Burgers Galore at Umami Burger

When Umamicatessen opened a few years ago on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, there was a line out the door. Restaurateur Adam Fleishman’s multi-concept restaurant and bar with a deli, burger section, ice cream and artisan coffee, all in one location was a big hit.

Recently, Fleischman decided to rework the Umamicatessen concept and convert the cavernous space downtown into an Umami Burger restaurant. Since opening his first Umami Burger on South La Brea Avenue in 2009, Fleischman’s restaurants have spread nationwide. Foodies craving bacon lardons, roasted Hatch chiles, green cheese, soy pickles and shiitake mushrooms stacked on beef or turkey patties come to Umami Burger to get their fix.

Umami is one of the five basic taste sensations that includes sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness. The American Wagyu beef patties on Fleischman’s burgers are made with a little soy sauce and Umami dust, comprised of ground dried porcini mushrooms and dried fish heads to give the burger a savory flavor.

The menu has grown with some new items, and I recently brought five friends to the restaurant to sample six burgers and sides. The new space downtown is now more divided, with the bar and dining room separated by a wall.

Umami Burger touts that they are one of a few restaurants to offer Pepsi and Mountain Dew bottled sodas made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. A few in of our group sipped sodas from a straw, while others indulged in Nomad cocktails made with Old Forester Signature bourbon, Benedictine and Ancho Reyes chili liqueurs, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Xocolatl Mole bitters. The creative drink offers a touch of cinnamon and spice flavors. It is served with an extra-large ice cube that melts slowly and releases less water into the drink, making the first sip taste as good as the last.

The beverage paired well with the signature truffle burger, made with truffle aioli, truffle glaze and house truffle cheese. It was served with the signature “U” branded on the bun and offered the quintessential Umami experience.

Try Umami’s artisan craft draught beers, such as Saint Archer Blonde from San Diego or Portland Allagash White, with one of the 10 specialty burgers. I selected the chocolate-colored Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, which offered hints of espresso.

The Cali burger wasn’t as memorable as the Hatch burger with roasted Hatch chiles. It paired well with the Umami house wine, priced at $6.

Umami also offers secret menu items, such as cheesy tots. The spherical shredded potatoes with parmesan and cheddar cheese are rolled in panko and sprinkled with parmesan flakes, and served with three dipping sauces. Sweet potato fries are dusted with sugar and salt, and the malt beer tempura battered onion rings are firm, thick and good for dipping. Everyone at our table agreed that the housemade ketchup and garlic aioli were the best sauces.

We cut the six-ounce burger into bite-sized pieces. Rich bacon lardons and creamy beer-cheddar fondue topped the manly burger, enhanced by smoked salt onion strings. The Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils from Colorado, a straw-colored draught beer paired perfectly; a light Czech-style pilsner.

We next ordered a seared sashimi-grade, hand chopped ahi tuna patty, which had a California flair with crushed avocado, sprouts and shaved ginger carrots. The burger offered a slight kick with wasabi dust and tartar sauce.

We also ordered the Greenbird burger with avocado, green cheese and green goddess dressing. We paired it with a glass of 2013 Laurenz Singing Gruner Veltliner from Austria that offered slight spicy and white pepper notes with citrus aromas.

We finished with the original Umami burger, stacked with shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, parmesan crisp and Umami ketchup. Umami also offers dessert, and Fleischman has partnered with Coolhaus to offer artisan ice cream treats.

Fleischman has 15 Umami Burger locations in Southern California, including one at LAX. He has also opened four restaurants in Northern California, one in Miami Beach and a few in New York. When in Las Vegas, be sure to check out Umami at the SLS Hotel.

Umami offers a social hour every Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., with $4 sliders and a $9 three slider special, $5 draught beers and $6 glasses of wine. Umami Burger is open for lunch and dinner every Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and on Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. $$ 852 S. Broadway (213)413-8626.

Published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – March 2015

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