inconsiderate thing to do in that dense pack of people. As the F&Co. staff and mall security were trying to crowd control. I was hoping no one would get unruly and the staff won’t become rude. As far I saw, they were relatively polite.
Good service that withstood the challenge of a high-stress situation. I suspect the floor manager, Lilet Martinez, headed for the spa right after that lunch ordeal. If she did, she totally deserved some pampering after managing the stress and keeping customers relatively happy. Our server, Jasper, was also able to keep her cool. She managed our expectations by warning us that ala carte menus would take longer than expected. So, we adjusted by being patient, but the food arrived earlier than expected. And the food was worth the wait. We were happy.
The situation, of course, might have been a bit different and all this sense of well being absent had Pacquaio lost.