Black burgers made for viral popularity

Charcoal gives the soft buns an almost-black veneer.
Charcoal gives the soft buns an almost-black veneer. Eli Meixler

Black burgers made for viral popularity

A Malaysian chain hits the sweet spot with its young target market, but leaves the pre-hashtag generation in the dark

MyBurgerLab is a case study in social media marketing. The Malaysian chain restaurant’s first Phnom Penh outlet devotes an entire board to Instagram photos of customers stuffing their faces with its signature black-bun burgers, and its Facebook page has more than 24,000 “likes”. Even the name is suspiciously hashtagable: when did spaces between words stop being a thing? It’s a strategy that targets young, middle-class urbanites and it so far seems to be working a treat in Phnom Penh. However, the food may not appeal to all.

The canteen-like space – which opened on Norodom Boulevard last month – has stuck to the script in replicating the metropolitan vibe of similar chains abroad. Furnishings are industrial and an exposed brick wall almost gives the room an artisanal finish – were it not for the slogan “EAT. SLEEP. BE AWESOME. REPEAT” emblazoned in giant letters across it.

The menu’s defining feature is its black burgers – a look achieved by adding small amounts of charcoal powder to the dough. It’s an aesthetic that calls out to be photographed and posted online, but the reality is less exciting – the buns are a bit sugary and foam-like, with little bite on the crust.

The patties, on the other hand, are of a far higher quality than what you would expect from a fast food joint. The chips are also excellent – opt for the “sloppy fries” at no extra cost and you’ll get them served with a hearty portion of chicken “sloppy joe” on top.

Whether you enjoy your meal as a whole will probably depend on how much of a sweet tooth you have. The pulled pork we tried was crammed with sweet red cabbage and apple slices, while the “Hangover” was topped with a hash brown and drenched in maple sauce. I’m not sure whether it would cure me following a night of heavy drinking, and I am unlikely to find out as the doors only open at 4pm.

Food is not cheap – sets with chips and a drink come in at the $7-$8 mark – but the bustling tables at MyBurgerLab on Tuesday night indicated that they have avoided pricing a local crowd out of the market.

It’s easy to see why people are flocking to the place – and giving it so much social media love. Staff are friendly (they’re already greeting certain customers with waves of recognition), tables are spacious, and soda refills are
limitless – a rarity in Phnom Penh.

Whether it will become your standard drop-in probably depends on your age, and whether you find “#eggporn FTW” enticing. If you do, we’ve found your culinary Mecca – it’s conveniently situated just south of the Caltex petrol station on Norodom Boulevard.

MyBurgerLab is located at #160b Norodom Boulevard.

MOST VIEWED

  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group