Cafe PappaRich is a recent addition to LA Koreatown’s dining scene, serving Malaysian fare, alongside signature baked “roti” pastry buns. It’s actually the first American location of a Malaysian restaurant chain by the same name (papparich.com.my). If anybody knows me, Southeast Asian food is my favorite, so I was excited to try this place out.
PappaRich is located in an oddly elongated strip mall that actually doesn’t face the street. Luckily, parking isn’t valet only, like most places, and isn’t too terrible provided you go off-hours.
Cafe PappaRich actually fronts a K-town nightclub called Vibe. In fact, the kitchen bleeds into the club, and the cafe’s restrooms are deep in the club. The waiters are, perhaps appropriately, young and energetic.
The restaurant is almost entirely glass-paneled, making it feel like an intensely bright green house at times. I suppose it gets better with nightfall.
We were also encouraged to hear a group of what sounded like Singaporean expats (judging from their accents) dining here and ended up ordering a handful of dishes.
I like simple, clean menus. And PappaRich’s is, for the most part, decipherable. Pretty staged photos accompany the menu’s text, for those unfamiliar with Malaysian cuisine. True to its Malaysian roots, I didn’t spot any pork entrees. Like its Muslim neighbor Indonesia, Malaysia is predominantly Muslim, so pork is typically only found in Chinese Malaysian restaurants.
First came the chicken satay, skewered pieces of grilled chicken with a sweet peanut dipping sauce. Okay, but I’ve had better. The presentation was nice, but then again, I’m a sucker for anything served on banana or pandan leaves. I was disappointed there weren’t more sticks.
Next came the roti canai (aka prata), a buttery Indian flatbread that has so many layers that we Burmese have nicknamed it “hundred layers” (ထပ်တရာ). We got one flatbread and a side of potato curry. The roti canai is torn into smaller pieces and dipped into the curry sauce. The flatbread was definitely on the thin side, especially noticeable when I tore of bits with my hand. Disappointing.
PappaRich’s rice plates use an interesting add-on scheme. Taking its cue from the traditional nasi lemak, which comes with a mound of rice, a curry, and a variety of side dishes, Rice plates are customizable (from the kind of rice to the included sides and entree), and each component of the rice plate is paid for separately.
We got the curry ayam, a chicken curry cooked in coconut milk and spices, alongside biryani rice (a long grained rice cooked with spices and turmeric) and the usual sides. I enjoyed the chicken curry (succulent and mildly spicy) and the variety of flavors in the plate, but the portions left me wanting more.
Lastly we got the curry laksa, which is probably Malaysia’s and Singapore’s most famous noodle soup dishes. It’s a coconut milk based soup: creamy and spicy, all at the same time.
Sadly, PappaRich’s was more noodle than soup. Served with yellow egg noodles, a bunch of toppings like fried tofu, bean sprouts and fish balls, were heaped on top of a miniscule amount of soup. Way to go. I had been eagerly looking forward to heartily slurping the noodles down. The soup, what little was there, did bring me back to Kuala Lumpur. Almost.
Despite some disappointments, I think Cafe PappaRich is a nice addition to K-Town. There aren’t enough Malaysian restaurants in all of Los Angeles. It’s just the beginning. Hopefully PappaRich’s successes lure other Malaysian chains to the States.🙂
721 S Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90005