Normally I'm not one for rumormongering.
I've been to both Umami and Short Order, several times at each. Every time I've gone, I'm always sitting there, looking at my half eaten burger, wondering how on earth it's possible to produce a burger patty that is so completely devoid of flavor.
I know many here will disagree, some will agree, but this is simply a discussion on the flavor of the meat itself. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I could walk out of a Ralph's with a pound of conventional 85/15 burger meat, cook it at home, and wind up with something that has at least twice as much flavor as the patty from either Short Order and Umami.
The patties at both restaurants have always been incredibly tender and possessing that desired "fall apart" consistency, leading me to believe that there was some funny business going on in back. At Short Order I even prompted my waitress, "This meat is so tender! Is it cooked sous vide and then finished on the grill?" She ensured that all the patties were indeed cooked over a wood burning grill.
I'm no dummy when it comes to cooking over hardwood. When I BBQ during the summer I buy untreated firewood and burn it in a weber and grill over that. No charcoal for me. The burger patty at Short Order was so pale and light in color that I knew there was no way in hell that burger was cooked entirely over wood.
A quick google search of "Umami sous vide burgers" turns up several pages that more or less confirm this atrocity.
I've been told by a restaurant friend that Short Order steams their burgers and holds them at temperature in a steam jacket before giving them a quick mark on the grill.
I'd hate to think of myself as a food snob or some sort of "connoisseur" simply because I want my burger cooked to order on a high heat source. I'm even okay with a griddle, and in fact I know that to be a fantastic way to get a beautiful dark brown crust on a burger. It's the method of choice at Shake Shack. I'm also a big fan of burgers cooked over high heat in a cast iron skillet.
Knowing all this, I can't help but wonder at the popularity of Umami. The best bread in the world or tastiest condiments could never make that burger taste good to me.
I haven't even mentioned the cost of either one of these establishments. I've spent between 10-13 dollars per burger at both. I don't mind paying more for a burger. I'm a fan of the burgers at Rustic Canyon and Father's Office. But to pay that much for meat that is either steamed or cooked in a boiler bag is downright absurd.
There is one burger that I enjoy on a regular basis and would wholeheartedly recommend: Burger Lounge. The meat is cooked to order on a griddle, the bun is toasted in butter, the meat is grassfed but they'll serve it to you an honest-to-god medium rare so it's still very tender and flavorful, it's just a very well made burger, and for $9. This is currently my go-to burger.
The fact that sous vide cooking has made its way into our burgers makes me want to boycott the process altogether...