Whenever I have the opportunity to travel to my favorite overseas destination, Hong Kong, I try and get at least one meal in at an upscale restaurant. The Mandarin Oriental was the fanciest hotel I had ever laid eyes on thirty years ago. There, on the 27th floor was an expensive restaurant with sweeping, panoramic views of the more than five thousand high-rise buildings on the Kowloon side.
My first visit would also be my last.
After jetting up the elevator I was met by the Maître D’ with an unexpected concerned look on his face. The opposite of what I was expecting.
“Have you a coat? Gentlemen are required to wear coats for the evening meal,” he sniffed.
A coat? A damned suitcoat? Not only had I not brought a suitcoat I didn’t even own a “monkey suit.”
I was offended by the formality of it all. British, sure, but so formal as to deny me dinner? One look around the upscale restaurant and I could see women in evening gowns and men in dark suits. I was doomed.
“I can suggest the bar downstairs, sir, they do not have the same dress code.”
I was hardly going to be deterred. Me, the original rebel. Ok, I thought, let’s see where this leads.
“Might I suggest a housecoat?” he asked, his nose high in the air.
A housecoat to me was something my mom wore on Sunday mornings and I cocked my head in question as he walked me to a small closet tucked away in a corner and pulled from it a dark suit coat. I am not sure who this coat fit but it certainly wasn’t me. Maybe Hulk Hogan. The sleeves hung over my fingers, the shoulder pads extended a few inches farther than my frame, and I’m quite certain that I looked like a cross between an idiot and a kid trying on his father’s suit.
“That’s fine.” I glared.
“Excellent, sir.” His nose rose even high in the air and it beckoned me to follow towards a tiny table in the farthest corner of the restaurant where the lights were dim and the guests were few. Dinner that night was excellent and I capped it off with a glass of Port. I picked out a cigar from a box of hand-rolled Cubans.
I made sure to leave the coat on the back of my chair as I paraded past the Maître D’, cigar chomped in the victorious style of Winston Churchill, my short sleeve shirt proudly proclaiming my freedom from the stiffness of this British standard.