Pepper Lunch time! Pepper Lunch has been sitting in my ‘to-eat’ list ever since JT and I first walked past the franchise in Sydney. So I was quite enthusiastic to hear that a Pepper Lunch had opened on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.
Address: Pepper Lunch, 309-311 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, Vic, 3000
Monday - Sunday: Lunch and Dinner
Pepper Lunch is a Japanese fast food chain, so be prepared to order at a counter and to find your own seat. We had considered what to order from the menu outside before entering, so we placed or orders at the counter quickly and found a place to sit. There are plenty of seats. However, the seating arrangement can get quite cramped and depending on the day of the week the placeAlthough the place wasn’t full when we had dinner, the dining area was still really loud - noise seemed to bounce of the walls and it’s near-impossible to pull out a chair without making it clatter. Definitely not a place to visit if you’re after some ambiance.
With the strong smell of cooking from hotplates all around us, the delicious aromas was already working their way onto our clothes, hair and really helped work up an appetite. Luckily, it wasn’t long before someone came to our table with our meal.
One of the main novelties for eating at Pepper Lunch is that your meal is served on a hotplate at 220 degrees celsius, which means your meal is served to be cooked right in front of you! Be careful with the hotplate though, and mindful that your meal will be piping hot! There was a piece of paper around my hotplate warning me about the temperature and advising me to taste my meal first before adding any extra sauce.
I think the Pepper Rice with Salmon was flavoursome enough without any extra sauce. Out of curiosity I tried the sauces available; a choice of the honey brown sauce (Amakuchi) or the garlic soy sauce (karakuchi). The garlic soy sauce required a bit of a shake to mix the sauce. Both sauces were really flavoursome and worth a try. A word of warning - the sauces pour out easily, so be careful of pouring out more than you need. I certainly took a more cautious approach when adding my condiments. There’s nothing worse than self-applied sauce overpowering and ruining a dish.
JT’s J-Curry with Beef Hamburger tasted just like a standard Japanese curry, and the patty for the beef hamburger was better than expected. I think one of the issues with eating with a hotplate is that your meal keeps cooking as you eat, so if you’re a slow eater your meal is likely to overcook as you eat. Perhaps placing your meat on the top of the rice, may save the meat from overcooking? We’re yet to test that theory though.
Certainly the prices at Pepper Lunch seem quite affordable, but I felt like my money went towards paying for a large serving of rice. If I had to compare, in terms of prices, I feel like my money may be better spent on a Korean stone bowl bibimbap instead - more toppings, delicious flavour and you can still get that a crispy-rice effect. That said, the flavours of a bibimbap and a dish from Pepper Lunch are quite different. I guess if I’m ever craving for peppery rice on a hotplate - Pepper Lunch will always be an option.