They arrive to the table by the half dozen, tiny but resplendent, sauces oozing and gourmet patties looking absolutely delicious.
Not quite a hamburger, and definitely not a sandwich, these tiny four-bite snacks that are huge in flavour were my first introduction to sliders. Named for the ease with which they are eaten, these greasy, lovable American inventions are stripped-down, miniature versions of burgers.
Now, sliders are getting their moment in Malaysia, thanks to Green Dot Stables, a new eatery started by Datuk Chew WK, an ambitious entrepreneur whose foray into the F&B industry began with a string of Chinese restaurants.
Located smack dab in the suburbs and wedged among friendly neighbourhood retailers, this lone slider joint in Malaysia stands proudly, the first international franchise out of rough-and-tumble Detroit, Michigan.
A brainchild of Detroit native Jacques Driscoll, his wife Christine and his Le Cordon Bleu-trained buddy Leslie “Les” Molnar, the original GDS has amassed a cult-like following since it threw its doors open in 2012.
Hungry customers are known to queue up to two hours just to get their hands on a couple of these miniburgers – and to keep up with demand, the restaurant expanded from seven to 60 employees in just three months.
At GDS, cheap and cheerful is the buzzword – so patrons can stuff their faces and drink copious amounts of beer without burning a hole in their wallets. Nothing is above RM8. Given the price, you’d expect inferior, assembly-line sliders, whereby they just slap two dried pieces of bread on frozen disks of bogus meat and serve it to customers.
Some people come in just for the mystery meat.
But no. Driscoll and Molnar are sticklers for quality control – everything is made in-house wherever possible, including patties and sauces.
And they are teeming with clever ideas: while the original slider was invented by White Castle and consisted of no more than square, miniature beef patties on soft, steamed buns with onions and a pickle, GDS takes creative licenses with their inventions.
“It’s really an endless playground of flavours,” says Molnar, who’ve come up with a few (really) original recipes on his own. “And since sliders are really small, you’d have to make every bite count.”
From familiar staples like the Cheeseburger to more inspired takes like the Cuban and the Gyro, sliders obviously make up the bulk of the menu at GDS.
But there are also five types of fries, a small yet delightful selection of sides and salads aswell as a weekly mystery meat offering, which could be anything from kangaroo to camel.
“Some people come in just for the mystery meat,” says Driscoll. “We want to give our diners variety. The small, accessible plates allow them to try out food that they otherwise won’t.”
The duo, who were in KL to supervise the opening of GDS, Centrepoint, says that while the menu here might be the same as the one in Detroit, they’ve had to adapt and improvise based on ingredients on hand.
“We find that certain things like garlic and peppers in Malaysia are more flavourful so our sauces are amplified. And we replaced our kale salad with watercress,” says Driscoll, adding that buns were kept as plain and simple as possible to accent the flavours in the middle.
Unintentional or not, these improvisations work. A classic recipe of beef patty, onion and pickle, the Cheeseburger is good enough to give its fast food competitors a serious run for their money.
Instead of using mass-produced patties, Molnar grounds and shapes the patties himself, using good quality beef brisket. The result is plump and juicy, with a thick char that gives way to tender meat within.
Layering the same wonderful beef patty with crispy bacon, housemade barbecue sauce and mashed sweet potato in place of cheese is the BBQ Bacon, another sure-fire crowd pleaser. “It’s a way to insert a mouth feel of cheese without actually adding the actual thing in our sliders,” says Molnar. “That’s how we keep prices low.”
Another curious creation of Molnar’s – one that you would either love or hate – is the Korean, which is made from beef patty, kimchi and peanut butter.
Yes, peanut butter. The chef claims he stumbled upon the recipe by accident, during a late night fridge raid. “I wanted to make a quick meal because I was feeling ravenous after work,” he says.
“Unfortunately, there was nothing in my fridge except some beef, bread and peanut butter so I just put all three together!”
Molnar says he was pleasantly surprised with the results. “Just to be sure however, I invited a couple of friends over the next day and made them some. They loved it!”
Vegetarians aren’t left out. Getting a veggie burger with great flavour and the right texture is challenging but Molnar makes it look effortless.
Take his Quinoa Burger, for instance. The patty is made from quinoa sautéed with onion, garlic, watercress and white wine and drizzled with tangy chimichurri sauce, resulting in a light, flavourful patty that might tempt even the strictest of carnivores.
Meanwhile, the Tempeh, which features wakame salad, wasabi mayo and tempeh marinated in sambal and oil, tastes surprisingly decent with its nubby meat-like texture.
Not all of the sliders made the grade. The Lamb slider with rosemary hummus and pickle lacks the oomph of its beefy counterparts. But it’s not as offensive to the tastebuds as the Fried Chicken, a chewy strip of breaded chicken breast coupled with sticky-sweet maple syrup. With flavours that clash rather than meld, it’s a slider with an identity crisis, if there ever was one.
What you can’t go wrong with are the French fries. GDS uses the shoe-string variety – as thin as a chopstick and crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Speckled with specially imported truffle salt, the truffle and herb fries are a perfect harmony of potato and oil.
GDS Centrepoint isn’t just for boozehounds and hipsters, although you see many of those occupying its tables every night.
It’s also a place where friends and the occasional family come to have a conversation and a bite as music of Detroit indie bands blasts out in the background.
And thanks in part to its friendly clientele, the place oozes an edgy, unpretentious vibe that makes you want to stick around for another round. Just remember to leave your hang-ups at the door...
Green Dot Stables
G10 Centre Point
No. 3 Lebuh Bandar Utama
47800 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7713 5288
Opening hours: 11am to 1am
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