|Popular: Pepper Lunch Express, a teppanyaki restaurant at the food court at Diamond Plaza shopping mall in HCM City.
Fast-food chain Pepper Lunch specialises in a style of Japanese cuisine that uses a teppan pan (iron plate) to cook food at your table, Phuong Mai reports from a HCM City mall.
HCM City, one of the more popular destinations is Southeast Asia, attracts four million tourists each year, many of whom come to sample the wide variety of food for which Viet Nam is justly famous.
In recent years, the city's food scene has exploded. From high-end to low-end, restaurants offer both local and international specialities that suit the tastes of tourists and locals alike.
For those on a budget or short on time, food courts at shopping malls have become popular, both for their convenience and reasonable prices.
Small shops at Diamond Plaza, the city's first modern shopping mall that opened in 1999, sell food and beverages at prices ranging from VND50,000 ($2.30) to VND150,000 (US$7) per dish.
|Filler: Beef pepper rice, the least expensive dish on the menu, consists of white rice, Australian beef, black pepper, corn, green onion and butter.
Located close to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Municipal Post Office, the shopping centre's fourth-floor food court is a welcome respite from the heat or rain, and a pleasant rest-stop for weary feet.
Its 15 shops offer Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Italian, and American food.
The fast-food chain Pepper Lunch Express specialises in Japanese teppanyaki, with 16 dishes, including steak, pasta, curry rice and its signature pepper rice, ranging from VND88,000 ($4) to VND168,000 ($7.7).
Although it serves a variety of meat dishes, many customers appear to prefer the beef pepper rice dish at VND88,000.
The dish, which arrives at your table on an iron plate where it continues to cook, also contains maize and green onion. The butter hidden in the mound of white rice adds a rich flavour, as does the restaurant's signature honey brown sauce.
|Make it your own: A young diner mixes her dish to suit her taste. — VNS Photos by Phuong Mai
The maize is deliciously sweet while the beef, imported from Australia, is tender and juicy. The iron plate on which the dish is served helps to keep the food hot.
Apart from beef, the restaurant also has chicken and salmon dishes, including curry chicken pepper rice with cheese. Maize, green onion and cheese and the ever-present black pepper (for which the restaurant is named) contrast with the brown colour of the rice. The curry adds spice and fragrance.
Address: Diamond Plaza, food court, fourth floor, 34 Le Duan Street, District 1, HCM City
Tel: (08) 62515669
Hours: 9am - 10pm
Comment: Delicious steak dishes served on hot iron plates. Affordable prices.
The main dish is accompanied by a bowl of miso soup. With such generous portions, the meal is more than enough for adults. But side dishes maize, cheese, fried egg or miso soup can also be ordered, priced from VND8,000-15,000 (40-70 cents).
Also on offer are steak dishes such as pepper steak and double Hamburg steak, a Japanese speciality, at VND208,000 ($10) and VND143,000 ($6.50), respectively. They are also served with side dishes of rice and miso soup.
Rounding out the menu are Japanese classics such as beef sukiyaki, BBQ beef yakiniku with egg, teriyaki pepper chicken, and teriyaki double salmon from VND138,000-168,000 ($6.30-7.70) per dish.
For drinks, green tea and mineral water are only VND15,000 ($70 cents).
With its reasonable prices and hearty portions, as well as quick service, Pepper Lunch Express has deservedly become one of Diamond Plaza's most popular food shops. — VNS