It seems that there is a trend of Vietnamese establishment opening across the island, with multiple independent restaurants sprouting up in various locations in Singapore.
Having opened at Changi City Point recently, Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen is opened by the same folks behind the Arteastiq brand (which also runs Cajun on Wheels), and is one of the few Vietnamese eateries to have opened around the island recently. Taking up a shop space in the basement of the mall, Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen carries an elegant, Asian-inspired vibe in its decor; the interior featuring brick-filled walls, wooden furnishings, and fittings with vast use of plants, while the seatings feature cushions with purple and gold upholstery; an environment that feels plush and elegant unlike other Vietnamese eateries. Having skimmed through the menu online, we noticed how Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen carries one of the most extensive menus for a Vietnamese establishment in Singapore; unlike most other Vietnamese eateries which serve only Pho, Bun Cha, Banh Mi, and rice dishes, Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen also offers less common soup noodles and rice dishes, as well as a wide variety of starters and Mekong River specialties which are lesser seen at other establishments.
(Barbecue Meat Platter)
Ordering one of the platters from the Mekong Special section of the menu, we went for the Barbecue Meat Platter, which consists of items such as pork skewers, chicken skewers, and grilled beef, with fresh vegetables, mint leaves and rice vermicelli served on the side accompanied with peanut sauce and fish sauce with chili bits. All the items were flavourful and well-executed; the one leaving the strongest impression being the chicken skewers which were juicy and tender yet providing a bite, whilst carrying a slight smokiness from the grilling yet being savoury from the glaze with a hint of lemongrass. The pork skewers were also savoury without being particularly porky; juicy whilst giving some chew, while the grilled beef was wrapped in a charred leaf which was meaty with a light hint of lemongrass without being too gamey. The rice vermicelli, whilst replicating the local Putu Mayam in terms of aesthetics, was pretty similar to that of the rice vermicelli often found in Bun Cha; a great accompaniment to the meat along with the fresh vegetables to pair up with the meats and dip into the fish sauce provided at the side.
(Grilled Pork Vietnamese Baguette)
We also had to try out their Banh Mi; our choice being the Grilled Pork Vietnamese Baguette which comes with crispy rice cracker and accompanied with soya sauce and chili. The Banh Mi was no doubt delicious, though does not deviate much from expectations. The bread was light and crisp, though coming with a substantial bite when one sinks their teeth into the baguette; the condiments carrying a meaty, savoury note with the grilled pork providing its flavour alongside with the crunchy pickles that provide a tangy sweetness to the baguette for a contrast of flavours. The crispy rice cracker interestingly carries a buttery note especially after being dipped into the soya sauce provided on the side; the latter otherwise being a tad unnecessary to the Banh Mi, however.
(Da Nong Pork Noodle Soup)
Going for one of the soup noodle items, we went for the Da Nong Pork Noodle Soup, which features rice noodles, sliced pork and special bone broth served with prawn, hard-boiled egg and fried spring roll with vegetables and crispy rice cracker. Unlike the traditional Pho which often carries a clean and light savoury note for its broth, the Da Nong Pork Noodle Soup features a broth that was almost akin to a rather clean-tasting bowl of Tom Yum soup, with less punchy notes to its Thai counterpart yet perfumes of a light aroma of lemongrass; a rather interesting and appealing flavour that is less associated to Vietnamese cuisine. Accompanied with slippery, slurpy rice noodles, the bowl of noodles was no doubt comforting already on its own, while the fresh seafood and fried spring roll that gives a crisp texture and light meatiness were great accompaniments to the dish that adds on to both flavour and texture of the dish. We felt that the sliced pork carried a slight porky stench that some may not prefer, though the pork was tender and pretty easy to chew.
(Seafood Claypot Rice)
Being intrigued by the availability of claypot items here, we had to order the Seafood Claypot Rice. Having tried the dish before mixing everything up together, the Seafood Claypot Rice was almost akin to seafood fried rice, carrying similar savoury notes with notable hints of seafood sweetness within. Tossing everything up together, we noticed that the charred bits of rice help to add more flavour to the item; an item that seemingly tasted better with every spoonful. For those who need more flavour for the claypot rice, a saucer of soy sauce with chili (the same that was provided with the Grilled Pork Vietnamese Baguette) is served on the side to be added to your own disposal.
(Banana Sago with Coconut Cream)
Ending off the meal with a sweet note, we picked the Banana Sago with Coconut Cream; a dessert that is almost akin to our local Burbur Chacha with a change of condiments. Served at room temperature, we noticed that the slices of caramalised bananas were served colder than the coconut cream, providing a contrasting hint of sweetness. The coconut cream is also considerably thicker than the ones we usually have with the Burbur Chacha, providing a creamy consistency while the sago was chewy; a pretty decent dessert to end off the meal with
Something which we could not miss was the Egg Coffee, which is an item that is rarely seen in menus of Vietnamese establishments locally. The Egg Coffee comes with a layer of egg cream over the top; having a taste of the egg cream, it was almost akin to a thick, dense layer of light custard, carrying an eggy sweetness to it. Mixing it into the coffee completely, it creates a frothy layer over the top, whilst adding a sweetness akin to that of condensed milk added to Vietnamese Drip Coffee; a rather familiar rich and chocolatey note that was significantly sweeter than that provided by adding condensed milk into drip coffee.
There may be plenty of Vietnamese establishments around by now, but Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen is one with a difference; the wide variety of dishes offers a different perspective towards Vietnamese cuisine in general, detracting from the usual Pho, Bun Cha and Banh Mi options which some may often find plain and bland. Offering many dishes that are less commonplace in other Vietnamese establishments, it proves how Vietnamese cuisine can be flavourful, and how varied their cuisine can be. We have written about Cao Vietnamese Restaurant some time back, which was seemingly more adventurous with its unique offerings that are lesser seen in Vietnamese establishments locally; Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen is also almost just that, though providing safer options without being overly adventurous — something which Singaporeans would most probably appreciate. While we are not able to comment on how authentic the items offered here are as we had not been to Vietnam, the quality of food is pretty great here, though service level is pretty typical of a usual restaurant that is situated in a shopping mall; pretty forgettable and nothing much to shout about. That being said, Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen is a place worth making the extra mile for its food; also a destination for those who love Vietnamese cuisine and wanting to give lesser known dishes a try — a spot we would certainly not mind returning to for more in the future!
Paper Rice Vietnamese Kitchen
Changi City Point
5 Changi Business Park Central 1