I had never tried Pepper Lunch, but at our tasting for Teppan Kitchen through ChineseBites, there were plenty of comparisons being made. However, since I hadn’t been, this was not a concern for me at all. We were slated to try 9 dishes in total, so I made sure to come hungry!
First of all, let me say that this isn't a proper restaurant. It's a food court stall in the Harbour Centre, catering to the Simon Fraser University students and other office workers nearby. The deal is to get the food out, fast, hot and good. No real extra points added for presentation or customer service.
Our first dish was the Citrus Grilled Pork Cheek Teppan Rice (added cheese + egg), which was a novelty to be, because although I’ve had fried egg in rice (and on pasta and pizza) before, I had never had cheese in my rice before. I was hesitant but was shockingly surprised. I actually really like this…the cheese and the egg gave the sauce a creaminess that I hadn’t experienced before. It is definitely a heavy dish, but if you’re a student looking for sustenance, this fits the bill!
Second up was the Hainanese Chicken with Rice. Now this dish is loaded with memories for me, as I remember having this dish as a kid in HK. The chicken always was moist and the rice had a nice oiliness to it that the rice my mom made (at home) never did. Now I know it’s fat that makes the rice so good, but I don’t care. The chicken was really tender and the plentiful chilli and ginger-green onion sauces were great too. Unfortunately, the rice was a bit overcooked, probably due to the fact that they had to cook it in a big batch. I would recommend using long-grain rice for this dish to maintain the integrity of the grains. (since it wasn’t served “teppan style” anyways).
And then we had the 'A' Grade Rib Eye Beef Teppan Rice (added cheese + egg). The beef in this dish was a bit tougher than the pork but mostly, the dishes were quite similar. There was a bit more pepper on this dish, but otherwise, it was interchangeable for me.
Ok, we're a third way through! The fourth dish wasn't a rice at all, but rather, we had the Seafood Linguine with Tomato Sauce. Now this was unexpected. There were loads of baby scallops in the dish, and the pasta was perfectly al dente. I also liked that there was enough sauce to go around everything.
Our fifth dish was back to rice, but not a teppan dish, rather, it was the Curry Beef Brisket with Rice. I will be the first to admit that I’m not a curry fan, but out of all nine dishes we tried, this is the one that I had seconds (or thirds) of. The beef brisket was so tender and the rice was just a perfect complement to the whole dish. I surprised myself by how much I really liked this dish.
The sixth dish went the noodle route again, with a westernized version of Wok Fried Udon with Chicken & Spicy Sausage. Now, if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese udon dish, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for something packed with flavours in an American style, then, you’re in for a treat. However, beware, this baby is spicy!
Ok, time for another break...rounding up the last third. We had another pasta dish with their Smoked Salmon Linguine with Citrus Cream Sauce. Okay, I have to be honest, this was not one of my faves. It was creamy and just a bit too rich for me. Perhaps because we already had seven dishes. However, I have to say that I found it a bit too salty as well.
The next was an interesting blend of Western flavours and Asian ingredients. Have you ever tried Beef Bolognese Rice with Corn & Egg? Well, I admit I probably have, in a desperate attempt at remaking them as bastardized leftovers. The combination was actually really pleasant, almost validating the midnight snacks I used to make. For some reason, the sauce on this came off a bit sour though.
And finally, the finisher was the Seafood Laksa Noodle Soup, with a mix of noodles and udon. The dish definitely had some of my faves. I really liked how it was loaded with seafood such as shrimp and fish balls. But the refreshing bean sprouts and tofu were appreciated too. What really surprised me was the blend of rice noodles and udon…I did not expect that, and despite my initial misgivings, I actually enjoyed the mixture of textures.
This is a great place to grab a quick made-to-order meal. Priced right for students and office workers alike. And there's enough variety of flavours for everyone.