Hot plates are a great way to eat sizzling food that cooks right in front of you. I remember eating at The Aristocrat booth back in school and they would serve us teriyaki and barbecue on hot plates, keeping the food hot, crisping them, and making them really delicious in all the oil they were swimming in. Let it be known: it’s not for the faint of heart, but it can be ridiculously sumptuous.
Such is the case with Pepper Lunch, which is a small chain of Japanese fastfood that operates in Manila with not-so-fastfood-like prices. Leave it to Japan to figure out how to make fastfood burn a hole in your pocket. Pepper Lunch is mostly found up North in the Makati area, but there are two great branches in the South: in Alabang Town Center and in Southmall.
I should be keen in warning you not to mistake Pepper Lunch for Sizzlin’ Pepper Steak. I once thought they were the same, but when I ate at Pepper Steak I noticed the food tasted horrible. Pepper Lunch is the real deal. Do not eat at Sizzlin’ Pepper Steak.
Pepper Lunch has a whole list of goodies on its menu, including sizzling dishes of all shapes and sizes, from the basic Beef Pepper Lunch which costs 205 bucks, to Salmon Cream Pasta going for 399. There are some outlets found in foodcourts, like the one in SM Southmall, which is “Pepper Lunch Express.” Probably due to the cheaper rent, they cost about 50 bucks less than the full branch versions.
Keep this in mind when eating on a budget! You can have the delicious Beef Pepper Lunch at just 158 bucks in the Express versions.
My favorite dish at Pepper Lunch has to be the Curry Beef Pepper Rice.
As a huge curry lover, this dish has all the flavor of fine curry spices. It’s basically Beef Pepper Rice, but with some cheese grated on top, corn added on, and a hidden core of buttered curry powder hiding inside the rice. When you start cooking it and mixing the rice, it quickly turns brown due to the curry powder, with flecks of corn coming out and sticky cheese webbing tempting you to bite in.
It’s important to cook your food properly for the optimal dining experience. Most of the meals start off with some peppered rice, which has some secret ingredient in the middle, usually butter. You need to mash this up with the rice properly to get that delicious, savory flavor that you don’t get in lesser sizzling plate shops.
The meat of your dish, whether it’s chicken, beef or salmon, should be cooked to the side on the plate and toasted how you like it — you can keep it medium rare by putting it on top of the rice but I prefer toasting it to a fine crisp by pressing it against the hot plate. You need to act quickly! The hotplate can only toast the meat for about a minute.
In addition, you need to ask yourself: how strong do you want your flavor? There are two sauces you can use to spice up your plate: soy garlic sauce and honey sauce. Generally the former is salty and the latter is sweet. By combining the two on your hot plate on the meat and in the rice, you can come up with different flavors. Add too much soy garlic and the dish and even the rice can get pretty salty, but if that’s your thing go ahead.
I like mixing in an abundant amount of both sauces, as I like my meals really tasty and flavorful.
These sauces work really, really well with the curry powder, turning the Curry Beef Pepper Rice plate into a taste explosion! It’s so buttery, sumptuous curry taste, salty if you make it, not so much if you don’t. The curry is Japanese curry, so it’s not spicy. It’s perfect even for people who dislike spicy dishes. The gooeyness of the cheese just makes the rice even better. This is, like, the best rice dish I have ever tasted. It’s that delicious.
In addition, just this August Pepper Lunch added a new item to their menu: Korean Bulgogi Beef Pepper Rice. Everything I eat here is delicious, well almost (the salmon pepper rice is pretty yucky), but the Bulgogi Pepper Rice rivals my two favorite dishes here (Curry Beef Pepper Rice and Teriyaki Beef Pepper Rice).
It’s a very, very flavorful dish, basically beef pepper rice but there’s some added red sauce in the mix, probably the bulgogi mix. It’s also served with a side of Kimchi, so you can have a fit of sourness amidst your savory beef helpings. A round of toge (vegetable sprouts) rounds up the dish.
The first thing I noticed was that this dish is much tastier than the Beef Pepper Lunch, and is actually even tastier than the Curry Beef Pepper Rice. It has a strong, salty flavor mixed with some sweetish undertones, meaning even if you don’t add Soy Garlic sauce or Honey sauce, it already has very bold flavors. Adding the sauce of course accentuates the flavors further, but that’s to say it tastes amazing even without the extra sauce.
I also have pictures of the Teriyaki Beef Pepper Rice here for you. It’s another very delicious dish, served with an egg, corn, some chopped green onions and some teriyaki sauce drizzled with sesame seeds on the side.
Now, the Teriyaki Platter is very, very delicious. As it is, it tastes similar to the Beef Pepper Rice, but once you add in the Teriyaki Sauce, it becomes the familiar sweet teriyaki dish we all know and love. I don’t recommend adding any additional Honey sauce to this one, add some Soy Garlic as needed, but if you like your Teriyaki sweet it is good to go without the extra sauce. This is some of the best teriyaki sauce I’ve ever had; I wish I could source the brand they use. It’s really delicious!
Pepper Lunch is a little pricey but if you eat at Pepper Lunch Express (like in Southmall) it’s not so bad. This is one of the best meals you can eat in my opinion, ridiculously tasty and delicious, huge portions, very filling, you’ll be scraping your hot plate down to the last rice grain. I guess the only downside is that it can’t be all that healthy looking at how it’s cooked, it’s just oozing with oil and fats. But hey, you only live once.
See you at a Pepper Lunch near you! I’d eat this every day if I could.