Pepper Lunch, for Dinner

20 07 2012

This week we had our first seasonably hot day, and it was a killer. Not because the temperature was so high (upper 80s), but because very little around here is air conditioned. When the playground got too hot for playing early in the day, we took shelter in our unairconditioned hotel room. Fans couldn’t help enough, and by the time dinner rolled around, we were desperate for a cool place to sit for a while.

On base, the food court and other fast food places do have A/C, but we were completely disinterested in Taco Bell or Pizza Hut. We wanted something more exciting, something more authentic. But, critically, it had to be airconditioned, which ruled out most local options. So where did we head? To the mall!

Aeon Shimoda Mall is about 20 minutes from us, an easy drive through the country. We piled into the car, blasted cool air, and were on our way. Apparently, the mall is not the place to go on a Wednesday night; we had the place almost too ourselves. We found our way to the food court and were immediately taken with the sizzling hot plates some people were eating from. These came from Pepper Lunch, so I immediately lined up.

Now, I can’t really tell you what I ordered, but I can tell you how I ordered it. The line at Pepper Lunch ends at a vending machine. You put in your money and then press the button corresponding to the items you want to buy. English descriptions were mysterious and/or absent, so I glanced at the (tiny) pictures on the buttons and just chose a few. The machine dispensed food tickets, which I then handed to the woman behind the counter, who bowed and gave me a pager.

Moments later, the pager went off. Food at Pepper Lunch is presented uncooked on a sizzling hot plate (think fajita plate), so service is very fast. As it turned out, we had ordered a dish with thinly sliced beef as well as one featuring ham and cheese. Both were topped with corn and green onion, and both were fantastic! Presentation was lovely, especially for a mall food stand. The hot plates came with little paper shields around them to protect you from grease spatter while cooking.

Once the meat was cooked, we walked back over to the stand to add our sauce. We both chose “spicy,” which was flavorful and not eye-wateringly hot. The overall effect was a nice black pepper bite on very fresh meat and veggies. While I couldn’t tell you exactly what to order, I don’t think you can go too wrong here.





And we’re off!

10 07 2012

I am writing from the airplane, about 4 hours into our mega-long flight, with a bit more than 6 hours to go. It feels so strange — we just passed the edge of Alaska, both farther east and west than we have ever traveled. Buying yen at the airport was also strange, and I am vaguely dreading getting to our hotel tonight — either by exorbitant (no seriously, hundreds of dollars) taxi or a complicated combination of bus and taxi. We will be pulling into one of the top 5 busiest airports in the world. What is that like? How will it feel?

Already on the plane we have had our first taste of Asia. Lunch was barbecue chicken or beef yakinnika (or something Iike that). Both were bad, but it was fun to see the options. The actual winner was B’s kids meal featuring hot dog, apple sauce, and cookie. Might have helped her out a bit with the hot dog, but she ate all the applesauce herself.

While she napped, I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I recommend it. It is a small movie, but satisfying and surprising. Mostly, the words of hotel manager Sonny ring in my head — “Everything is alright in the end, and if it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end.” A good motto for a new adventure.