Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Umami Burger - Yum-a-Yumi!!

So I'm adding a new section to the blog called: "Everyday Deals."  These are the places where you can get absolutely fabulous food for under $10 an entree everyday.  No waiting for Tuesday nights or Happy Hours (though I'm more then happy to wait for those as well:)  So, what better way to start of this section, then with a place people have been raving about: Umami Burger.

It's easy to miss the restaurant, as it is a nondescript store front on La Brea, wedged between such non epicurean delights as a donut shop and a car wash.  But find it we did.  Normally, I try and avoid valet parking (what's the point of $3 chicken when you've paid $10 for valet?), but for a mere $2, Umami gets the prize for the cheapest valet parking around.

H and I walked in to be greeted by our dear friend J.  It's really a very small restaurant, but they've made delightful use of the space, using warm woods and neutral colors, as well as leaving one wall entirely open to windows so that light pours in.  We settled in to to the simple table with a paper table cloth and small succulent plant. 

The menu is simple: one narrow page of burgers with the reverse of the page detailing sides, drinks, and desserts.  But I say, if you do one thing and do it well, then that's all you need.  I'm sick of the cheese cake factories of the world doing a mediocre job on EVERYTHING.  I hope this micro-specialization continues.  
And speaking of micro-specialization, these guys specialize in Cola!  They don't have a liquor license, but they will happily send you across the street if you want to bring in your own booze.  But... should you be less alcohol inclined, they have a wonderful assortment of unusual sodas.  I opted for a Chai Cola.  The first sweet sip is filled with the complex spices of chai tea, although it does have a bitter aftertaste.  Think next time I'll opt for a different unusual option. 
Then came the house specialty: The $9 Umami Burger.  Umami is that fifth elusive taste.  When it's not sweet, spicy, sour, or bitter, it's: Umami.  And this burger has it in spades.  Juicy, perfectly cooked beef, earthy complex mushrooms, a crispy parmesan cracker, a sharp, melted cheese that I'm guessing is gruyere, and an oven roasted tomato, all encased in a meltingly soft bun.  They warn you that you will crave this one, and they are indeed correct.  Be prepared to get hooked into a lifetime of deliciousness.  
Being a SoCal kinda girl, my beautiful friend H opted for the $9 SoCal Burger.  This lovely patty is topped with butter lettuce, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomato, and what they call: house made processed cheese.  Do not be put off by visions of kraft singles dancing in your head.  This is more akin to a manchego: creamy and flavorful.  This burger is sweeter then the Umami, but still cravably delicious.  

J opted for the $10 Turkey Confit Burger, which, while tasty, simply wasn't in the same league as the other two.  I would skip this one if I were you.

We ordered the $3 triple cooked hand cut fries.  While they had a crisp exterior and a nice dusting of salt, they were so thick that it almost seemed more like eating a potato then eating a french fry.  Of course, the house made ketchup made anything utterly palatable.

Far superior in the realm of sides is the $2.5 malt liquor tempura onion rings.  The light tempura coating and the complex hint of the malt flavor elevate these onion rings far above their normally greasy, soggy counterparts.  (Oh, these are greasy too, it's just a different, yummier kind of grease:)  I think I'd eat just about anything in that malt liquor tempura batter.
We ended with Cake Monkey's $3.75 Raspberry Red Velvet Ding Dong.  The red velvet cake is light and spongey, and the chocolate coating actually tastes like chocolate.  I imagine this is what ding dongs used to taste like before all the chemicals came rushing in to make things taste like plastic.  Oh, and then there's the delectable tang of the raspberry filling all mushed together in your mouth.  Perfectly sweet!

Overall, we had a wonderfully delicious evening at Umami Burger and will certainly be back for more.  Four and a half belt notches!!

One Caveat: get there early!  We arrived at 7pm and sat down in a mostly empty restaurant.  By the time we left at 8:30, hordes of hungry diners stared longingly through the glass at our table.  This is not a restaurant to linger in!!  Get in, eat scrumptious burgers, and then move on before ravenous diners start swiping food off your plate.  

Umami Burger is located at:
850 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA  90036

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon


  1. ooh let's go when I'm back in LA this summer!

  2. Sounds like an awesome place. Thanks for the head's up. I'm not a burger person but I know someone who is and he'll love to go here.

  3. If I ever go to LA, we are going there.

  4. The latest easy way to save your money by free restaurant coupons at www.clickmycoupon.com
    and get huge discount on dining.

  5. Your pictures of this restaurant's food were so enticing! I would love to try one of their burgers and the onion rings. Do you think they are better than "Your Father's Office" (do I have the name right?) burgers? The red velvet Ding Dongs brought back happy memories of my VERY occasional lunchbox treat of Ding Dongs-although in my day there was no such thing as a red velvet one.

  6. Re. Jack's comment above, I have had very good experiences using Restaurant.com, especially when they offer their 70-80% off deals.

  7. I loved unami burger! Good reccomendation, I had the veggie burger and I even tried the Chai Cola... I saw it had Yerba Mate in it, which is often bitter (but I like it) & it went great with my meal... so all around, nice reporting!

  8. Sus - It's "Father's Office" - good memory! Comparing the two would be Sophie's Choice. They're both wonderful, but each in their own special way:) I can't choose a favorite!

    Anon. - Glad to hear they even do a good job with the veggie burger!

  9. All this food looks delicious!