I WANTED to be gentle on myself because it was going to be my first time.
Pepper Lunch's Double Beef Pepper Rice. Sizzle it your way!
To dine at Pepper Lunch, that is! (You naughty kids! Hahaha!) So, to be “gentle” on myself – meaning, not panic at the sight of the restaurant’s patented hot plate – I did my research. I spoke to and asked tips from Friendship, who has been an avowed loyal patron at the original Rockwell branch from when it opened. I also checked out the restaurant’s official website where I surprisingly found a video on “how to sizzle it.”
So, armed with my knowledge and buoyed up by flashing scrumptious scenes of steak as it sizzles – not to mention being given a “kwento-filled” ride to the place by Spidey – I resolved to make my initiation to Pepper Lunch a filling experience. But first, I realized I had to get some cash (it was just the restaurant’s second day of operations at the Alabang Town Center, so, cash only!). After two “unable to dispense amount” error messages at the BPI ATM terminals at the one outside Rustan’s Department Store and at the one right in front of Bench™, my sizzling dreams seemed to have been losing steam. Begrudgingly, I dragged my feet to the one on the second level, to the side of the escalator landing, and summoned the powers of my lucky stars to make three times the charm. And the stars conspired when I saw my transactions go through and see all the moolah that was spat out. Hahaha!
With cash on hand, I turned around from the machine and finally, I took the steps that would bring me closer to realizing the yummy steak dreams that had been haunting me for nights on end. I proceeded with really gingerly footwork over the tiled floor, with full consciousness that every step I took was bringing me closer to Corte de las Palmas – that higher-end fashion store and restaurant strip – where the dream’s I’d been having would take a tangible form. My heart was throbbing so much from the excitement that I felt it would tear my chest open.
But before I would have burst an artery, happiness took over at the doorstep of Pepper Lunch. “Happiness”… which at that very moment meant having my place by the counter as I waited for my turn. The personnel who greeted me with a smile so warm it could part clouds on any overcast day, saw my emotion as I was having trouble trying to conceal it. I mumbled beneath a beaming face, “It’s my first time here. And I’m thinking Tokusen Ribe Eye or Shimofuri Pepper steak.” He was very helpful in walking me through my options and later convinced me that the best way to start a Pepper Lunch experience was to take the “Beef Pepper Rice” route – their bestseller, which was also the cheapest on the menu at Php 198.00 a la carte. I started with a terrible hankering for “steak” so I asked that they make mine “Double Beef Pepper Rice!” With miso soup and Sprite, my meal set me back by Php 334.00. The additional “Mixed Pepper Rice” that I ordered later was Php 85.00, and was taken care of by the Staff – they were gracious enough to not let me fall in line at the counter again.
Double Beef Pepper Rice!
I took my place at table# 64 and waited for my “Double Beef Pepper Rice” – I just can’t stop saying it over and over again! I looked around and was amazed by the lovely interiors. Yes, Pepper Lunch may be a “fast” steakhouse but they are not about to sacrifice on the décor. I love the cozy and calming effect the predominantly orange interiors have. And something has to be said about the lamps that hang above each table. Lovely!
A close-up shot of my Double Beef Pepper Rice. It was a challenge to take details photos with all the steam coming out from the food!
In a couple of minutes my order finally arrived and I actually thought my side-swept bangs would frizz as the sizzling plate hits the table. Hahaha! But I couldn’t care less about my hair – not with such a pretty platter staring at me! The first thing I noticed was that a paper ring forts up around the patented sizzling plate. Actually more a quick instructional guide than a fortification for the yummy-ness inside it, the paper ring warns not to touch the plate as it is very hot, while providing steps on how to “cook” the pepper rice.
On the center of the plate lies Japanese rice molded into a mound. On top of it are a generous helping of plump, sweet corn kernels and chopped spring onions. A sharp contrast to the white grain, bright yellow kernels, and deep green shoots is the liberal dusting of black pepper. And next to the steak, it is actually the black pepper – more exactly how Pepper Lunch romanticized it – that has attracted me to the place: “Flavoured with Black Pepper that we prepare every morning using only the outer shell of the peppercorn, which is most fragrant.” The description is enough to make me want to puff myself with their black pepper. Hahaha!
I'll never look at black pepper the same way again... "Flavoured with Black Pepper that we prepare every morning using only the outer shell of the peppercorn, which is most fragrant."
You already know how much of a wannabe chef I am. And with Pepper Lunch’s substantial spoon and fork in hand, I began to mix my Double Beef Pepper Rice. I started by flipping the strips of beef to cook both sides. I loved it that the meat was laced with just the right amount of fat. I want it that way for two things – the flavor it imparts to the dish and the moisture it helps retain. After giving each strip of meat the once over, I zoomed into the rice. I pierced it with the fork and noticed the whiff of steam that gust out. Clearly, the mound shape of the rice caused steam to build up inside, where – again, per the paper ring – butter and sauce lie in the middle. I mixed the rice and the beef together and noticed just how more and more fragrant the dish was becoming.
A closer look at the pepper rice halfway through my mixing.
My mixed pepper rice. Look at those plump, full grains of the Japanese rice! Yummy!
I'm done mixing my Double Beef Pepper Rice! Look at those pretty orange chopsticks. Remember, they are NOT meant to be taken home with you!
I replaced the spoon and fork with Pepper Lunch’s orange chopsticks and ate away. The beef was really tender and was the perfect doneness. It was not yet the “steak cut” yet I didn’t have to struggle – even for a bit – with the meat. The rice was another story altogether. It was so flavorful! The butter and the sauce did a great job in complementing the “fragrant” pungency of the pepper. Even if it posed quite a challenge, I stuck to using the chopsticks as I intended to leisurely savor my first experience. With each digging – almost shoveling – action, I’d get as much rice that I could pile up in a heap. Halfway through, the fact that I hadn’t yet used any of the condiments available tome – save for some more of the peppercorn outer shells – was testament to the right balance of seasoning that had gone to my plate. But since I eventually wanted an as-complete first time as I could, I eventually doused the beef with the “honey brown” sauce and found it to provide the beef a coy sweetness that left my tongue teased and wanting for more with each bite.
Wiped clean! That's my sizzling plate where a Double Beef Pepper Rice once was!
Like a burried treasure, the Pepper Lunch logo lies beneath, at the bottom of the plate. Now that's one sure way to tell you're eating only at the place that knows their steak!
After I had literally wiped my plate clean, I had to pause and ruminate on the filling meal that I just had. Without a doubt, Pepper Lunch is all about the freshest and the best ingredients. I’m not privy to the details of where they get their meat and their rice but one thing’s for sure – they are not about to compromise on the quality of the food that they offer to their adoring public. In times like this, when all people could think about is the “recession,” it would be expected for some restaurants to cut back on cost at the expense of the quality of their food – and ultimately, at the expense of their customers’ satisfaction. But not Pepper Lunch.
And speaking of what they offer, I gave the menu a glance back – this time a wide-sweeping view in cinematic slow motion – and just found myself salivating over the images of the Tokusen Rib Eye Steak (Php 625.00 a la carte) and the Shimofuri Pepper Steak (Php 610.00 a la carte). I made a mental note to come back and try these. I’d be more confident on what to do with them as my initial foray into the world of the sizzling pepper rice – meaning, how to “cook” them table top – was considerably a success. Another mental note I took down was to try some of their desserts. The Vanilla Crepe Cake and the Molten Milk Chocolate Cake just sound so divine to ignore a second time around.
Pepper Lunch - Alabang Town Center's cozy interiors. I love the lamps!
From the counter - a view of the very clean kitchen.
I texted Friendship to let her know about how my first Pepper Lunch experience turned out. “Thank you” was in order since she was the first ever person to tell me about this.
And I just had to text the Justice League and Spidey that I’d be glad to buy them “steak dinner” at Pepper Lunch should all our schedules permit it.
If only all “first times” could be this good that you’d want to tell everybody about it. HAHAHA!
Congratulations to Pepper Lunch - Alabang Town Center!
Do not touch the plate as it is very hot!
Hurry!! Mix them up! - Actually, Pepper Lunch had me at "butter" and "sauce". Hahaha!
Corte de las Palmas
A lot seems to have changed at Alabang Town Center from my last visit. I found Corte de las Palmas to have this illusion of a greater expanse! Good thing Pepper Lunch brought me back!