Just another night at the mall with the camera-shy Batman!
THE LINE became so quiet that I thought we got cut. “St. Francis?” the person on the other end of the line asked, not a hint of exasperation was even detectable. “I thought you said Shangri-La Plaza?” he continued. It was one of those moments that allowed me only a few minutes to look up in the sky and scratch my head, freezing me exactly where I was standing. Which, in this case, was right smack halfway through crossing from SM Megamall Building A to St. Francis Square.
The text message that I thought the Caped Crusader didn't answer... causing all the confusion.
“But you didn’t text me back if it was ok with you!” I attempted to protest, while I scrambled on checking in my other cellphone if I unwittingly marked as read his response. I heaved a sigh of relief when the contents of my inbox – at least the most recent 20 of 2389 messages – acquitted me on any impending charges of gross dedma. Calmly, I asked for a new set of directions as my current predicament disoriented me big time.
Before long – and with beads of perspiration forming at my temples – I found myself within the round enclosure of the mall’s grand revolving door, right between the panels that have the newly opened Penguin® Munsingwear’s ad on the door’s central shaft. I dialled my friend’s number and before I could even finish describing – in sooo many words – where I was standing, I turned around and he was there.
Finally, after quite a while, Batman the Caped Crusader in person!
Yes, it has been a while since I last met up with one of my bestest superhero friends. I was all too excited, especially since his schedule has been so swamped (that’s an understatement there!) eversince his MBA program at the country’s foremost university went full swing. For last night’s dinner plans, he was just so willing to oblige to make it a Pepper Lunch dinner per my request. You know how much I (heart) Pepper Lunch. But this particular trip was all because of their new DIY Pasta Bolognese with Grilled Sausage.
The very spacious Pepper Lunch branch at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall.
And since Batman hasn’t been to Pepper Lunch, I just felt that it was my duty to introduce him to one of the most pioneering and best casual dining options ever to be made available to the discriminating Filipino palate.
The predominantly orange-hued interiors of Pepper Lunch. I'm so loving all the lamps (chandeliers). They kind of remind me of this all-stainless-steel-and-orange Alessi wristwatch I love!
Batman said he was a little full – he doesn’t usually have rice in the evenings – so he initially just asked for the Chicken Teriyaki Rice and kept repeating: “Pwede ba walang rice? Pwede ba walang rice?” (Can I have it without rice?) that I almost felt he was reciting a mantra. While I was kind of happy that he didn’t take the usual Beef Pepper Rice route, I was really kind of hoping he’d opt for either Tokusen or Shimofuri Pepper Steak. I wanted his initiation to Pepper Lunch to be quite the experience.
Batman perusing the menu. I waited patiently on the side, keeping my fingers crossed that he would zoom in on the Tokusen or Shimofuri Steak!... Then he said Chicken Teriyaki Rice!
After extolling the virtues of excellently marbled Shimofuri Pepper Steak – and yapping at his ear to no end – he finally allowed to be egged on trying this instead of his previous chicken teriyaki preference. But not without again saying, “Pwede walang rice?” (Can I have it without rice?). As I would almost always have my way when it comes to food, I just asked our very pleasant order-taker Joan to keep the rice, even requesting it to be turned into Mixed Pepper Rice. I wagered with myself that Batman would clean up his bowl of rice in no time. And as for myself, I asked for what I came there for – the Pasta Bolognese with Grilled Sausage!
Our dinner bill total. So worth it!
The receipt for our dinner
For those not as ardent a lover of Pepper as I am, you have an option! But then again, Pepper Lunch uses only the outermost shell that is most fragrant... what's not to love?!
They (Joan, Aisa & Jhon) sent all the wonderful food to us at Table# 52!
I thought it was only the rice that was to be the subject of Batman’s skepticism. But the very moment the hot plate landed on our table – Table# 52 – he just had to ask, “Is that butter?” pointing to the beige colored floret of cream sitting on top of the succulent fresh meat. He was setting it aside, and I let him to, but not without appealing for him to reconsider basting his sizzling steak with Pepper Lunch’s secret creamy butter. I thought I made my puppy face while I pleaded so he did reconsider.
Batman's Shimofuri Pepper Steak! Yes, that's him setting aside the wonderful butter. He did reconsider spreading it on his pepper steak. Good call!
With his first bite, I could tell that an overwhelming wave of satisfaction had taken over Batman’s being. Okay, that may be a stretch. Hahaha! Suffice it to say, he just immediately flashed his beaming smile, peppering his reaction with one-liners in the vernacular: “Sarap! Sarap!” and “Lambot! Lambot!” (“Delicious!” and “Really tender!”). As he enjoyed his dinner, I pulled closer the condiment cluster and introduced Batman to Honey Brown Sauce. Slowly, I saw his spoon inching closer to the bowl of the magical mixed pepper rice. He’d scoop a little at a time, reminding me from time to time that half of it was mine. After he bridged the demarcation line he had just set on the surface of the perfectly cooked and perfectly stained Japanese rice, he sheepishly glanced at me, probably waiting for me to quip, “I told you you’d love it!”
And he did. He did clean his bowl and plate, as I had predicted. (Save for the bean sprouts which he left for me to enjoy!). And he loved the meat for its innate goodness. He hardly used the honey brown sauce.
My DIY Pasta Bolognese with Grilled Sausage. Such a steal at Php 285.00!
A close shot of my pasta and sausage dish. Notice how truly "Bolognese" the sauce is! That's top quality beef!
The Pasta Bolognese with Grilled Sausage that I had was such a treat. A huge departure from how I usually have my pasta – in terms of two areas. First, I’m partial to purely tomato sauce, as in coarsely chopped fresh roma tomatoes that I would blanch, peel, seed, and cook myself. And to perfect this sauce, all I would need are crushed red pepper flakes, slivered garlic, a little salt, lots of freshly torn basil leaves, and even more freshly grated or shaved parmesan cheese. DEFINITELY NO MEAT. Second, I have never served my pasta on a sizzling hot plate. (Duh, I don’t have Pepper Lunch’s patented hot plates. Hahaha!).
They win plus points for the lovely presentation. Notice the specks of herbs in the sausage. "Mas masarap pag real!" Hahaha!
I thoroughly enjoyed my pasta dish! Given that it was nestled on a hot plate, I couldn’t figure anything else Japanese about it. It was as Italian as Italian could get. The spaghetti was al dente, which caught me by surprise given that the dish was sitting on something that was heated up to well beyond 200OC. The bolognese looked and tasted authentic. I mean, true to the original sauce that came from Bologna, Italy, Pepper Lunch’s version was more “meat” than “tomato” sauce. It was as if they ground up my steak and put it on top of pasta! I loved it though that I could pick out from the sauce the actual bits of fresh tomatoes. But clearly, the star of the generously sized dish – quite a steal at Php 285.00! – was the highest quality beef that Pepper Lunch has built its reputation on. And the grilled sausage was good too. I just let Batman have most of it as he undoubtedly favored the highly seasoned minced meat, full of real smokey goodness.
The really super affordable price belies the goodness of this molten chocolate cake a la mode!
We capped off our leisurely paced dinner with the Molten Chocolate Cake a la Mode. I had Batman stab the top of the cocoa powder-dusted confection to let out the warm, smooth chocolate ganache. All of my superhero best friend’s allusion to being already full vanished in thin air from when the chocolate and ice cream delight first gave him a delicious smack.
Pepper Lunch's Molten Chocolate Cake!
Did I say dessert was a la mode?!
I had Batman stab the cake with his spoon. Look at that generously cocoa powder-dusted cake top!
You should've seen in person when this warm chocolate goodness cascaded down the cake!
We let the the ice cream melt on the molten chocolate cake. This has got to be the best gooey treat I've had of late. Pepper Lunch sure is proud of their dessert selection!
Long after dinner was over and well within the stroll in the mall and the “window-shopping” that ensued, we continued catching up on and with each other’s latest goings on – both the good and not-so-good. We promised to tick another date on our calendars to pick up where we later left off. There were just so much to cover! And last night was short.
A surprise gift from Batman!
Hopefully by the next dinner, I will have finished the book that he gifted me with last night – “Outliers – The Story Of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.
I can't wait to devour this! It comes highly recommended by Batman!
Edit: Here’s a response for the Mr. J. van Straten… I don’t remember smiling or winking (hahaha!), but I guess my excitement when placing my order for the “new” pasta dish was so apparent that your friendly and pleasing counter staff turned a signage to show me this:
Pepper Lunch's new offerings. I... CAN'T... WAIT!