We dropped by Singapore l’enfant terrible, Damian Da Silva’s latest place, Rempapa, for lunch last Monday. He’s now located in the new suburban mall, Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ).
His restaurant is hidden in a quiet, leafy, residential part of the quarter:
Damian Da Silva cooks up the tastiest fare one can find anywhere in Singapore - his amazingly successful fusion of Nyonya, Portuguese-Eurasian, Malay and Indian flavours in his culinary repertoire is simply unmatched by any other chef in Singapore today. But Damian Da Silva is also notoriously elusive, and he changes kitchens faster than one can say MICHELIN.
I’d followed, sometimes bewilderingly, his movements throughout his career: Soul Kitchen in Purvis Street (2002-2005), Immigrants on Joo Chiat Road (2012-2015), Big D’s Grill, first in Bedok South, and then at Holland Drive (2008-2010), Timbre+ in Ayer Rajah Crescent (2016), Folklore at the Destination Hotel (2017-2019), Kin @ The Straits Clan (Nov 2019 - Aug 2021), and now, Rempapa (Nov 2021 onwards).
The difference this time, though, is that Damian Da Silva functions more as a consultant here, whilst there is a separate person acting as the Head Chef.
The food we had were typical “Damian Da Silva”, though - mainly stews with big flavours:
Babi Tulang Masak Assam - tamarind pork stew. The fall-off-the-bone tender pork ribs were supplemented by thick, fat slivers of pork belly. Subtly-spiced, the tamarind lifted the gravy by giving it a sharp, fruity edge. The cut red chilis provided some welcome explosions of heat.
Baca Assam - a Eurasian beef stew which had a meltingly-soft, fork-tender texture which i really liked. The tamarind-inflected flavors interplayed beautifully with the deep, beefy, slow-cooked piece of meat. This dish is classic Damian Da Silva.
Ayam Pelencheng - spiced, grilled chicken. Really loved the smokey aroma of the perfectly grilled chicken.
Chickpea with stringhoppers - a dish which the chef adapted from Sri Lankan culinary culture, but which he improved upon tremendously: beautifully fine, moist rice vermicelli, paired with a spiced, tomato-ey chickpea curry. Some of the best I’d ever had.
We had a generous platter of 12 different types of steamed and baked puddings and sweetmeats. Very lush.
The place has a rather bland, casual vibe. The absence of Damian Da Silva - we were told he’s only coming in on Friday (it was Monday then) - made us wonder if we just landed on one of those by-the-dozen cookie cutter, standard eatery in Singapore, with anonymous chefs churning out food according to laid-out instructions.
Good food, but no X-factor.
2 Paya Lebar Rd, #01-01/02/03 Park Place Residences at PLQ, Singapore 409053
Tel: +65 9459 1603
Operating hours: 11am - 3pm, 6pm - 10.30pm, Mon to Fri;
10.30am - 3pm, 6pm - 10.30pm, Sat & Sun.