In case you’ve missed it, Malaysian chain PappaRich has finally opened its doors in Perth.
We arrived at approximately 12:05pm on Saturday. We expected a wait. The queue was long – alarmingly long, by Perth standards – forcing a few ahead of us, and probably more behind us, to shake their heads and say ‘no more’.
I smiled (an annoying, knowing smile, I’m sure), because it reminded me a lot of our visit to Sydney’s much loved Malaysian food destination, Mamak. Lines around the block around their locations are just what you do, and though frustrating, make an excellent hunger-inducing activity.
But we were relieved to find that the wait wasn’t nearly as long as expected (only 35 minutes), and no naps were required for either of us.
The ordering system at PappaRich is simple, and takes ordering anxiety out of the equation with ‘chits'; ordering slips that you use to mark your table number, dishes and quantities on, before passing it on to your friendly wait person – summoned to your table via table bell.
The extensive menu had us both entranced for a good five minutes or so, but we eventually settled on a number of dishes. And when I say ‘a number’, I’m kind of horrified that we ordered that much food.
Between two people.
We did it for science – i.e. this blog, which seems to be a pretty common excuse ’round these parts.
My three layer tea (Teh C special, iced – $$4.50) was the first to arrive, starting from the bottom with a layer of gula melaka (palm sugar syrup), evaporated milk and topped finally with chilled teh tarik over ice cubes. I’m a big teh tarik fan at the best of times, but when this beauty’s on the menu, you can bet I’m going to order it, as that layer of sweet caramelly palm sugar makes an already great beverage even better.
J opted for a classic with a twist – iced soya milk with pudding ($4.90), which came with a snowy cap of whipped cream and a drizzle of more of the good stuff (gula melaka!). I didn’t get the appeal, but it got his seal of approval. I still don’t understand it, but then, pudding is J’s favourite bubble tea (boba) add-on, so I guess it makes sense.
The food started to arrive quickly, with the first, and probably the most worrying choice of the day: Pappa deep fried chicken skin ($6.90).
As the name suggests, this is indeed a plate of seasoned deep fried chicken skin, and not much else. Well, also sweet chili sauce.
The mere sight of this dish made my heart flutter a little. Perhaps in sympathy for my arteries.
Crunchy, chickeny and just a bit spicy (dusted with some turmeric before frying, I think), this plate of skin could be just your thing. Or your idea of hell.
I honestly thought I’d love it more, being an avid skin-on person where chicken’s concerned. It was good. But I think I could do without it. And the associated feelings of self-doubt and dietary guilt.
When there’s Nasi Lemak ($13.90) on the menu, I’m ordering it.
PappaRich actually offers several options, from the basic fried chicken or curry chicken accompaniment to the ritzy ‘two dish’ option, that comes upgraded with chicken curry and prawn sambal.
I’m always going to choose the classic fried chicken option, as I don’t really like the added curry masking the flavour of the coconut rice or sambal that comes as standard with the dish.
The chicken offered here is dusted in curry powder before frying, so it’s a little spicy but still mild. The classic Nasi Lemak side dishes, sliced cucumber, boiled egg, fried anchovies (Ikan Bilis), fried peanuts and sambal blachan are also included.
The sambal here had a decent chili kick, but I personally found it a little on the sweet side. I’d have preferred a bit more savoury umaminess from the toasted blachan (shrimp paste).
J just couldn’t stop himself from ordering some steamed mantou with kaya ($4.90). Think of the steamed buns as a vessel for thick yellow slabs of butter and generous schemers of kaya (a sort of custard-like coconut and egg “jam”). They’re really the stars of the show.
We split a mixed serve of satay ($13.90), which looked like one of the most popular dishes that day. Three sticks of chicken and three sticks of beef are served with the classic partners – cucumber, red onion and peanut sauce.
Both the chicken and beef were nicely tender, but I think they could have been grilled a little longer for that great taste you only get from charcoal grilled food.
The peanut sauce wasn’t particularly spicy and would be easily managed by most people. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of peanut taste. It looked like it had been cooked with a lot of onion, which bulks out the sauce once it’s blended. Like the sambal that came with my Nasi Lemak, it was also a little sweeter than I’d usually prefer.
The roti canai was right on the mark with a light and silky interior and crispy, flaky crust. Served with chicken curry, a small ladleful of dhal and another of sambal to amp up the heat, this was probably my favourite dish of the day.
If you eat it with your fingers (in true Malaysian style) and close your eyes, for a minute, you might just forget you’re in the middle of Northbridge, and the memory of the wait to get inside will have all but disappeared.
At the time of publishing this post, the Northbridge store is the only PappaRich outlet in WA. But hold on to your hats, because there’s another store opening soon in Carousel – Shop 1173, 1382 Albany Hwy, Cannington.
The opening date is still to be advised.