PappaRich is a franchise serving up Malaysian classics across Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and very recently, Auckland. The first New Zealand store was promised for months on social media (I know because I was waiting patiently) and their loyal expat fans were insistent, verging on enraged that their beloved store opening was delayed. I think some people would have rammed the doors down if they thought it would get them a PappaRich meal earlier.
Set on Level 1 of the SkyCity Metro complex (aka “IMAX”) on Queen Street in the city, this is a full size restaurant with all the furnishings and bright lighting you might expect from an international franchise.
After soft opening for a couple of weeks, I was invited to the official opening a few weeks back where my sister and I, and others including bloggers Cecilia from Ultimate OmNoms and Sheena from As Told By Sheena.
I was born in Hong Kong but grew up in New Zealand and I grew up eating Chinese/Malaysian food. So much to the point that I assumed it was Cantonese food until I was old enough to realise the difference. There are flavours and dishes that overlap and that makes sense since Malaysian is a melting pot of cuisines. Hainanese Chicken Rice (also called Hainan Chicken Rice) was (and still is) an all time favourite of mine and dishes like Mee Goreng and Nasi Goreng were on the menu at our family-run take aways.
There was a small Malaysian population in Rotorua in the late 80’s where I grew up. I distinctly remember as a kid of age 7 or 8 requesting that a Malaysian chef serve me Hainanese Chicken Rice…much to the amusement of the adults. I didn’t think it was funny. It was my favourite.
Hainanese Chicken Rice is silky smooth chicken, poached gently and served alongside a fragrant rice which is cooked with chicken fat and stock. A chili sauce both garlicky and vinegary is served on the side. If you’re lucky, you also get a bowl of chicken broth to further savour that chicken flavour. For me, the rice is the star of the dish, if you try this dish make sure you taste the rice on it’s own.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about PappaRich.
For those unfamiliar with Malaysian food, there’s lots of seafood, chicken, a little beef, a little mutton, some vegetarian options and a distinct lack of pork as over 60% Malaysians practice Islam. There’s rice, noodles, roti and a super thick, soft, white bread which you can’t get here and expats go crazy over. Malaysian sweets are exotic to the kiwi palate. They aren’t as sweet and are often a play on textures and temperatures so make sure you save some room for dessert if you would like a little foreign adventure.
The food at PappaRich isn’t considered fancy but common everyday Malaysian classics and the prices are reasonable to match. Expensive by hawker standards but cheap by Auckland dining out standards. All mains are well under $20 with sides, drinks and desserts for those with big eyes. Expect to pay $20 to $30 per person and come away very full. Take away boxes can be requested for those who have over ordered. The menu can be overwhelming so if you can, take an expert or do a little research online before you go. Failing that, there are handy photos in the menu which can be great for selecting and to avoid surprises.
We ordered our choice of drinks (which come in handled pint glasses) and then a range of dishes were brought out for us to try. Sharing a whole bunch of dishes is the best way to tackle a new restaurant don’t you think?
We tried curries, noodle dishes and other things until it all sort of blurred into one. There was more food than our tables could bear and we had to have tiered plates so that we could stack the feast. There was so much food I regret that I didn’t get round to trying everything and we were even encouraged to take leftovers home (much to The Koala’s delight).
Of the dishes that I tried, my favourites were the Crispy fried chicken skin, Tandoori chicken leg and the curries with various types of roti. There was a sweet roti that was crazy good with spicy curry. I don’t know why I’ve never had sweet roti with spicy curry before but it’s very addictive. All the roti was very good, some places really fall flat with their roti, but not at PappaRich. The chicken skin was crunchy, tasty and not at all greasy like you might expect. Right up my alley actually, though I got to the point that I begged the others to take the plate away from me. It was just too delicious and I didn’t want to fill up just on chicken skin. They should do smaller portions of chicken skin, for those of us who just want to sin a little without the responsibility or guilt of a whole plate of deep fried gluttony.
Their version of Hainan Chicken rice wasn’t to my liking, a major deal breaker for me was that they served chicken breast. It’s possible that you can request thigh meat as many Asian cuisines prefer thigh to breast. Breast is a healthier option though and I’m sure there are many who prefer breast to thigh. I’m just not one of those people. The accompanying bean sprouts were delicious. I think I polished off the lot.
The PappaRich drinks menu is HUGE and with more than 40 choices, it can be a bit daunting. I always loved ice lemon tea when we traveled through Malaysia a few years back so I had to try their version. Delicious. But next time I’m going to try the Milo Dino and judging from one of the young experts at our table, you should too. A Milo Dino, for the uninitiated (don’t worry, it was new to me too) is a Milo drink served on ice with more Milo added on top.
After we had eaten, loud drumming could be heard and we were shepherded out to enjoy the traditional Chinese lion dance which is usually performed at Chinese New Year, religious festivals and events such as business openings.
The lion dance was loud, energetic, humorous and 50 shades of wonderful. I was completely mesmerised and it made me immediately try to figure out a reason why I too, needed a lion costume.
Since my visit, I tried to go back with The Koala but the queue was insane so we flagged it. I could have queued for my dinner, but The Koala wasn’t so keen. Considering their popularity, they don’t really have a good space for waiting for a table. I hope to go back but I don’t have the brand loyalty or nostalgic homeland pull other diners might have to queue for a laksa. Maybe I’ll pick a weird time where others won’t be dining though by the looks of it, if their Instagram location tag is anything to go by, they are busy all the time and will continue on being busy. A great central location, I can see this being a great place for a cheap bite before or after a movie, maybe after rather than before if the queues are anything to go by.
Disclaimer: We dined as guests of PappaRich.
PappaRich Level 1, SkyCity Metro Complex, Queen Street, Auckland, New Zealand