Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Santa Monica, CA

It was a slow work day and when lunch finally rolled around Florence said she felt like a turkey burger.  Immediately my ears perked up.  “You know I write a burger blog, right?” Within minutes we were in the car on our way to Umami Santa Monica- the one connected to Fred Segal.  Florence called her sister Storm (named after the youngest Misfit in Jem and the Holograms) to meet us there.  We sat outside on the family style benches enjoying the palm trees and California sunshine. 

Florence opted for the special: a turkey burger BLT with avocado.  I went for the Manly Burger: red meat with cheddar cheese, salt onion strings and bacon lardons.  Storm, who’s off meat at the moment, had the shrimp salad.  Her salad came out first, piled high with taro strips and four large grilled shrimp, one in each corner of the plate. It was a lovely presentation, however the shrimp weren’t peeled, which was more of an annoyance than anything and when the couple sitting next to us asked about her dressing she said, it’s like there’s “wet cream on my salad.”  She wasn’t in love with it, but the taro strips were a nice touch.  

Florence felt like the burger itself didn’t have much flavor, but everything around it did, which kind of balanced it out.  The bacon on both our burgers was ‘bacon lardon’ which means its cut into small, thick pieces.  My burger came out oozing juice.  The flavor was excellent, and the salty onion strings stood out and added to the texture.  The mustard was a little strong for my taste, but the sweetness of the bun helped tone it down.  Umami doesn’t stack its burgers with sog-prevention in mind, so towards the end, the bun had absorbed a lot of the juice.  We were nicely satisfied after, but not overly stuffed- and thank god because these are tight jeans!

The hand cut fries on the menu were apparently no longer an option, but they offered up cheesy tater tots as a replacement, which we definitely went for.  I don’t think the waitress finished describing them before we said, ‘Yes, please!’ It was a Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there,” moment. They were crisp, salty and cheesy with an element of creaminess.  The perfect little size, served with a small pot of umami ketchup- which, I swear to god, is just ketchup with the word umami in front of it.  Florence described the tater tots as “fried mashed potato goodness” and I am inclined to agree!  The couple with us offered to let us try their sweet potato fries and we eagerly reached over to steal a nibble.  They were nicely salted with a crisp exterior and our lunch mates absolutely loved them.

I ordered a ‘Mexican coke’ as bottled cokes have come to be called in America.  The real difference, as my father insisted I point out, is that Mexican coke is made from real sugar cane, while American coke has high fructose corn syrup, but I'd be surprised if restaurants were actually using this information as a guideline. I haven’t had regular coke in ages, so it was extra sweet and delicious.  Florence had a sparkling English water called Hildon and Storm ordered plain water that came out in this flexible glass, with an indention specifically for your thumb, and while they were charming to look at, not so charming to drink out of.  Our sociable friends across the table loved their iced teas and definitely needed refills.  Umami also has a few Japanese beers and rootbeer floats, which you probably saw in the review of Umami Urban. 

Clientele was a mixed bag: friends, family, and young professionals off on their lunch breaks.  The Santa Monica location had greater menu variety with more burger options, and while the staff was helpful, they weren’t the best.  Our waitress was covering the entire outside area, so I suspect she was a little ‘in the weeds’ as they say.  They were accommodating of requests though, and always pleasant.  Cost is what you’d expect: around $10-12 for burgers and sides range from $3-5, so just under $20 per person with tax and tip.  Latching on to Fred Segal was a great idea for the boutique burger joint and I would highly recommend a day of shopping punctuated by a delicious meal with the fifth taste, Umami. 


  1. i love this blog!
    thank u for doing the leg work...

  2. thanks for reading :) happy to do the legwork!

  3. Truffle Burger at Umami is amazing.. Best burger ever!

  4. I agree with Storm. She seems pretty smart