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Monday, August 1, 2011

Burger Adventure: Umami Burger

Umami Burger Entrance
Umami Burger
500 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Umami Burger is another popular LA burger spot that's based on the fifth taste - umami. For those who don't know, umami is supposed to be that meaty, msg-like flavor you taste from... well, meat. After some shopping around 3rd Street Promenade, we decided to stop here for dinner. This particular location is attached to a Fred Segal and although the address says Umami Burger is on Broadway, the entrance is actually around the corner on 5th Street.
The crowd in front of Umami Burger
The restaurant + bar is really small so we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, but we just killed time talking and looking at the menu.
Umami Burger Menu - Front
Umami Burger Menu - Back
I ordered the signature "Umami Burger," which was made with 6 ingredients that had high umami content: "house ground beef, oven-roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, parmesan frico, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, and house made ketchup." I really wanted to fall in love with my burger, but I was kind of disappointed in it. I got my burger medium, which came out pretty juicy, but it was too juicy since my burger ended up getting soggy. The parmesan frico (basically a crisp, baked parmesan cheese chip) added a nice contrast of texture, but I prefer melted cheddar or American in my burgers. As for the Umami ketchup, I thought it overpowered my burger and made it too sweet for me. I really liked the grilled mushrooms though - they had a nice meaty flavor. Ah, umami...
Signature Umami Burger
Open Umami Burger
Our table also ordered some sides - splitting an order of Tempura Onion Rings and Sweet Potato Fries. As the name suggests, the onion rings were tempura-battered, which made them really light and crispy. The sweet potato fries were fried to perfection - with just the right amount of softness inside and crispness outside. So often, I've have sweet potato fries that were either soggy or dried out or tasted burnt, but I was not disappointed in these fries at Umami Burger. Each of our sides came with a choice of dipping sauce, but we forgot to select one when we ordered. We later found out that they came with Umami ketchup by default. Honestly, I thought the ketchup tasted like sweetened tomato sauce and it really wasn't my thing. I actually preferred eating the onion rings and sweet potato fries without the ketchup since I thought (once again) it overpowered the flavor of them.
Umami Burger - Tempura Onion Rings
Umami Burger - Sweet Potato Fries
As a note about the portions at Umami Burger, one of my friends looked on Yelp and found that people were complaining that the burgers and sides were too small - with some people even going as far as saying you should order two burgers or else you won't be full! With that in mind, I was expecting the burgers to be the size of sliders, but it actually came out as a decently-sized burger comparable to an In-n-Out burger. I almost felt that the people who said you'd need to eat 2 burgers were probably used to the super-sized "6 Dollar Burgers" from Carls, Jr. or some other massive obesity-inducing burger calorie bomb. The sides seemed a little on the small side to me, but we were paying for the quality of ingredients so we were okay with it. People in my party ranged from little Asian girl to rather hefty, well-built guys and we were all satisfied at the end.

So far, out of the few big burger places I've visited, I think I prefer Five Guys over Umami Burger. One of my friends totally disagreed with me though. He ordered the Truffle Burger and declared it was the best burger he's ever had! To put things in perspective, he said it topped the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich, which he loved - calling it "orgasmic"! Maybe I'll give that burger a try next time... Or maybe I should give the signature Umami Burger a second chance, but with the Umami ketchup on the side... Hm...

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