At PEPR., Smash Burgers and a Feline Inspiration

by Runi Cholid
3rd April 2024
PEPR., the new neighbourhood burger joint in town, serves comforting smash burgers whilst paying tribute to their pet cat from their compact brick-and-mortar in Rukan Permata Senayan.

Few compare to the uninhibited pleasure of digging into a sloppy burger after a long day at work, and it is the distinct memory of this ritual that inspired former accountant Theo Tedjasasmita to open up PEPR., an intimate burger joint set amidst the shophouses of Rukan Permata Senayan.

“I dedicated my weekends to cooking, a hobby I discovered while working at a sushi restaurant in Sydney during my university years,” recalled the 35-year-old, who spent ten years navigating between finance and accounting jobs—which he hated. “Burgers hold a special significance for me because, after a stressful day, I would always drop by McDonald’s and comfort myself with a Quarter Pounder.”

That was in 2013. A decade later, Theo started PEPR. as a pre-order business alongside his wife, Clairine ‘Clay’ Runtung. From experimenting with ingredients to finally co-developing a custom bun with artisan bakery Bread Culture (which took them eight months to achieve the desirable balance of lightness and sturdiness), it was the presence of the couple’s cat Pedro or ‘Pepe’ that inspired them to keep “trusting the process.”

“He was so sickly and old when we found him that the vet told us to manage our expectations. But with time and effort, we nursed him back to health. Now, we want to pour the same care and attention to PEPR. and serve the type of burgers that can make someone’s day,” shared Clay of the beloved feline behind the burger joint’s name.

Thus, scattered around the premises of the newly opened brick-and-mortar (which takes cues from a classic diner design), one would find Pedro’s likeness reimagined into a bun-like shape by graphic design think tank Fishtank Theory, notable for their art direction, brand identity and social media work for Lintang Luku Tent Resort in Banyuwangi. The cheeky-looking cat is in the logo, the store sign and even the papers that line the metal trays on which their burgers are served. 

As for the burger offerings, their classic would be the Quarter Pounder-inspired Double Smashed Cheeseburger, a crisp and flavourful stack of two-layer smashed beef patty with red cheddar, onions and pickles. But for something with more complexity, go instead with the Son of a Bun; also a smash burger, as is customary to the joint, it’s an uncanny medley of textures and flavours with ingredients such as sauteed garlic mushroom, bone marrow gravy and crunchy onion rings.

Alternatively, the PEPR Chicken Sandwich offers a milder take on the spicy Nashville chicken sandwich where the rich combination of spices also produces a fragrant kick, balanced with a dollop of cured vegetables coleslaw. While The Golden Fries (lightly salted and hand-cut potato fries) make an indispensable pair to the burgers, boasting a thin and crispy shell with a tender bite that can retain its texture through the duration of one’s hangout session.

Plans are already underway to enrich the menu with seasonal offerings and more drink selections, but options will remain deliberately concise. The couple-founder intends PEPR. to be a place for those seeking easy, unfussy comfort in the city, where office workers on their lunch break to groups of friends catching up after-hours can frequently return, order their favourite without a second thought and destress with a good, simple bite of burger.