Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recon: UMAMI

1st bite: “It’s like a salty teriyaki?”  2nd bite: “Is that soy?” 3rd bite: “kind of a zingy tang…” 4th bite: “I give up! The only word for it is Umami.”

Umami Urban is situated in the new hipster center, Space 15twenty. {} Amoeba music is right across the street, and a gigantic, brand new Urban Outfitters is there as well- the fanciest one I’ve seen.  Look for metered parking or pull into one of the many lots in the area.   
My darling friend Samantha Peacock joined me on this excursion, and being an Umami veteran, she knew exactly what she wanted: the SoCal Burger and sweet potato fries.  Being an Umami virgin, I opted for their original, a Kombu #1: Umami Burger, regular fries, and roasted garlic aioli for dipping.  We both polished off a couple Nakhon beers, which complimented the burgers well.  When our burgs came out, I have to say, they looked pretty cute.  Perfectly round, a wee bit tall and very proud. 
The Umami burg comes with mushrooms, an oven dried tomato and what I call a ‘crispy flavor wafer.’  I took off the mushrooms (sorry, mushrooms and I ain’t friends) and I enjoyed the unique flavor of something I had simply never tasted before.  The flavor wafer added excellent texture and the meat was juicy and pretty pink in the middle. (Apparently they’re always like that so if you like your burgers a little more cooked, just ask.)  The bun was buttery and soft, and it did get a little soggy, but only because it was absorbing all that juice from the meat!  While eating it, it was on the messier side, but I’ve certainly made bigger burger messes. Halfway through I was over the tomato, and replaced it with a nice spread of the roasted garlic aioli.  While meat, bun, aioli and flavor wafer might seem like an odd choice, the mix was delish!  Samantha let me steal a bite of her SoCal burg and I have to say I really enjoyed the flavor combo of the butter lettuce and the cheese. 
The regular fries came hot, extra crispy and salty- my favorite kind of fry.  The sweet potato fries weren’t quite as hot, but they had a nicely flavorful exterior and weren’t too sweet, like most sweet potato fries I’ve had.  The garlic aioli was just one of several condiments you can have- you get one condiment per fry order- and it was very well done.  Excellent flavor and texture, it contrasted well with the fries and, alternately, with the burg.  I kept remixing my bite order: burg, beer, fry, fry, fry, burg, beer, burg, fry- just because the flavors played off each other so well. 
The atmosphere was mellow with a nice buzz of conversation for background noise.  With exposed brick walls and scratched up concrete floors I definitely got an industrial vibe, but the furniture and displays were modern and pop-y.  I liked the marriage of Japanese flavors and aesthetic simplicity to a classic American meal and architecture.  The layout was open and the mostly glass walls look out on the shopping area, making the space feel bigger than it actually is.  It’s the kind of place where your server will leave you in peace until you wave him down.  You’re not constantly interrupted, which made me think it would be a good place for a date.  I looked around and sure enough there were a few couples scattered about, but the crowd was mostly young hipsters.
They have a smaller selection of beverages, but good, quality ones.  I enjoyed the Nakhon beer, but a cocktail called ‘Rocket Pop’ also caught my eye.  Beer, wine, cocktails, and the good coke from Mexico that’s made with real sugar cane all graced the menu. 
We paid about $25 each which I felt was reasonable.  I felt like we were paying for the experience of the novel concept, as well as the food and drink.  It’s important to note that the menus vary at each location -to the point that some locations have completely different fries, like Jenga logs- and not all the locations serve alcohol.  I don’t know that I would crave it, but it’s the kind of place you’ll want to bring your friends to when they come to visit La La Land. 

Umami Urban
1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

1 comment:

  1. Try the Manly Burger. Better than the Umami by far.