540 Doncaster Road
Doncaster VIC 3108
+61 3 9848 1572
There’s a new Malaysian party in town and after several stops at QV and Chadstone, this party landed in my hood, Doncaster. Now, as much as I love my area (not withstanding crappy public transport options, hills which make manual driving a pain in the arse and the area’s lack of kebab joints despite a significant wog population), there isn’t much in terms of restaurant variety. Okay, so we have some pretty good yum cha restaurants and the odd decent Malaysian and Italian restaurants but that’s about it. So when Malaysia’s Papparich franchise circus plonked itself on Doncaster Road, where The Pavilion used to be, Doncaster’s many Malaysian residents were stoked.
My sister, Janice, and I attended church that weekend with my parents, not only because we really love spending time with our parents (seriously) but also because they promised to take us to Papparich afterwards. Meanwhile, my brother either hates spending time with family or he isn’t easily bribed by Malaysian food for he did not come with us that day. That was okay, for we had some family friends come join us – my mum’s BFF, her husband and their two sons, Josh and Jono.
We thought that arriving nice and early at 11:45am would mean that we’d miss the peak hour lunch crowd. Unfortunately, we were wrong. We were greeted by a massive line, which we had to stand in for about half an hour. Not ideal, but hey, we came this far so it would have been silly to turn back. While the folks were complaining about Papparich’s ‘no booking’ policy and avoiding eye contact with some frenemies who just so happened to be there, us ‘kids’ were giggling at some of the menu entries – vegetarian mutton curry anyone? – and commenting on the lack of heating in the restaurant.
Finally, a spare table became available by the window. We all kind of knew what we wanted so we didn’t really waste time browsing the menu, though Josh spent quite some time looking for some beef dishes and declared that one beef dish, a satay dish, in a menu of, like, hundreds of dishes was unacceptable. Anyway, we were instructed to grab a pad of paper and a pen from the centre of the table, and note our choices before handing it to a waiter. This was presumably to decrease the likliehood of an incorrect dish being served.
Most of us had tea. I was looking forward to a hot glass of teh tarik so I was surprised when I received a stein-sized glass of cold milk tea. I had, indeed, coded my drink order correctly but mistook the iced tea for the warm one. Stupits. Regardless, the milk iced tea ($3.90) was delicious and not overly sweet – it would have tasted better in summer, though.
I had a chicken curry laksa ($10.90) because the weather called for it. Thick Hokkien noodles shared a bowl with chicken, tofu puffs, beancurd skin, eggplant pieces, fish cakes and a rich laksa broth. While it wasn’t bad, unfortunately it was nowhere near as good as Laksa King’s famous laksas (my benchmark for good laksa in Melbourne). The soup may have been comforting, but it lacked the depth and complexity that makes the laksa at Laksa King so good to eat. Plus, I’ve had bigger bowls for $10-11 elsewhere too (yes, including at Laksa King).
Janice had the nasi lemak with curry chicken ($11.50) which came with fried anchovies, cucumbers, half an egg and sambal. While she did manage to finish her entire dish, she only said that it was ‘okay.’ After eating a few bites of her dish, I had to agree. The rice could have done with a bit more flavour, the chicken was sweet and bland in addition to being not spicy enough to be considered a ‘curry chicken’ while the sambal was essentially a glop of sugar and chilli, without any depth.
My parents both had the pappa special with biryani rice ($13.90; the option to have jasmine instead of biryani rice was available at a slightly lower price). The rice was accompanied by fried chicken pieces, sambal eggplant and sambal prawns. Given our success rate with the dishes so far, it didn’t surprise me when my parents said that the dishes weren’t fantastic. Not only did they both use words such as ‘bland’ and ‘no character’ to describe the dish, you know when things aren’t right when my mother says that biryani at ‘that Indian place at Doncaster Shoppingtown’s food court’ tastes better.
We shared some roti canai with curry chicken ($9.80), a dish which should have logically arrived before our mains (but strangely, arrived just as we were finishing our respective dishes). The menu reckons that it’s Papparich’s most popular dishes and because we all like roti, especially home-made ones, we had to give it a try. Sadly, it wasn’t anything to write home about. Again, that sweet and generic sambal sauce made another appearance along with Janice’s too-sweet chicken curry. The roti itself was soft and puffy, which was good, but it was so sweet that I was also tempted to call it a dessert. Bleh.
It wasn’t all bad at Papparich in Doncaster. Mum’s green tea and red bean float, for example, was pretty sweet (literally and figuratively). The food, however, was lacklustre. You can definitely find better variations on the dishes we had elsewhere (laksa at Laksa King and biryani at Biryani House, to name a few) and you’re getting more for your buck. I think if Papparich starts using more than just generic sauces and seasonings on their dishes, there would be a marked improvement on quality. And perhaps culling their choices down from hundreds of dishes to maybe fifty or so would help too. Sadly (well for us, not so much the gleeful franchisees), Papparich looks to remain in Doncaster for quite some time if the queues are anything to go by. As for me, I’d rather trek across road to Flemington for my laksa fix, thankyouverymuch.