The wave of international chains coming to L.A. continued on Monday with the opening of the first official U.S. location of PappaRich in Monterey Park. A Malaysian comfort-food chain with more than 100 outlets in nine countries, PappaRich hopes to popularize Malaysian cuisine through its coffee shop–like restaurants.
Malaysian cuisine is complex and fascinating. Due to historic migrations and Malaysia's geographical location — at the southeast tip of mainland Asia, along the historic spice trade route — Malaysian food combines Malay, Chinese and Indian influences.
Some of you might be wondering how this can be the first PappaRich in the United States, since places with the name operated in Pasadena and Koreatown. The Pasadena location (which closed last October) was unaffiliated with the full restaurant concept (but still affiliated with the company), while the K-town location (which closed in February) was a Café PappaRich, a different concept with a smaller menu, which was being tried out. In a space at Atlantic Times Square that formerly housed a Johnny Rockets, the Monterey Park location becomes the first proper PappaRich and its U.S. flagship restaurant.
The menu features 68 items ranging from satays, noodles and rice dishes to roti, an Indian-influenced flatbread served on a thali with curries. PappaRich has 16 roti variations, including one with kaya, the delicious and addictive coconut-egg jam. Among the rice dishes is nasi lemak. Considered the national dish of Malaysia, nasi lemak is rice steamed in coconut milk with pandan leaf and served with a curry, dried anchovies, peanuts, half a hardboiled egg, slices of cucumber and sambal, a spicy pepper paste. Some dishes have similarities to Singaporean or Indonesian cuisines, such as the noodle dishes char koay teow — rice noodles with chicken and prawns — and laksa — coconut curry rice noodle soup. A staple of Malaysian cuisine is belacan, a fermented shrimp paste used for flavoring and seasoning dishes.There are also a half dozen vegetarian options.
Among the whopping 61 drinks available is the iced milo dinosaur, made from a popular chocolate malt beverage and topped with undissolved powder. Of the eight desserts, there is the Malaysian favorite, ABC. Short for air batu campur, the ABC is anchored by shaved ice and graced with a variety of toppings: sweetened red beans, corn and grass jelly (a minty jello), covered with rose syrup. PappaRich adds golden raisins for a distinctive touch. The ABC Special comes topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
When mentioning Malaysian or Singaporean restaurants, invariably the first question is: “Do they have kaya toast?” Not at present, but they plan to add toasted Hainan bread with kaya to their menu in the future. Likewise, the signature Pappa Buns, which were a favorite among those who tried them in Pasadena and Koreatown, aren't currently available but will be in the near future.
PappaRich (CLOSED), 500 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; (626) 872-0464; papparichusa.com