REVIEW BY MAY-LEE WONG
Review by May-Lee Wong.
Yesterday a friend asked me to sum up my recent experience of PappaRich, a newly imported Malaysian restaurant chain that has set up its first restaurant in the Sky World (formerly SkyCity Metro) building on Queen Street. This made me recall a recent article in the New Zealand Herald describing PappaRich as the “Denny’s of Malaysia”, a rather dubious title and backhanded compliment. I would better describe PappaRich as fast, accessible, affordable Malaysian food, not dumbed down for Kiwi tastes.
Sure, the menu is rather lengthy and is itemised with an alphabetical-numerical coding system, and also laminated, but what Asian restaurant’s isn’t?
Most of my extended family hail from Malaysia and over the years I have made many a trip to Malaysia; a particular highlight was eating at the coffee houses or ‘kopitiam’ as they call them, which offered everything from kaya toast slathered with slabs of butter to beef rendang, nasi lemak, and of course a kopi (Malaysian style coffee sweetened with condensed milk) or teh tarik (‘pulled tea’) to wash it all down with. And PappaRich is just that.
All the usual suspects are there, and of them Walker and I painstakingly narrowed our selection down to the roti canai ($8.50), Papa special nasi lemak with curry chicken and sambal prawns ($17.90) and for Walker’s benefit the Hainan steamed bread with butter and kaya ($5.90).
Kaya jam is probably something the average Joe off the street would not order unless they’ve tasted it before or been told otherwise. It is an aromatic spread made from coconut cream and milk, eggs, sugar and the juice of the pandan leaf, a curd of sorts. PappaRich’s came piped on the side in a wasabi-esque fashion with a thin slab of butter to spread onto our fluffy white bread (I prefer eating kaya on toast but this wasn’t available at the time). It’s rich, fragrant, and comforting. If you’ve yet to try it, well now you’ve been told.
The roti canai was a good exemplar of this signature fried and flaky pastry-esque bread, which arrived crisp and almost too hot to touch, on a utilitarian steel plate with portions of cumin-spiked coconut chutney, curry chicken gravy and sambal to accompany it. As I tucked into this dish I thought how good this would be at 3am on a Sunday morning after a night out, and what a shame that PappaRich closes at the early hour of 9pm.
Our final dish, the Pappa special nasi lemak, was the indecisive man’s delight. With a portion of juicy, perfectly cooked sambal prawns in one corner and succulent chicken curry in the other, we took great pleasure in chopping and changing between the two. Nasi lemak (which literally translates to ‘fat rice’) also comes with fragrant coconut rice, tiny crispy anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, slices of cooling cucumber and a hard-boiled egg. The overall effect is a dish that is many things: hot and tangy; crispy and salty; refreshing and soothing. The ubiquitous sambal in both the roti canai and nasi lemak had a good amount of heat to it, which got a gentle sweat going (as it should).
PappaRich is worth a visit if you’re in the city for it’s breadth of relatively authentic Malaysian dishes. It’s comfort food for the homesick, and just delicious for everyone else.