Often when I crave Malaysian cuisine I invite my parents out for lunch. They typically know of places I have never heard of and been to restaurants that I would not think of. In reality we were here at “Prata” after our original planned Malaysian destination was a bust, and seeing as Singaporean food is fairly similar we were more than content with our last minute choice. My parents explained that Singaporean cuisine is a combination of Malaysian and Chinese cooking styles and flavours. The food is differentiated from all others as “nonya”, it is well known as being some of the best.
Located in Richmond in a little lot, it is well hidden at the back, behind more larger and more busier restaurants. Though this is not to say that “Prata” didn’t have its own following. It is one of those places that is popular by word of mouth. After all it’s very explanatory exterior really doesn’t compel many walk ins, other than those interested to learn what Singaporean cuisine is.
The interior is just as direct. Not frills, no bells, just functionality. The best example of this is, right as you enter there are shelves of cleaning supplies and other restaurant necessities. It reminded of that closet where your mom stores all the supplies she hoards up on when it’s on sale or when she has coupons, but doesn’t necessarily need or use right away. Paper towels, tissue boxes, boxes of garbage bag, and stacked up plastic containers.
The furniture, the counter, the cupboards, and the floor was all worn. Mismatching dish ware ironically matched mismatching tables and chairs. Though walking in you know their emphasis wasn’t on aesthetics, but rather food and prices, and both were well done.
The wall decor mirrored this emphasis. Posters in the form of menu options covered the walls. One listed all their most popular dishes and their photos, others had two dishes in focus, and other were just a written listing in both Chinese script and English alphabet. Most of it was redundant, but it did ensure you got the point: order these because they are delicious.
Surprisingly we were given just as many menus, even with all the advertisements surrounding us on all four walls. Though the coloured photos on the menus were helpful in ordering, if you didn’t know the dishes by name, especially the curries who’s title spoke little to its taste.
We were really excited about the “Combos for two for $21”, thinking we were three so could order a combo and simply add on another dish and save. Sadly both combos were only available Tuesday or Thursday, eat in only. It was Monday.
Roti is always a must have for me. “Roti Prata with curry sauce”. Two pieces of pull apart bread served with spicy curry. Even at the inexpensive price, the small serving was disappointing. Roti is one of those snack food that you tend to want to go for more, and two pieces is just not enough, especially in proportion to the serving of sauce provided. The roti was limp, heavy from all the butter used, you could taste it. It didn’t necessary compliment the lumpy curry provided for dipping. We would later learn that the curry was excess from another dish we ordered. Over all we expected better because the item was featured and named after the restaurant: “Roti Prata”.
“Tahu goreng”, deep fried tofu with peanut sauce. The raw bean sprouts topping the dish took away from it. It’s kept chilled temperature threw the rest of the dish off. Given that the fried chunks of tofu were warm and the peanut sauce was too, it would have been nice to keep it all cohesive, instead of having one to cool the others down. I liked the texture of the tofu’s crispy skin partnered with its softened centre. But once again the bean sprouts distracted from this and made the bites soggier than they ought to be. And finally the peanut sauce could have been more flavourful, especially as it was expected to carry the flavour of bland tofu.
A “half order of chicken Satay” just to try. Meat on sticks, also available in beef. The chicken was all white breast, meaty chunks cooked tender. Here the same peanut sauce as above was used, but here it was a better compliment. It added a sweetness to the spicy seasoned and grilled skewers, and the chicken brought its own taste to the mix.
“Curry fish maw and fish balls”. It was similar to the ones I get from night market. Boiled balls swimming in a watery curry that stains them yellow. There was a heating spice and a warming note, and definitely got that sea food essence.
Their “Hainanese Chicken Rice” surely must be their specialty given its repetition across three different signs, begging you to order it. As one of my favourite dishes, I was sure to have myself a serving. This is a single person serving of the “Hainanese chicken with rice and soup”. Though you can also order half the chicken, of a whole chicken to share. As expected the salted meat was served extremely tender, a little more watery than what I am use to though. The chilli sauce and green onion mix helped to perk up the flavour when it was needed. Though the rice that accompanied was no slouch either, it was fragrant with oil and garlic.
“Nasi Rendang”, Malaysian style beef on rice. Basically meat and potatoes in curry. The curry sauce here was the same as the one offered with the roti above. The dish was meaty and hearty, with each chunk of beef cut to perfect one bite morsels.
Our waitress was shy, she made no eye contact, and found herself over apologizing. My parents pointed out that she was not raised in Malaysia or Singapore because she was unable to differentiate one dish from another, or go into further detail when my they probed. I thought she didn’t necessarily have to know the above, but from a service standpoint, it would have been nice. It would have been nice if she knew the menu(s) better and could articulate what is it that she was delivering to us.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Not the most convenient lunch from where I live. But for all that we had at under $42, it is very reasonable and worth returning for. The food is best enjoyed family share style. Home style plates at home style prices. Don’t deny your cravings.