Pebble may only be a six-month-old brand, but it seems to be growing at such supersonic speed that even Vin Diesel would be impressed.
Still in its infancy (were it a baby, it would still only be crawling at this stage), the brand now has three outlets to its name – its first in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, a sophomore outlet in Xiamen University in Sepang and a newly-minted third incarnation in Bangsar’s Telawi stretch.
“We have three outlets, we are going to have five by the end of the year. Next year, we really want to control everything that we produce so we’re going to have a central kitchen to really fully control the taste and everything,” says Tan Kai Young, CEO of Woodpeckers Group Sdn Bhd and founder of Pebble.
Tan’s company is also behind popular Spanish frozen yoghurt drink LlaoLlao (pronounced ‘yaoyao’) as well as famed tapas restaurant The Tapas Club in Pavilion KL. Pebble marks Tan’s third F&B venture and his first homegrown one.
Interestingly, the formation of Pebble was inspired by LlaoLlao.
“We started off the first LlaoLlao outlet in January in TTDI, because we wanted to create something else to share the space. And the team and I – decided that a burger would really go well, because it’s hot, greasy, very rich in flavour, and after you have a burger, you can get a frozen yoghurt to cut off all the grease.
“And in terms of business, it works very well, because this will attract people during lunch and dinner because LlaoLlao is very quiet during these times because it’s a dessert place,” says Tan.
Tan is also an avid traveller who has lived and worked in Singapore and Australia for years and has a family business in Japan. Through all that globe-trotting, he discovered versions of burgers that imbibed the flavours of particular countries and regions.
“As a burger lover, I would like to try more and no one has done it yet. So what we’re trying to do is combine different flavours that would highlight a country’s cuisine. So all the flavours are from different cuisines and stand out very, very differently,” he says.
You could opt to start your international burger discovery tour with the aptly named mala burger (RM16.85) which is deeply influenced by China’s Szechuan province’s spicy peppercorns. Here crispy chicken thigh is paired with a spicy mala sauce in what proves to be an explosive flavour experience. While the sauce probably has a fraction of the toe-curling, combustible experience of the authentic mala (which literally means ‘tongue-numbing’), it still has a potent kick to it and is extremely easy to enjoy.
Up next, try a home-hewn creation that pays homage to a now famous oxymoron: crispy rendang. In this iteration, the crispy quotient of the meal comes in the form of the fried chicken which is slathered in a rendang gravy and topped with a fried egg and cucumbers (RM16.85). This is a burger that is difficult to nail simply because Malaysians are fussy to the point of being pedantic about what constitutes a good rendang.
“It’s difficult to get right, because some people say they want it spicier while others think it is just spicy enough. In our burger line-up, this one generates the most feedback,” admits Tan.
In this instance, the rendang itself is pretty good, but the entire concoction is a little befuddling because having eaten rendang with ketupat or rice before, it is difficult to reconfigure your brain to the realities of eating a rendang burger. Also the crispy chicken somehow doesn’t fit in well in this configuration, proving yet again that perhaps the words “crispy” and “rendang” just don’t belong together.
The salmon sushi burger (RM18.55) marks a return to form and is essentially the equivalent of a poke sandwich. Here, a seaweed wrap encases premium raw salmon and sriracha aioli in what proves to be a pleasurable odyssey of fat, voluptuous salmon propped against a backdrop of fluffy, sticky rice with a hint of fire from the sriracha aioli completing this all-star cast.
The falafel burger (RM19.60) is a vegetarian offering made up of a chickpea-stuffed falafel patty, ranch sauce and sauteed bell peppers. The falafel is corpulent, thick and redolent of spices. The dense nature of the falafel is cut through by the freshness of the bell peppers, in what proves to be a case of a supporting actor adding shine and lustre to the lead star.
The Korean burger alludes to the popularity of K-food and features crispy chicken thigh, a special Korean soy garlic sauce and purple slaw. The chicken is great – suitably crispy and juicy, but all the other components seem oddly sweet, with no other flavour element to counteract this saccharine quality.
Perhaps the best offering at Pebble is the signature burger (RM18.95) which makes use of Australian beef, crunchy onion rings, cheddar slices and Malaysian BBQ sauce. It’s a more traditional burger – closer to versions you are likely to have had elsewhere, but it’s also really good. The beef patty is oh-so-tender and juicy, the onion rings are breaded and fried to perfection and the barbecue sauce straddles the sweet-sour divide with aplomb.
If you’re after something else to accentuate your meal, definitely try the duck bacon and cheese tater tots (RM13.65). Slathered in smoked cheese sauce, these little potato balls offer crispy outer crusts and tender, malleable insides that will prove so addictive, you’ll have a hard time getting the message across to your wandering hands that “enough is enough”.
Ultimately, Tan says he wants to keep opening Pebble outlets in areas where there is a demand for local burgers, even though competition might be heated. “I feel that if you want to eat a burger, you go to a place where all the burgers are there, so it’s easier for you to choose,” he says.
Address: 36 Jalan Telawi 5, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Hours: 11am-10pm daily