October 12th, 2020
4 International Restaurant Brands to Anticipate in KL
Shake Shack, IHOP, P.F. Chang’s & Texas Roadhouse are seeking to venture into Southeast Asia, with Malaysia on their list of four possible countries, alongside Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Here’s our special report on what to potentially expect from these well-known American restaurants, which are being handled internationally by the Kuwaiti-based M.H. Alshaya Co retail franchise operator.
The Alshaya group flew in small teams of reviewers from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia to Dubai this week to evaluate four of its restaurants and recommend how to successfully launch them in each country. Our verdict: If Shake Shack Kuala Lumpur turns out to be anything like Shake Shack Dubai, Malaysia’s burger enthusiasts will be in for a treat.
Speculation is high that Shake Shack will probably open first in Singapore, since its prices would have to be slashed significantly in Malaysia. But these burgers, originally from New York, are worth it – the epitome of everything we hope to taste when we sink our teeth into a well-made burger. Our personal favourite, the SmokeShack – a cheeseburger topped with hickory-smoked veal bacon, spicy chopped cherry peppers & ShackSauce, built with 100 percent Angus beef.
Shake Shack’s crinkle-cut fries have a dense, ‘real’ potato taste & texture – we could have eaten them all day. Dessert lovers will be intrigued by the Concretes – frozen custard ice cream with a mousse-like texture, spun fresh daily at the Shack, made with real sugar, not corn syrup, & milk from dairy farmers who pledge not to use artificial growth hormones – with richly flavoured varieties that include Vanilla Toffee Twirl, Red Velvet & Strawberry Banana Trifle. Plenty of shake options are available too, from peanut butter to caramel, as well as a Fair Shake, which showcases certified organic Arabica Fair Trade coffee, to complement the burgers.
The International House of Pancakes has been stacking ’em up in the U.S. since 1958 – this feels like a spot-on choice for hearty pancakes with house-made sauces in a family-friendly setting that seems right at home in a mall.
Our top pancake temptation here is the New York buttermilk layered with cheesecake pieces, powdered sugar, strawberries and whipped toppings. But there’s (much, much) more to this place than pancakes – our favourite orders turned out to be the rolled omelettes, which are distinctively eye-catching and unexpectedly loaded with dense fillings & tasty toppings, from crispy beef bacon, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses and diced tomatoes to Tex-Mex chicken fajitas, salsa and sour cream. Also available: customisable crepes, French toasts, waffles, burgers & Philly cheese steaks.
American Chinese cuisine might not sound like the most appealing or assuring concept for purists and conservatives who’ve been raised on recipes that are closer to their traditional roots. It’s a challenge that the U.S.-based, Asian-themed P.F. Chang chain could struggle with in markets like Malaysia, where customers have no shortage of Chinese eateries at every price point.
The menu is conveniently categorised into starters, soups, poultry, beef, seafood, vegetarian offerings, noodles and rice – the variety is diverse, but as we ate each dish, a consistent flavour profile emerged with a vigour that became repetitive. Sweet-savoury, sweet-savoury, sweet-savoury, a pattern interrupted by streaks of spiciness every now and then.
Nevertheless, crowd favourites include the VIP Duck, which offers a feast of fowl, with thigh and breast meat that’s been steamed, then finished on the grill, served with julienned scallions and sesame vinaigrette, and the fillet of sea bass marinated in steeped oolong tea & ginger, served on a bed of wok-tossed spinach.
This is the brand that’s most likely to make it into Malaysia, based on factors like our market’s price & flavour acceptance. Infectious energy abounds at Texas Roadhouse, culminating in the spirited crew dancing to country hits by everyone from Brooks & Dunn to Luke Bryan. But in the end, the steaks and ribs rightfully steal the show – marinated just enough to let the natural flavours of the meat shine, cooked with the sort of care that lets customers enjoy each succulent bite and think to themselves, this is what all beef should taste like, all the time.
Customers who’re celebrating their birthdays here can hop on a saddle to be feted by the staff members in the middle of a meal that might include buffalo wings, BBQ pulled beef sliders, and rattlesnake bites ((poppers really, containing diced jalapenos & jack cheese). The ‘Blue Ribbon’ beef ribs are flat-out fabulous, with a fall-off-the-bone gelatinousness.