Saturday, 9 March 2013

Herbs Do Weird Things To People

This piece is a little different from the kinds I usually write, and it's not (just) because of the herbs.

Since writing this I've learned that: a) Not everyone gets a clove of awesome fried garlic, which could be another reason why the fries are awesome (garlic-and-herb infused oil?); b) myBurgerLab is planning collaborations with local startups Forty Licks and Smooshie Juice, so McDonald's is in trouble; c) the crispy savoury thing in the A++ is a wafer made of grilled parmesan cheese; and d) did TMI modify their file structure again?

Anyway, I should start cutting down my trips there; I work nearby and it's a 15- to 25-minute drive from there plus heavy traffic. It has reached a point where the staff recognise me on sight.



Burger trippin'
Flavours from of this 'lab' are so good, they're almost illegal

first published in The Malaysian Insider, 09 March 2013


For weeks, Melody has heard her friends wax lyrical about this burger joint. Feeling a sort of burger fatigue, we put off investigating this place until one rainy weekend. It always seems to rain each time we embark on burger hunts.

myBurgerLab counter; photo ©Alexandra Wong
Gateway to meaty, charcoal-bunned
awesomeness; photo ©Alexandra Wong
Our first attempt to find myBurgerLab was not successful. And we thought Salak South was a Bermuda Triangle for traffic. But we eventually found it, the McDonald's for hipsters and purveyors of Instagrammable burgers.

Inside, there was barely any room to stand. D├ęcor was threadbare, not unlike similar hipster joints popping up all over the Klang Valley. Slogans, notices, signs and wall decorations were sprinkled with wit. That wall painting of a giant burger? Strain your eyes and you'll see a hidden message.

Ordering could be a problem. So many varieties on the chalkboard menu - what to choose? And the ingredients - ever had maple syrup and hash browns in a burger?

In the end, you just close your eyes and point. They're all just as pricey.

Melody explored her masochistic side with a "Kick in the Face" while I went with the simpler-sounding "A++" - with eyes wide open.

Behind the counter is a hot, steaming burger assembly line. Plum-sized balls of bright pink minced meat are laid out on a ledge near the griddle before they're transported onto hot metal, cooked and pressed into patties.

Various burger components are made separately before they're stacked between the trademark charcoal buns and bussed to the tables or packed for take-away.

On a good day (for the restaurant, not you) an eternity and a half can pass before your order number appears on the LCD display above the counter. The six to eight people in the kitchen can barely keep up.


myBurgerLab “Kick in the Face”; photo ©Alexandra Wong
"Kick in the Face", about to kick someone's face in;
photo ©Alexandra Wong


Melody's "Kick in the Face", a "mustard-grilled patty" with jalapenos and horseradish sauce, looked rather subdued but the flavours were whoa. The horseradish sauce made all the difference, adding a slightly nutty layer of flavour.

I couldn't tell whether the crispy savoury thing in my A++ meat-and-mushroom thing was beef bacon or something else. Both were delicious.

What I was not prepared for was the fries.

- OMG FRIES WITH HERBS ROSEMARY FRAGRANT MAYBE THYME AND OREGANO CRISPY OUTSIDE CREAMY RICH INSIDE SALTY FINGERLICKING GOOD -

The herbs were a nice touch. It's one of those things you never think of but makes sense once you've experienced it. Who knew a dash of mixed dried Italian herbs could turn mundane into magnificent?

Oh, here's some red dipping sauce.

- OHDEARME IS THIS SPICY PEPPER MAYO OMNOMNOMNOM LIKE PRINGLES ONLY MOIST FRESH HOT AND IN 3D CANNOT STOP MOREMOREMORE -

These are some wicked fries. And it comes with a wrinkled clove of garlic that's fried, salted and herbed like the potatoes - and also tasted good. I can only imagine that it goes well with beer, because I don't drink.

On a Tuesday one week later, I returned to myBurgerLab to round up the exploration with a Beautiful Mess 4.0, a tower of a burger with a breaded and fried portobello mushroom nearly as big as the patty and a sunny-side-up on top, which was said to have been refined four times. I had to wait about half an hour because they made a beautiful mess of my order.


myBurgerLab “A++”, awesome fries and magic red sauce; photo ©Alexandra Wong
myBurgerLab's A++ Burger, the awesome fries and magic
red sauce; photo ©Alexandra Wong


I got the impression that myBurgerLab is perpetually packed. No surprise, since they only open for dinner, taking half the day to prepare the raw ingredients and kitchen. Customers fill their cups from a dispenser at the back while their burgers cook.

"We consider today a slow day," said the lady at the counter. I believed her.

When my order eventually arrived, I pondered. Eat or run?

Then I spied the shelves for standing customers inside and outside the joint. That made things easier. I stepped outside, away from the crowd, and opened my take-away package.

There is no way to eat a Beautiful Mess v4.0 without making a beautiful mess of it. But what joy to smoosh your burger to make it fit.

At some point you can't tell where the meat ends and where the juice-soaked buns or egg bits begin. You'll know where to find the mushroom, though. If you're eating it fresh, it's the scalding hot bit somewhere near the top- darn, ate a bit of wax paper.

- SHADDUP ABITOFWAXPAPER WON'T KILL YOU EATAFRY DIP IT IN THE MAGIC RED SAUCE OHHELPME CAN'TSTOP OMG WHYSOGOOD -

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the simple yet mind-blowing genius in the herbed fries.

- MUSTBETHEHERBS PUNGENT PULCHRITUDINOUS HERBS YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HERRRBS RIGHT HEEHEEHEE -

How ironic it would be if myBurgerLab ended up being more famous for its fries.

- WHOCARES FRIES ARE AWESOME DIVINE SKINS ON MORE FLAVOUR OHYES WHAT FRIES ALMOST GONE NONONO WHYYY -

With the last of the burger gone, I tipped the wrapper and down went a mix of melted cheese, meat juice, sauces, yolk and grease.

I can see why Melody's friends were wild about this place. They're cooking up some interesting combinations in this burger lab of sorts. You can't let go of the tastes. All they need is to stock some artisanal ice cream from The Last Polka and McDonald's will be in trouble.

Lumping a burger into a set - with a drink and fries - can take the bill past RM20, but it's worth it.

Just go easy on the fries. Oil, salt, glycaemic index and all that.

- AND HERBS LOVELY HERBS HEEHEEHEE COMEBACKTOMORROW OMG ♪ I'D LIKE TO MAKE MYSELF BELIEEEEEEVE ♫ -



myBurgerLab (SEA Park)
No 14, Jalan 21/22,
Seapark, Petaling Jaya,
Selangor

Pork-free

Tuesdays to Sundays, 5pm-10:30pm

Closed on Mondays

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