Critics of McDonald's sometimes claim that its hamburgers are engineered for addictiveness, that somewhere in the chemical plants of New Jersey swarms of lab-coated scientists tabulate human response to carefully calibrated doses of umami. But when you're in a certain frame of mind, a Big Mac has nothing on the buns from the Pasadena coffee joint PappaRich, fat, warm, breast-shaped things that are utterly soft beneath their crackly, subtly mocha-flavored crusts, barely sweetened, and concealing a payload of salty melted butter at their core.
A single bun is enough to fill a reasonable person to bursting, but the play of air and crunch, salt and sweet, warm and hot inspires nothing but the desire for another and perhaps another after that, a habit PappaRich encourages by packaging them by the dozen to go.
In Malaysia, PappaRich is a modestly well-regarded chain of kopi tiam, local-style coffeeshops, known for its clean, uninflected versions of the coconut rice called nasi lemak, chicken porridge and prawn noodles, in addition to an honest cup of joe. In the franchised outlets in Korea, and in Old Town Pasadena, where its first location outside Asia opened towards the end of last year, PappaRich is a dedicated delivery system for what it calls “The Father of All Buns,'' and there is neither a bowl of curry laksa nor a slab of kaya toast in the house. You will, however, find espresso drinks, hot chocolate, and oddly enough, bowls of New England chowder.
PappaRich: 100 W. Green St., Pasadena; (626) 440-0009.
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