Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going Umami

"Umami." The 5th taste that can't be pinned down by (english) words. One-up that by putting it all in a burger (Mmm burger ...). Umami Burger has been all over Chowhound as of late, so when I realized my part-time job is actually only 3 blocks away, instead of driving home in the middle of rush hour on the 101, I stopped by for a quick dinner.

There's a small parking lot that's shared with the other stores there, but hey, there's an actual lot and it's free, so don't complain.The space is small, but there were quite a few of tables and stools. It's a nice and clean space with Asian-inspired decor.

As an "amuse-bouche" (a burger place with an amuse bouche, eh? Fancy ...) they brought out a spoonful of shiitake mushrooms in "pure umami ketchup."
Intense is one way to describe it, it may even be too intense for some people, but it's kind of an effective in-your-face intro to that which is "umami".

It's my first visit so naturally I got the Umami burger (parmesan crisp, roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, Umami ketchup, onions, $8) and a side of Malt Liquor tempura Onion Rings ($2.50)
These onion rings are some of the best ones I've ever had. Light and crispy, dip it in their Umami ketchup - delicious and addicting.

Onto the Umami Burger.
The patty was medium rare, and it was quite juicy and flavorful. The bun is buttery, the shiitake mushrooms were a great addition and I liked the crispy parmesan also. Definitely a savory burger full of flavor and quite good (dip it in the umami ketchup for even extra flavor!).

Though, personally this burger is missing a lil something for me. I miss that 'crunch' I get when I bite into a burger filled with lettuce and onions. The crispness that comes out, the textural and flavor play. I suppose that won't be adding to the "umami" rating. Iceberg lettuce would totally kill this burger, but maybe ... arugula? Methinks a bit of arugula would do it for me.

That was a personal preference, don't judge me :P I still enjoyed the umami burger quite a bit and I plan on coming back for it and to try the other burgers, such as their Pork&Stilton and their specials (currently Ahi Tuna burger) - working 3 blocks away would help this mission a lot!

PS. For extra incentive, they have a BYOB policy with no corkage, and they also sell Cake Monkey cakewiches and Yo-Hos which, while not cheap ($4), are yummy!

Umami Burger
850 S La Brea
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 931-3000

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon



The triple pork burger was excellent, but the Umami Burger didn't have much balance, and the fries were completely bland and textureless. They also had service issues. Then again, the restaurant had only been open a week at that point.


Hasn't every food writer wondered at one point how to describe the taste of umami? I always default to "mouth feel," but that's hardly accurate. How much are the burgers? It doesn't seem that special besides the tomatoes and parmesan, two of the highest umami foods in Western cuisine.


FoodGPS: I didn't try the fries but based on your description, probably won't either. I'll try the triple pork next time!

Aaron: Oops, shoulda mentioned the price *editing* The burgers are ~$8, which is not cheapm but not that outrageous. The shiitake mushrooms had more 'umami' than the tomatoes though, and their 'umami ketchup' is actually quite special.

Was it really that *special/different* than any other burger? Not by much. Was a good burger though.


My dining group actually did our own burger tasting, where we ordered 2 of each of the 8 burgers and shared. My favorites were the Sea-mami, which is an open-faced scallop burger and the Pork and Stilton Burger. My eyes are glazing over just thinking about them. :)


Umami! That's so fun to shout.

I'm trying to make it here Sunday, probably going triple-pork and onion rings. $8 for a burger is a little ridiculous though given the size.

Alli & Win

Great photos! I was completely impressed with this place, especially being so new. The burgers served at Umami were the quality of a place that has been open for many years. I had the Umami and Triple Pork, both excellent. The fries were amazing, crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside.


This place was started by Adam Fleischman, the man behind BottleRock and Vinoteque. His PR person keeps send me these press releases...

So how does it stack up against Father's Office or The Counter?

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