Everyone in the world, at least the burger blogosphere world, has been talking about this burger for over a year. It wasn’t referred to in muted tones like the 2nd coming, but quickly became the 3rd, 4th, and 5th coming as Umami spread its wings across L.A. One usually knows what’s coming when a restaurant expands this fast.
I wanted to come away from popping my Umami cherry with OOOOOOOOOOh. Ahhhhhhh. Or at least with “Umami?” YOUR MAMA! Something clever.
Los Angeles Burger Reporter Larry the Lawyer and I went to explore a couple places today, when I told him of this upcoming tour, I suggested he pick one that is ‘massively popular’, and one or two that he liked personally.
Umami was the massively popular pick, with the runner up being The Foundry. The Foundry wasn’t open for lunch today, so we waddled into Umami and sampled their wares.
We were at the original location, which is smallish, but large enough for $10 valet parking. We ordered the signature burger, @ $10, and a side of hand cut fries (triple cooked the menu says), and a side of rings (“Malt Liquor Tempura Onion Rings”) $3. (3.50 for the fries). Larry had a Mexican coke, and me in my nightshirt, and he in his cap, I had plain old h20 tap.
So what IS umami? The fifth “taste” in our lives, following the four horsemen of the taste apocalypse: sweet, sour, salty, bitter. Some call umami “savory” and believe it belongs with the other four. For a further explanation of this (IF you must have one, refer to Umami Burger’s treatise here. For a kinder, gentler explanation, see Wikipedia’s entry).
So the story goes, some guys, somewhere, one day, were sitting around and came up with the whole umami thing and decided to exploit it via the perfect umami vehicle, hamburgers. In checking our vast world-wide network of sources, one of our investigators turned up a transcript of that first session, we reprint it here, without permission of the participants:
(Fade in, two men sitting in a booth at a nondescript diner)
George: You have to taste this burger, Jerry, it’s most excellent. Really SAVORY.
Jerry: Why the heck isn’t savory one of the four “tastes’ anyhow? It really gets a bump rap.
George: No foolin’. Even Steinbrenner would agree with that.
Jerry: I think it needs a name, a definition, something unique.
George: Youmama it does!
Jerry: No, that’s not quite right (furrowed brow, thinking). We’ll think of something, and we should open our own diner featuring this new flavor.
George: That would be difficult, since this flavor isn’t really defined. You know, it’s really NOTHING.
Jerry: Yep, we should have a diner that features NOTHING as a flavor. We’ll make millions!
And the rest is history, as they say.
We were served our umami burger, cut it in half to share, it was topped with some condiments, indistinguishable, and a smidgen of mushroom and slice of tomato, both of which appeared to have come thru a half hour in the microwave. The menu says all beef burgers are cooked “medium rare”, but that’s subjective, isn’t it? Everyone has their own definition of cooking stages, as we were to learn later in the day.
Anyway, a bite….two. And a collective WTF? Really folks, this is the emperor’s new clothes of burgers. It’s about NOTHING. Truly. Get over it.
The onion rings could have been from anywhere, and while the beer flavor comes through, umami also gives new definition to the concept of “tempura,” leaning towards way too thick of a batter. Don’t even get me started on the fries. Boys, if you wanna try this kind of thing, go check out “potato souffles” in New Orleans.
Damage? $22 for food and drink, $10 for parking.
Save your money folks, move on…these aren’t the droids you are looking for. Apologies if there are typos…. I was still laughing as I wrote this.