After a day of running errands around town, I wanted to eat something delicious, so we ended up at Umami Burger. Umami Burger is a chain of trendy, upscale, gourmet burger restaurants, the type of place where the burger and nothing else comes on a pristine white plate. There are currently four locations, but we went to the one on La Brea.
The restaurant itself is very small, with perhaps 30 seats inside, and another dozen outside. The small area makes for some intimacy, but the sheer volume of chatter almost ensures you won't have any. Oh well, that's not why I went there.
The menu consists solely of burgers and sides, with about a half dozen variations of the beefy offerings. Each burger variation has been carefully crafted with a precise mix of complimentary flavors. Today I ordered their signature burger, the Umami burger. It boasts six different sources of umami, that fifth flavor also known as savory that derives from glutamic acid. I can't name all the ingredients that contributed to the umami, but I do know that they were all good.
After ordering, the burger came fairly quickly. My first impression was that it was rather modest and plain—a lone, single burger sitting in the middle of an expansive rectangular plate. But that tiny burger packed a wallop of flavor.
Now when judging a burger, you really have to discuss the patty, as, after all, a hamburger wouldn't be a hamburger without the patty. Even if the bun, all the toppings, and the sauces are good, it means very little without the right burger patty. I've had quite a few good burgers, but this one is instantly in my top two (sorry, MOS Burger is still my number one), and it's all because of the patty.
I got a little glimpse into the kitchen, so I could see that they grind their own meat, if only I knew what cuts. Their burger patty is like a work of art. It's devoid of gristle, yet still maintains a wonderfully varied texture without the usual annoyances. The patty is loosely packed and as I ordered mine rare (medium rare is their standard, so speak up if you like otherwise), if the meat weren't lean it would be a goobly mess. Despite what must be a lack of inherent fat, the burger tastes wonderfully rich, with the most beautiful caramelization on the outside. It was like eating the best prime rib, but in burger form.
Topping the burger was their Umami ketchup, grilled onions, Parmesan frico, sauteed shiitake mushroom, and roasted tomato. Everything came served on a lightly toasted brioche bun. Thinking about it, it was all quite frou-frou, but after having eaten it, I don't even care. This is not the type of burger you scarf down—that would be an insult (and a waste of your $10). No, you have to take each bite and chew it lovingly and longingly—this is the type of burger you make love to, but only after dating it for a month and getting to know it pretty well.
I could go on and on about how I met the burger's parents, and the proposal, but I should take some time and talk about Umami Burger's onion rings. I also ordered their malt liquor tempura onion rings. They were similar in many ways to beer-batter-fried Maui onion rings, but much more refined. They were lighter in color, but no less greasy. The added touch of sea salt was also a nice surprise. They come in a short stack, but go a long way.
Lastly, to clean my palate between bites (you really wouldn't want to muddle all the wonderful flavors), I ordered a ginger ale. It would have been an Arnold Palmer but they ran out(?) of iced tea. The waiter brought me a bottle of Vavo ginger ale, which was very light and refreshing. The ginger extract gave it a sharper ginger bite, and the light cane sugar didn't make it too abundantly sweet.
I would have to say it was a near perfect experience. Why wasn't it perfect? Well, because some annoying internet blogger who will go unnamed, *cough* Perez Hilton *cough*, was sitting behind me playing "Would you rather..." with his dinner guests. He was so loud, I couldn't even eavesdrop on their answers. Luckily Andy Garcia swooped in with his three lovely daughters, and the annoying internet blogger vanished into the night. Sometimes living in Los Angeles is so weird.
Some other notes on Umami Burger:
- 5 out of 7 on my mess-o-meter, meaning your burger will fall apart and leak juices the closer you get to finishing it.
- 10 out of 10 on my burg-o-meter, meaning that I want to have kids with this burger.
- Perez Hilton: 10 out of 10 on my douche-o-meter, meaning even douches would have to douche after meeting him.
- Andy Garcia: 8 out of 10 on my cool-cat-o-log, because he was sporting an awesome Confederate beard and mustache combo. Plus his daughters were surprisingly attractive.
Umami Burger La Brea
850 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Umami Burger Hollywood
4655 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90027
1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd. #7
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Umami Santa Monica
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Umami Burger Website