I first visited New York City in January 2010. It was a work trip, as I was working for a Wall Street firm back then. Blessed with a generous expense account, one of the aims of that trip was to sample all that New York had to offer in terms of culinary experience. One such experience took me to Hangawi, a Korean vegetarian restaurant. This was in midtown (32nd and 5th, if I’m not wrong). Amazing candle-lit ambiance. awesome food, exemplary service, nice soft music.. On my return to my hotel that night I’d called up my girlfriend (now my wife) promising to take her there sometime. I had also told her that “the next time I go to Hangawi will be with you”.
I must confess I tried to break that promise, the lure of the place was too hard to resist during my trip to New York City earlier this year. However, fate wouldn’t let me, as I was told that there were no tables available. The nice person at the front desk, however, said that there was room at another Korean vegetarian restaurant run by the same people who ran Hangawi. She gave me directions to Franchia, on 34th and Park.
It was easy to find a table there – the ambiance was nothing compared to that at Hangawi, and the food (which was as excellent) was much cheaper. There was a small group of young men seated at a table close by, and one of them looked exceedingly familiar. I tried hard not to stare, and trawled the depths of my “brain hard disk” while stealing glances between sips of my excellent soup. I have this amazing knack of identifying lookalikes (in fact, the name “pertinent observation” was first given to my propensity to find similarities in looks between people), so I didn’t know if it was actually Mark Zuckerberg who was sitting there, or just a lookalike. For the rest of this post, let’s assume it was Zuckerberg there.
Zuckerberg was dressed in a neatly tailored grey suit, complete with a waist-coat, while his associates were in casuals. The suit was what raised doubts about Zuckerberg’s identity. Why would a Silicon Valley CEO be dressed so formally, I had reasoned, when I had decided that it was someone else. Also, I had wondered, what had made such a “big person” come to a reasonably nondescript vegetarian place for dinner. If I had twitter or facebook enabled on my blackberry, I would’ve instantly broadcasted the likeness, and somehow tried to find out if it was actually Zuckerberg. Unfortunately, Wall Street firms are careful in blocking such frivolous apps when they hand over blackberries to their employees. I decided to focus on my dinner, which was fantastic.
I was to read later that Zuckerberg has these crazy New Year resolutions. For 2010, he had decided he’ll wear a suit every day. In 2011, he is mostly vegetarian, and eats meat only if he has killed the animal himself. Putting one and one together, could it be that in February 2011, he would turn up in a formal suit at a vegetarian restaurant in New York? The probability is not low.
So I’ll perhaps go on and claim that, on 15th February 2011 (not 100% sure of the date), at a Korean vegetarian restaurant in New York, I sat one table away from Mark Zuckerberg (and in New York, owing to real estate costs, restaurants place tables really close to each other).