There's sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, and now, there's Umami. This burger joint, named after the pleasant savory taste discovered by the Japanese, has found a loving following by locals who come here for gourmet burgers that awaken all the senses. A simple dining room with lively music creates a casual environment that's home to locals, gourmets, and families who come in search of a savory burger with unique fixings. Go for the Umami burger made with a juicy patty and served medium rare with a parmesan crisp and the signature ketchup that's both sweet and savory. Or try the SoCal burger that's made with oven-dried tomato spread, butter lettuce, and house-made American cheese. Add a side of sweet potato fries or ask for the off-the-menu cheesy tater tots that come with jalapeño ranch dressing.
Jan 14, 2012
After hearing about Umami Burger for some time now, I thought I would give it a try. I love a good burger and I think I know a good one when I "meat" it (pun intended). The Umami Burger establishment was your typical Hollywood hipster hang out: funky building; loud alternative emo music; tattooed, hipster bartender, etc. all enhanced by Japanese writings on the wall and other Japanese details. I opted to eat at the bar, since at 56, I thought it
would be a bit sad to be sitting alone at a table among a crowd of 20-30 somethings. The bartender was cool and recommended a good pilsner. I ordered the signature Umami Burger with beer batter onion rings. Sounds delicious, yes? Well…no. Not by a long shot. The presentation was on par with what you'd expect from a joint that has gotten rave reviews from so many. The bun had a cute branded logo perfectly centered on top (nice touch) on a square plate. The 5 or 6 onion rings were stacked neatly with the top one being cocked slightly like a fedora on some private dick from the 40's (these are not penis references). First, I went for the onion rings. I took a bite and my heart sank as as there was no perceptible onion flavor. Just a crispy grease-like taste, so I cracked open another and noticed a slimy string of what used to be a ring of onion. To be sure, I tasted the bit of the string and found no flavor of anything good, just more grease. I tried it dipped in the Umami ketchup. This was not much of an improvement. So I turned my attention to the burger. I took a bite from the cute little sandwich and nothing. More blandness. How could this be? Another bite confirmed no flavor from the meat, no flavor from the fried cheesy thingy (alias "parmesan crisp") , no flavor from the roasted tomato or the caramelized onions, and -- what's this? Canned shiitake mushrooms! Wow! It seems that the high concept fare was a bust as all the ingredients cancelled out each other. Way to go hipsters! Apparently, there is a market for Umami Burgers: people who don't like the taste of meat or burgers in general. The bill for one Umami Burger, onion rings and a beer came to $21.76. In my book that is a rip-off. If the establishment's signature Umami Burger is lousy, then it stands to reason that everything else will also be lousy. Just like when a title track of a much anticipated record album sucks, you can bet the others will suck as well. But a valuable lesson was learned here. I saved my wife and others I would have recommended this place to based on the hype it has been receiving the disappointment of the experience. Now I hear talk of an Umami Pizza…yeah, right.