What is there left to possibly say about the most critically reviewed, dissected, and highly acclaimed burger in Los Angeles? A mouthful, if you are one of the people like myself that are late in the game to scratch this contemporary hot spot off your burger bucket list. Yes I do have a list and Umami Burger was at the top of it. After encountering a few gasps, arm grabs and cries of “You’ve never had Umami Burger?” I found it my duty more than anything to give it a go.
Umami Burger is listed at 500 Broadway although countless bike rides up and down this street show nothing more than the ivy facade of the Fred Segal. Umami Burger is actually tucked away on Fifth Street right next to the high end retailer. Like Fred Segal, Umami Burger is trendy, contemporary, and quite chic. The two certainly go hand in hand. And while I am not necessarily going to use my rent check to purchase a spiffy little hand bag, I can be enticed to penny up for a super fancy, fine dining experience at Umami Burger.
My server was very friendly, prompt, and I had no issues in being seated. However, with its cramped dining area and large crowds I could imagine a party of four could run into some problems. Space is certainly at a premium, but since I was dining alone there were no worries.
With a relatively long list of burgers to choose from, making a final decision could have been a challenge. Ultimately going with the restaurant’s namesake seemed most appropriate. While “The Umami Burger” obviously is the standard at no other place than Umami Burger, it is anything but conventional. It is the details that make this burger a new L.A. staple. The parmesan disk for example adds great flavor, texture, and a certain level of fanciness. And I never thought I would be praising catsup, but Umami’s version transcends your standard Heinz 57. The meaty greasiness of the burger, added to the salty crisp parmesan disk, along with the rich flavors of their house catsup, grilled onions and mushroom, meld together, absorbed perfectly in their signature bun.
Not to be outdone or overlooked by the burger are the Umami sides. The sweet potato fries are indeed sweet, savory, and delicious. And the tempura onion rings were great too (although I believe you could deep fry a car tire in tempura batter and I would like it). The standout side was definitely the smooshed potatoes. The geniuses at Umami take Dutch yellow creamer potatoes, fry them, smashed them down, and fry them again. They are like really big, thick potato chips.
I have heard people criticize Umami for having burgers too small in size. Others think they are perfectly proportioned. I suppose it is a matter of preference. I am usually all about gluttonous burgers, but sometimes it’s nice to walk away from a meal without the meat sweats. I must say I felt pretty good about my first experience at Umami Burger.
It is admittedly a bit tough to review the most critically acclaimed burger in L.A. Part of me wants to go against the grain and pan the burger just to stir up some controversy. But alas I cannot. Bowing down to the gastronomic trends and succumbing to its popularity, I too love this burger as much as the masses.
If You Go
Santa Monica, Calif.
Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike. To reach him visit his Twitter at twitter.com/greaseweek or his website at tourdefeast.net