Rempapa, Paya Lebar: “It demands the fullest attention of your gourmand selves”

Run a quick Google search for ‘Damian D’Silva’ and the chef’s profile is labelled as ‘actor’. I’m not sure that’s quite an accurate descriptor of the years of culinary work he’s amassed—even if he does successfully convince us of his no-nonsense demeanour and straight-laced work ethic via his role as MasterChef Singapore judge. Meet the celebrated chef in person and he’s one who carries kind eyes and graceful mannerisms, and is so willing to share the stories behind the dishes at his new outfit, Rempapa.

Not to be confused as just ‘another Peranakan cuisine project’, Rempapa is a celebration of, literally, the melting pot of cuisines he’s had the honour of tasting and cooking throughout his decorated career. It’s just across Paya Lebar Quarters, at Park Palace Residences, so it’s a convenient stroll away from the MRT station, yet removed from the hectic crowds that gather around PLQ mall.

What I tried

Rempapa Chickpea Curry with Roti/String Hoppers

The delightfully luscious Chickpea Curry with Roti/String Hoppers (S$18) was one that continuously distracted me from the other dishes, with its silky butteriness and aromatic nuances of star anise and cloves. Although the mustard seeds are only added later on in the cooking, they performed well to lend a pop of zing to the sturdy curry.

rempapa sri lankan curry

To accompany this, the Sri Lankan Chicken Curry with String Hoppers (S$16) turned my expectation of curry on its head. With dried spices fried in ghee and a wet spice paste of Bombay onions, Bentong ginger, and garlic thrown in, it’s an impeccably savoury, deep curry that finishes with a welcoming bitter note.

Pair it with the tomato and date chutney for an absolutely divine marriage of flavours; the chutney brightens up the plate, so you can easily devour this chicken curry in excess without the guilt of needing to slow down.

rempapa nasi lemak

With a painstaking process of preparing and cooking the rice for three hours, it’s no wonder the Nasi Lemak with Fish/Chicken (S$17) at Rempapa is a gem that has to be ordered to be believed. Sure, I can sit here behind a desk and type tasting notes for you to read, but having the honour of tasting will surpass any glowing review.

For context, Jasmine rice is soaked in water overnight, drained, then dry-steamed for an hour. Fresh young coconut milk is then added and the rice is left to soak for 30 minutes. Thereafter, it is steamed three more times. It’s safe to say, the rice itself is worth its own weight in gold—proving that sometimes, paying a premium for what many may consider a ‘simplistic’ dish, is non-negotiable.

rempapa baca assam

Now, the Baca Assam (S$38) is seen as a “lost” Eurasian heritage dish that incorporates a mix of Peranakan and Indian flavours. The rempah (spice mix) uses dried chillies, shallots, fresh turmeric, galanghal, and candlenuts, all ground into a fine paste before it is fried. Point end beef brisket is added to create a gratifyingly moreish dish that’ll force you to re-explore your understanding of curries.

The fork-tender brisket is only one part of the magnificence of the Baca Assam; the other is Chef Damian’s generosity in adding his granddad’s stellar recipe to Rempapa’s menu.

lamb leg rendang

If you need another dish to knock your socks off—because why not?—the Lamb Leg Rendang (S$38) is a sure-fire way to cross your best count for ‘how many delicious dishes can I fit into one meal?’. Starring boneless lamb leg, masala spice blend is cast to join the crew of shallots, dried chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, galangal, and candlenuts.

The fragrance of the rendang is remarkable; even as I sat at the table, adjusting my pants to accommodate more food, I could feel my appetite grow just a little more with each whiff of the thick gravy.

rempapa tomato salad

And while we’re wolfing down all the glorious meat, be sure to set aside some room for the Tomato Salad with Local Lettuce, Shallot Oil, Sesame Seed (S$19). While it doesn’t arrive dressed in show-stopping rempah, this salad is exactly what you’ll need if your palate needs a breather.

Tossed in a dressing of sesame oil, shallot oil, light soya sauce, and calamansi juice, the pickled tomatoes burst with enthused tanginess. As someone with a predisposed bias against raw tomatoes, I found myself lapping this up eagerly—forgetting my prejudice momentarily.

dessert platter

You can’t leave here without a tasting of the Dessert Platter (S$$6 for four pieces, S$10 for eight pieces, S$15 for 12 pieces), no matter how satiated you are. Personal top picks include the Durian Bingka, an absolute requirement for fans of the King of Fruits. It doesn’t carry an assaulting aroma of durian—only a subtle tinge of its pungency coupled with a mild sweetness, which allows for more than one helping if you wish.

The kueh selection varies from day to day, so be sure to ask ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

Final thoughts

For all the raving and praising that Rempapa’s dishes have elicited from me, the biggest (and only) downside to all this is the inability to eat everything in a single visit. With that I say, pack the largest social group you can—which is five pax at the time of writing—and make the most of your starving bellies to order as much as your appetites allow.

The stories behind these recipes chronicle not only Chef Damian’s culinary experimentation but also the finesse and complexities of South Asian cooking; it demands only the fullest attention of your gourmand selves.

Expected damage: S$25 – S$35 per pax

Other articles you might like:

Shuang Bao Thai Street Food, Bedok North: A definite struggle with stopping at just one sliver of chicken skin

Caviar, Orchard Rd: “A solid effort”

Price: $ $

Our Rating: 5 / 5

Rempapa

2 Paya Lebar Road, Park Place Residences at PLQ, #01-01/02/03, Singapore 409053

Price
Our Rating 5/5

Rempapa

2 Paya Lebar Road, Park Place Residences at PLQ, #01-01/02/03, Singapore 409053

Telephone: +65 9459 1603
Operating Hours: 10.30am - 10.30pm (Daily)
Telephone: +65 9459 1603

Operating Hours: 10.30am - 10.30pm (Daily)
| Instagram

The delicious joy of Singapore food culture: Enjoy Eating House And Bar

Have an interesting hawker story or good food to share? Email us at [email protected]

Newest