MasterChef Singapore judge Chef Damian D’Silva is like a father figure in the competition, that I found the name of his new restaurant Rempapa very apt.
“Rempapa” is also a play on the word rempah which is Malay for spice paste – the crucial aromatic base of many local ethnic cuisines. My ah-ma used to tell me that a good rempah is one of the most elements in Peranakan cooking.
There are quite a number of people who followed Chef Damian through the years – from Soul Kitchen in Purvis Street, Big D’s at Holland, to the more recent Folklore and Kin at Straits Clan.
For those expecting Peranakan dishes at the new Paya Lebar restaurant, Rempapa is more than that – serving Chinese, Peranakan, Eurasian, Indian and Malay cuisine.
There are also breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, bar snacks, drinks and dinner offerings.
As I visited on my own during dinner, what I ordered may have been quite different from other reviews out there which also feature mealtime dishes of Nasi Lemak ($17) and Stir-Fried Chee Cheong Fan ($13).
The highlight dishes on the menu are Seafood Bee Hoon ($48 for 2 pax), Baca Assam Beef Cheek ($38), and Kedondong Salad ($15).
There are also other offerings including Fried Nyonya Fish Cake ($18), Sambal Brinjal with Ti Poh ($18), Lamb Leg Rendang ($38), Chicken Curry ($28), and Slow-cooked Belly Pork with Ah Seng Sauce ($23).
We almost ordered everything (had a Round 2 which showed how much we were willing to try). My favourite happened to be the oh-so-familiar Buah Keluak Fried Rice ($28) which I remembered very fondly since Folklore.
It featured the laborious ingredient of Buah Keluak in which the pulp of the nut has to be extracted by hand one at a time. Fried Rice may look ‘easy’ to cook, but very difficult to present an impressive one – a test of the chef’s wok skills.
This version was wonderfully fragrant, almost every grain evenly cooked and flavourful, complete with wok-hei.
A close second vote would the Chicken Curry ($28) made with a special curry powder with 11 spices, with inspiration drawn from Indian and Eurasian cultures.
The texture of the gravy was just right – neither too thick nor watered-down. It carried rich and robust favours with the spiciness spreading all around in a mellow way rather than with sharp kicks of fieriness.
Addictive, and you may find yourself needing more rice to go with the gravy.
Our group did reckon that the Seafood Bee Hoon ($48, $68) was just all right, especially considering its price. This version is cooked with Heng Hwa fine bee hoon and a medley of seafood in seafood stock.
While the base stock was tasty, some may have tasted more memorable versions at other well-known Chinese or zi char restaurants.
The Slow-Cooked Belly Pork with Ah Seng Sauce ($23) while tender and competent, felt like it needed an additional X-factor in comparison with other dishes.
The Fried Nyonya Fish Cake ($18) made with spotted mackerel fish paste and rempah (of course), quickly steamed, then deep-fried to a delicious crisp was worth the order.
Heritage desserts are served in the afternoon as a Kueh Platter ($6, $10, $15) with rotating favourites such as Kueh Kosui and Kueh Ku, Kueh Bingka, Pulut Bingka, Talam Keladi, Sago Ubi, Lapis Pulot, and Rempah Udang.
There is a part of us who could have compared the offerings to those at Kin – which came across as more bold, intense, with some distinctly-spicy dishes.
Rempapa is probably more family-friendly in terms of offering, with some strong and impressionable dishes. Some may come expecting a lower price point though.
2 Paya Lebar Road, #01-01/02/03, Park Place Residences at PLQ, Singapore 409053
Opening Hours: 10:30am – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun)