If you can believe it, the first time I ever visited Prata Man was in 1995. Yes, that was 14 years ago. It was recommended to me by a coworker at the time; yet I was hesitant. Drive all the way to Richmond??? Yes, I was paranoid about Richmond back then too. What I found at Prata Man was some of the best Hainanese chicken in town. Yes, I do realize there are plenty of other places with really good Hainanese chicken; but for the price, it's a pretty good value at Prata Man. Let's get this out of the way as well - Prata Man is a dive. You won't find fancy lights, expensive tile, artwork or trendy banquettes adorning a wall. What you will find is a modest restaurant with mismatched wobbly wooden chairs, an industrial looking floor and plain walls decorated with their "specials". Most people really don't even eat-in; rather, they get takeout.
The story behind Prata Man, as I've been told, was that the recipes and techniques behind their Hainanese chicken were left behind by the original owner. However, as for their other dishes, I'm not so sure. I sincerely hope that the roti prata recipe was not a legitimate one, because the ones at Prata Man are just plain horrible. Rather than being flaky and a bit airy, the ones at Prata Man are like a solid disc of dough. You can probably kill someone with it by throwing it a la James Bond (Goldfinger - the hat). Fortunately, the Satay Skewers are pretty good. They come in either chicken, pork or beef. Stay with the chicken and pork; the beef requires you to gnaw at it like an animal. In addition to being incredibly inexpensive for such meaty skewers (less than $1.00 each), they are nicely grilled and full of flavour. One problem is that the flavour is predominantly sweet. Add the sweet peanut sauce to it, and the flavour composition becomes very one-dimensional.
But seriously, the main draw here is the Hainanese chicken. Many people get it for takeout since there are 2 specific meal deals. You can get a whole chicken with 5 bowls of rice, soup and condiments for $19.00 (eat-in $20.25). For half a chicken, 3 bowls of rice, soup and condiments, it only costs $13.25 (eat-in $14.25). At these prices, you do get a good amount of food. Moreover, the chickens they use are quite large. You'll find that the skin on the chicken is not as gelatinous as other versions; however, the texture of the chicken itself is quite tender. Most of the meat is de-boned except for the back sections and parts of the thigh. The chicken is then bathed in a light soy-based sauce that shows hints of fish sauce. The clear consume soup that accompanies the chicken is dominated by the taste of ginger. I personally like it; yet it could be a bit strong for some people. The requisite chicken rice is pretty good; but I would have preferred more chicken fat mixed in (I can't believe I said that).
Yes, it's a hole-in-the wall. Yes, it's not aesthetically pleasing. Yes, the staff read newspapers and magazines when they are not needed. Yes, some of the other dishes are not very good. But, the Hainanese Chicken is solid and inexpensive. After 15 years, I still make the trek to Richmond for it.
- Solid Hainanese Chicken
- Really inexpensive (take out specials are incredibly affordable)
- Friendly staff, when not busy reading the newspaper
- The worst roti prata I've ever had
- Some of the other dishes are not that appealing
- Face it, it's a dive