Build your own burger at this new joint in KL

At the Counter Custom Built Burgers, the latest burger joint to hit Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur, I am given the task to "build" my own burger.

The California-based outlet challenges its patrons to craft their perfect burger, and with over 500,000 possible combinations (they calculated, so it's legit), you are bound to find one that tickles your fancy.

It may not happen on the first try, but hey, experimenting is part of the fun, yes?

Now give me any burger and I will annihilate it in no time, but crafting one is tougher than it seems.

Clueless, I ask Kevin Rogers, the director of operations of Cap Hospitality which owns The Counter, what makes a good burger. He replies: "It is one that has everything you want and none of which you don't."

Okay, that sounds simple and I can't possibly mess it up now … or can I?

"Here, pick your ingredients," says Rogers as he hands me an order chit.

Put on the spot, I freeze. There are so many choices.

There are over 100 items on the chit, starting with types of patties - beef, turkey, hand-cut Ahi tuna, chicken breast and vegan veggie.

There is also the option to have the burger with or without a bun.

According to Rogers, Oprah has hers without the buns.

Yes, Oprah frigging Winfrey is a fan of The Counter's "bunless" burger, which gives you everything that comes in a burger - minus the bun.

So, you get the satisfaction of eating a burger but don't have to deal with the guilt afterwards. Excellent.

Oprah is also reportedly one of the main reasons behind the franchise's tremendous success.

Call it the Oprah effect. She single-handedly spiked The Counter's sales just by mentioning it on her show.

Bloomberg.com states that The Counter's sales peaked from US$44,000 (S$59,000) a month to US$245,000 after the show aired.

Now, Oprah is my religion and I do everything she says, but I ain't gonna have no burger without buns.

Looking at the selection of buns - delivered daily from Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel - I pick brioche.

Sorry, Oprah.

They also have ciabatta, English muffin, sourdough, multi-grain and pretzel buns.

On Rogers' recommendation, I choose the 450g halal-certified beef which is priced at RM46 (S$16). You can choose the doneness of the meat: rare, medium rare, medium, medium well (my order) or well-done.

I top the patty with yellow American, gruyere and soft-ripened brie cheese. Extra cheese is charged an additional RM3 per selection.

Then I add roasted garlic aioli, hickory BBQ sauce and honey Dijon sauce. For the free toppings, I select roasted red peppers, spicy pickles and sunny side up egg. As for the premium toppings, priced at RM5 each, I select crispy onion strings and housemade guacamole. Overall, my burger comes up to about RM60. Just the burger, mind you.

Slightly over 10 minutes later, out comes the burger and boy is it a sight to behold. There is no way I can finish the almost ½kg meat and wheat feast by myself, and Rogers offers to do his bit.

"You made a good burger right here," he says, chomping on his portion of the beauty. He is right. This is one heck of a burger, and now I regret not adding more toppings. There are 31 free toppings to choose from and Rogers reveals that some customers pick them all. "If that's what they want, then that's what they'll get."

For vegans craving the sensation of biting into a delicious, juicy burger, The Counter has that covered as well. The homemade vegan veggie burger comes with a thick patty made from 16 ingredients including brown rice, grilled corn, mushrooms, black beans, spinach and cranberries.

Served on a pretzel bun and topped with oven roasted tomatoes, pickled carrots and daikon, grilled pineapple and mixed greens, the vegan burger is filling and is a hit with meat lovers as well.

The Counter also has a good selection of sandwiches, and The Meltdown is one of them. Grilled chicken breasts, topped with provolone, onion confit, sauteed mushroom, grilled peppers, griddled sourdough is served with a choice of basil pesto or tangy thousand island sauce.

However, if assembling your own burger seems too troublesome, The Counter also offers "Expert Builds" burgers, which means the chef did all the thinking for you.

There is also a decent selection of sides, including grilled corn topped with feta cheese crumble and New Mexico chilli powder, as well as shoestring and sweet potato fries.

"The potatoes are imported from the United States, and they make for great fries," says Rogers.

The Counter also offers yummy "build your own" shakes and malts - do try the Caramel Java Malt or Birthday Cake which are simply decadent - as well as fruit smoothies.

The possibility of finding your favourite burger, sandwiches, salads and smoothies at The Counter is endless. Even if you go wrong, there are plenty of chances to get it right. Now, with one custom-built burger down, I have another, well still about 500,000 combinations to go. But hey, no complaints here.

The Counter
Dining Loft, 7th Floor, Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2856 0240
Open daily, 10am to 10pm

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