Ground floor, North Quarter, Canberra Centre, Bunda Street Canberra, ACT 2601
|Opening hours||Sun-Thu 11.30am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11.30am-11pm|
|Features||Family friendly, Wheelchair access, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 6230 4929|
I will never forget my first taste of real Malaysian food. The huge, vibrant flavours, the fantastic combinations of salty and sweet were a revelation. The whole eating experience was loud and generous and jammed full of blow-your-head-off flavours.
For an Anglo-Celt like me, it was more than exotic.
So it was with high hopes that I approached PappaRich Malaysian Delights, a newcomer in Canberra, and part of the highly successful Malaysian-borne chain established in Kuala Lumpur in 2005.
It ticks all the boxes as you approach: there's a queue, lots of noisy eating and the smells that come out are just right.
But before you get a feed you have to work out the system for sitting and eating. They don't take bookings and are very busy, so a wait is likely. The process is detailed in a long wall memo, but basically you get allocated a number, wait your turn, and, no, you cannot leave a phone number and go and have a drink. The tables turn over pretty quickly, so after a little wait a seat is found.
By this time you have been browsing the very visual menu for a while, so choices have been made.
Pencils and strips of paper are required next, as you fill in your own order template, a bit like a card at the TAB, except you get something back for your money. When you are ready you push a button on the table, which prompts a rather nasty buzz, and a waitress comes and takes the order. After a while you stop hearing it, but if you're after a quiet dinner this is certainly not the place for you.
The (non-alcoholic) drinks list is a feature, and fabulous glass mugs of sweet Ribena Melon, Mango Mania and freshly squeezed watermelon juice soon arrive to take the edge off the fiery food to come. Packed with fruit, they are as much a dessert as a drink.
If you after something a little stronger, you will have to wait - there is no licence at PappaRich, nor a BYO arrangement.
Sharing food is a good idea here but not mandatory and we order widely. We opt for soup - Pappa prawn mee ($12.90), roti chanai with curry chicken ($12.50), satay beef (six pieces $13.90) and a special nasi lemak ($14.90) - a kind of Malaysian antipasto, with bits of this and that.
The roti is fluffy and multilayered as it should be, and much lighter than the Indian breads - like naan - that do the same sopping up job in that cuisine. As is the case with many Malaysian dishes, it is also slightly sweet.
The chicken curry that accompanies it is fall-apart tender, with skin still on for extra richness, and a deeply flavoured coconut gravy. A lightly curried vegetable dish accompanies the chicken and is mild and pleasant.
Prawn mee is less feisty than its cousin the curry laksa, which Canberrans are more familiar with, but comes with chilli for adding if you like. The vegetables and noodles are clean and fresh, and the prawns are of decent, if not startling, quality.
Nasi lemak has a little of everything and is the perfect one-person meal. A mound of rice sits at the centre, surrounded by a good half boiled egg, more chicken curry, a little mound of crunchy peanuts, some cucumber slices and fantastic sambal anchovies - tiny, crunchy, hot and savoury - they elevate the whole dish to greatness.
There are some dishes you probably need to grow up with, like very, very soft boiled eggs with great white slabs of steamed Hainan bread. That said, our six-year-old gobbled hers up with glee.
Beef satay is properly marinated and grilled, making it tender and flavoursome, with decent peanut sauce and the usual cucumber and onion bits.
The open kitchen is interesting, but there's more then enough bustle in this place to keep you entertained.
Service here is friendly but minimal, as the style and prices dictate.
In the end PappaRich delivers a fresh and feisty meal that does justice to the strident culinary heritage from which it grows. And it reminds me just how great a properly prepared Malaysian meal, bursting with flavour and contrast, can be.