Like I mentioned in an earlier post, G and I watched a food program the night prior to us going to this burger restaurant. Umami has a few locations in the Greater Los Angeles area, but we found ourselves within vicinity of the Cahuenga Umami Burger location (aka Umami Urban).
We were thrilled to be able to sample the burgers at this restaurant because the food programs’ portrayal was just so mouth-watering.
Umami, for those not familiar with the term, is a Japanese word for “savory taste” or “flavor” first used by a Japanese Professor Kikunae Ikeda when he experimented with kombu (a type of seaweed) to find the distinctive taste and extracted the taste of glutamic acid found in the seaweed which has different taste than the other four tastes identified in Japanese cooking, so he named this fifth taste as “Umami”. The word part “mi” emphasize the “taste” part. This word was also used to describe the fifth taste which is “savory” after “sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.” [I think there's also another taste (the 6th taste?) which is "spicy" referred to in other Asian cooking also.]
So to bill a particular burger as a Umami Burger, it would have to be better than good, it would have to really live up to its name.
Anyway, this place is interesting because you don’t see it from the street. You would have to walk into the building to go into Umami Burger.The restaurant is a bit moody with dim lighting and a casual feel. Theres a bar which looks well stocked and the drinks menu totally reflects this. Also, there’s a comfy bench sofa you can sit on to wait for a table. The wait staff was super friendly to us, so that was really nice, too. :)
The menu looks simple with a few burgers to pick from and some very interesting sides. The condiments come free with each purchase of sides, otherwise, you will have to pay extra 50 cents for each and this includes their house ketchup which I thought is kind of odd, but they have their reasons I guess.
Anyway, we ended up picking the Umami Burger ($10) and the Earth Burger ($11) with a side of House Pickles ($5).
The pickles came first and oh my, it was such an interesting dish. For starters, they pickle their own pickles, so they get to toy with each flavor. It had different combos of vegetables they pickled and our absolute fave was the cucumber slices that seem to taste like roast duck. Not kidding.
At first, G was like, “Hey, taste this and tell me whether this taste like roast duck?”
Me, “Hmmm…yes, it does. Darn, what’s in roast duck? Oh wait, its star anise, you are picking up the flavor of star anise…yum yum.”
Okay, this is a good start. Tasting roast duck in a pickle is definitely Umami.
Then my Earth Burger showed up. It looks like meat, but it’s actually a vegetarian burger. According to their menu, the burger’s got “mushroom & edamame patty, white soy aioli, truffle ricotta, cipollini onions, lettuce, and slow-roasted tomato.” It was a bit mushy to eat, but both G and I agreed that if all vegetarian burgers are like this, we will gladly eat this every day. Again, this is Umami.
The Umami Burger is their signature burger, so of course we had to try it. For starters, all their burgers get the Umami Burger logo treatment on all their buns, so they really take their branding seriously in all sense of the word. The meat on the Umami burger was very tender. Unlike other places, this restaurant will not ask you how you like your burger done because they cook their burgers their way. So if you like your burger a bit well cooked, well–you will not get it here. However, our burger was on the medium side, so it’s kind of how we like it anyway. It also has this crispy thing that I haven’t figured out what it is yet, so when you bite into the burger, it is at once soft and a bit crispy. I know it sounds weird, but it works.
As to whether this is the best burger we ever had? Or whether this is our favorite? We will have to honestly say that it isn’t. Both of us tend to be a bit more traditional in our burgers and like it the way we grew up with it.
However, we do like the burgers here at Umami Burger as they are really good and totally rocked our taste buds.
So in the end, we decided that Umami Burgers are Umami and totally worth the trip. ;)