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Umami Burger: emperor's new clothes?


Restaurants & Bars 75

Umami Burger: emperor's new clothes?

soniabegonia | Mar 26, 2009 12:39 PM

I’d had a burger craving for about a week and there was Umami Burger, on my way home. I let all the hype over this place sway me and decided to give it a try. Ordered the namesake, Umami burger, and fries.

I ordered the burger medium. The meat was oddly cooked: well done on the outer 3rd’s and bloody the inner 3rd. I could have almost drawn 2 lines separating the layers. Maybe if was cooked on a too hot griddle. Or perhaps it was precooked to a rare and reheated (this is what I suspect because the meat was lukewarm). The toppings were tasty but paltry - a tiny slice of parmesan, the Umami "signature" sauce, grilled onions, 2 tiny reconstituted dry shiitake mushrooms, tomato compote of some kind (couldn’t really make out what it was because it was such a tiny dab). Ok, so that’s 5 toppings. The menu said Umami x 6 so I’m missing something, but could be that it disintegrated into the rest of the burger. Or maybe the burger itself counts as one of 6. I wouldn’t know, because my “this is my second day” server couldn’t tell me what the toppings were.

All this would have been just fine, if the meat had been good. And this is my chief complaint when it comes to most burgers and steaks: it didn’t taste BEEFY. I don’t know why, but I keep having this problem. I stopped ordering filet mignons for this exact reason, opting instead for the New York strip, which is generally fattier and beefier. But I digress. Back to the Umami burger. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. It just wasn’t beefy enough for me. For a $9 burger, it didn’t make me want to have it again. The bun was great but I don’t eat a burger for the bun. I expect it to be good but a great bun doesn’t save a mediocre burger.

Now the fries. I know some people love these fries but I didn’t care for them. They are cut so thick - the thickness of a fat finger. When you bite into it, you get the initial crunch of the exterior, which is nice, but end up with what feels like a baked potato due to the thickness of the fry. I guess I just prefer the higher outside-to-inside ratio of a standard french fry or a shoestring fry. And the house ketchup on a Chinese spoon is just ridiculous. That’s what Jeffrey Steingarten would say, for sure. And it doesn’t hold enough ketchup even for 9 fries. I ran out after 4 fries.

For my money (and when all was said and done, I was looking at $16), I’d rather go to 25 degrees, Lucky Devils or The Counter for “gourmet” burgers. Still haven’t tried Father’s Office… I even prefer the In-n-out burger (though not the fries) to Umami at a fraction of the cost.

Umami: Oooh, mommy, the emperor has no clothes!

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