A death in the family brought me home to suburbia for a brief time. But despite the mourning and family obligation, I made time to have brunch with Carlos. It was a much needed break to decompress and after very little planning, we settled on where we would go. We decided on Kirin Court, a place that is utterly mythological for the two of us.
The legend goes a little something like this. A few conventions ago Carlos, myself and my then partner were staying in a hotel room. We were hungry after watching an anime that emotionally scarred me and we were each tasked with looking for a restaurant that would feed all of us. I pulled up a few places on my laptop and I remember things as clear as day. I looked to my associates and said: I think I found the perfect place.
I gave them no context, nothing.
When I turned my laptop around across the webpage slithered dragons in the corners. Soft music played in the background. It felt like all the yakuza animes I’ve ever loved.
We went there, the three of us, and enjoyed a meal that we didn’t feel deserving of. We ordered too much and shirked the greatness of the dim sum in our attempts to fill our stomachs with rice and candy-coated chickens and nearly mostly naked chickens.
I was afraid that when my then partner and I broke up, I’d never be able to return to Kirin again. It did help that the restaurant is in my ancestral homeland but Carlos was persistent and I really wanted dim sum so we did Kirin Court again: just the two of us.
Kirin Court has become an important part of our friend mythology and now when I am home, we go to Kirin; hell, we’re already planning on our yearly visit for Christmas to exchange gifts.
We talked a lot. We talked about what we’re watching and how work is. We shared stories and do all the things we usually do when we catch up. And while we were there, we started with things that we usually order. I start with tea and water and entirely too much sugar. I got Carlos the barbeque pork buns he loves. I started with my Hong Kong egg waffle and Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. We laughed and talked, chopsticks moving in and around each other like a fun little dance we’ve learned over the years.
But this time, things were different. They’ve added things to the menu!
It started with sausage rolls that made me let out a noise that sounded like a mix between a soft contented sigh and a shrill squeal. Next up was the salt and pepper calamari which I practically snatched off the cart before the plate could be placed on our table. Carlos picked up fried shrimp from the same cart and I was thrilled with the first bite of calamari. Coating pieces of fried squid in chili oil was a great idea and requesting hot mustard for the sausage rolls was worth it as well. I don’t think Carlos has seen me eat with such gusto in a while. It’s a bit of a joke but most of my friends are always worried I don’t eat enough (as I am writing this, my dinner has been mostly made of water and biscoff cookies) and even though my start at Kirin was heavy with mango pudding with milk, egg waffle and pineapple buns; he was happy to see me eat something that wasn’t a dessert (listen, I have an anime boy reputation to uphold, that means I consume sugar, angst and the fear I have instilled into my enemies).
I lost track of how many times I poured myself tea. I lost track of time even though I had to get back on the road. I simply lost track in time as carts flew by and plates stacked up and chatter filled the space that looked like every 90s anime version of a host club is hidden in the back of a restaurant.
I get asked a lot about if I’d ever move back home. I get these questions especially after visiting family which is…well, it’s visiting family. You can’t ever go home again and now Dallas/Ft. Worth despite being my homeland is no longer my home. Going to Kirin Court means I am visiting and thus means I will leave.
And while Carlos and I caught up since we do only see each other a few times a year I said something that I think encapsulates my feelings on the whole “going home again” thing.
I’d never want this place to be something we do every Sunday.
There. I said it. I said the thing I never thought I would. I admitted to missing my home and missing the great food and the shopping (oh the shopping) but I would never want this to be a place I could in theory go anywhere I want. I have a restaurant like that here in San Antonio: MiTierra. It’s a restaurant that meant a lot to my family and I tend to only go there during special occasions or when family and/or company is in town.
It’s a special place and merits a special occasion even though I could in theory go there and embrace technicolor culture any time I want.
And what’s amazing is that out of all the places Carlos could frequent without me, he doesn’t. He’s even said a few times that going to these places without me feels a little like an infidelity.
Kirin Court is one of the most special places in the world to me. It means I am home, it means I get to spend time with one of my best friends and it means I get to fill my stomach with food that I know is good and that even my anxiety will accept. I always leave full and happy and in these trying times, it’s remarkable and wonderful to have a place that still feels sacred.