By Jullie Yap Daza
The mid-autumn festival is China’s second biggest holiday. Marked by the full moon at its brightest during the year and the exchange of moon cakes as a sign of unity and the “sweet life,” it is celebrated by families and groups of friends with a festive dinner around a round table, after which, as soon as the dishes and chopsticks have been cleared, it’s time to roll the dice!
Benjie Yap, never one to break his own private tradition to gather kith and kin to play the dice game, sent out invitations to 15 of them with an apology: We’re some days late for the festival, Oct. 5, but it’s never too late to be with friends. Late, maybe, but right on time for a taste of the Manila Hotel’s Chinese restaurant, Red Jade, since its name was changed from Mabuhay Palace.
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The transformation is not yet complete, but the new look is already evident. Red, a Chinese favorite symbolizing vitality and happiness, bathes the dining hall in a warm glow with accent pieces and accessories done in red. (Red as a color may be a mere symbol to the Chinese, but to interior designers it serves a more practical purpose, i.e., to whet the appetite.) The walls of the function rooms are covered in murals depicting serene landscapes of peacocks and plum blossoms, mandarin ducks and lotus blossoms. The jade murals that were brought in from China remain as a point of interest in the main dining room, which may explain Benjie’s choice of Red Jade as the restaurant’s name.
Benjie, a jeweler, explains that jade is a precious stone admired and loved by the Chinese, an affection that goes back to the days of emperors and empresses. Green jade, he said, is the most expensive, especially when the color is a luxurious imperial green, followed by lavender. “Jade comes in many colors, red and white, yellow, and more,” and now we can only think of red jade in capital letters, as a five-star restaurant serving contemporary Chinese cuisine with a twist of the classic.