850 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036-4810View Hours
850 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036-4810View Hours
April 10, 20094.0
In the culinary world, a particular buzz word has gotten increasing attention. What’s that word? That word is “umami” and it’s also the name of one of LA’s newest burger joints, Umami Burger, but we’ll get into that a little bit later. First, if you’re not sure what “umami” is, read on for more information.
For years, we thought our taste buds knew only 4 different tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty and Bitter; however, recent research has re-brought to light a taste first identified in 1908 by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese scientist. This taste is referred to as “umami” which translates to “yumminess” in Japanese. Dr. Ikeda discovered that the particular taste of umami is particular to dried seaweed and comes from glutamates, a type of amino acid which occur naturally in many foods, including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.
Examples of foods that are naturally “umamic” include everything from Parmesan cheese to nori, from clams to dried shitake mushrooms, from tuna to tomatoes, and so much more. Simply, the taste of umami is described as savory, meaty and brothy; however, it’s a subtle taste that combines well with other flavors to give them more of a fullness and richness. As a result of his discovery, Dr. Ikeda went on to create and introduce monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a seasoning in Japan to be used as “flavor enhancers” and is still used worldwide, including the United States.Opened just recently by Adam Fleischman, who also owns Bottle Rock and Vinoteque, the whole concept behind Umami Burger is simply to focus on foods that have a high umami taste index and you certainly can’t get more “meaty” or “savory” than having burgers on the menu. Something also worth mentioning is that Adam does all the meat grinding in-house, which means that he can definitely pay attention to quality control. Hearing all the buzz, Robert, one of the Assistant Organizers of my dining group, Pleasure Palate, decided to set up an informal Burger Tasting there. Safe to say that 8 people, 16 burgers (2 of each 8 varieties, cut in quarters), various sides, Mexican cola with real sugar and Cake Monkey desserts made for a fun and filling culinary experience.
Our evening started with an amuse bouche of pickled vegetables that included carrots, daikon radishes, relish, mushrooms and pretty pickle flowers. Sour and tangy flavors were a great way to start.
Before I start talking about the burgers, let’s talk sides first. Of the three we got, my absolute favorite and the favorite of the table was the Malt Tempura Onion Rings, which were light, non-greasy and crispy and the perfect accompaniment for a meaty burger. If you’re into onion rings, these are a must order.
As we were noshing on the onion rings, the sweet potato chips and the hand cut fries with housemade ketchup, the first 4 of our 8 burgers arrived. The one I gravitated to first was the Sea-Mami Burger, an open face scallop burger with nori and meyer lemon on a toasted bun. OMG! Can I say that again? OMG! This was by far my favorite burger of the night. The scallops were tender and delicate and the nori added the right amount of saltiness.
Next was the Triple Pork Burger, with a patty made of fresh ground pork spiced with chorizo, cob-smoked bacon, aged manchego and pimenton aioli. Spices from the chorizo and the smokiness from the bacon really gave an oomph to this burger and made it one of the favorites of the night. This was also the first time I got to sample both top and bottom of the bun and let me tell you, the bun at Umami Burger is sheer perfection. I loved the fact that it was soft, pillowy and even just a tad sweet. That sweetness balanced well with all the “umami-like” ingredients in the burgers.
Lamb also made it on the menu in the form of their Mideast Burger. Made of sonoma lamb with honey-harissa sauce, it was a good burger, but it needed something else. There was a vibrancy in taste that was missing, especially when compared to the first two burgers we had. The lamb patty needed some stronger spicing or maybe, the sauce could have been a little less honey and slightly more harissa. On its own, without comparison, I would have been fine with it, but compared to the burgers we sampled that night, it wasn’t quite up to par and this particular burger wasn’t that much of a hit with my dining partners either.
The last burger of that initial quartet was the SoCal Burger with butter lettuce, oven dried tomato, spread, house made processed cheese and caramelized onions. When this was served to us, Adam mentioned to our group it was his take on the In-N-Out Burger. So was the SoCal Burger better than the In-N-Out Burger? Taste-wise, I’d say Yes. Would I drive 45 minutes from my house just to get the SoCal Burger? No, especially if In-N-Out was just 10 minutes away. However, I would make the trek for other burgers on Umami’s menu.
At this point, each person in our group had basically eaten one whole burger. Thankfully, we all knew what we were in for that night, so most of us ate very lightly that day and it’s good we did. There were still 4 burgers to go and after a little rest, each of them started landing on our table. The first one to do so was the Pork and Stilton Burger with blue cheese and port-caramelized onions. This was actually my second favorite burger of the night. It was just so meaty and rich with strong, intense flavors coming from the blue cheese and the port. Absolutely delish.
Following the Pork and Stilton Burger came the Truffle Burger with Italian truffle cheese and truffle glaze. Most of our table were really excited about trying this burger. For me, the scenario for the Truffle Burger was same for the Lamb Burger. If I just had the Truffle Burger on its own, I probably would have liked it just fine, but after just having had the richly satisfying Pork and Stilton Burger, the Truffle Burger didn’t quite compare. The burger was excellent, but somehow, the truffle flavors were too subtle for my palate. I was expecting something more earthy, more woodsy, but didn’t get that or perhaps, I’m just missing the boat entirely about what the truffles were supposed to contribute to this burger.
Second to last was the self-titled Umami Burger with grilled onions, fried Parmesan cheese, grilled shiitake mushrooms and an oven dried tomato. Considering that this the was signature burger of the restaurant, I was expecting to be wowed by it, but ended up thinking it was just okay. The flavor of the mushrooms didn’t really pull through and the too tart-sourness of the tomato overwhelmed the burger in general. Perhaps, by this point, my taste buds have just been overloaded and couldn’t handle much more.
The last burger that we sampled was the Hi-End Chili Burger with Grated Artisan Cheddar. I think most of fellow diners were underwhelmed by this particular Umami offering, but I liked it alot. The chili was excellent. It had good flavor, it didn’t have beans and it wasn’t oily. The one thing I would have done differently would be to actually amp up the chili with more heat. Do a Spicy Chili Burger version and maybe, even add sliced sliced green chilies, just to give it more pop. As it was, I still enjoyed it, but would have preferred bolder flavors.
Believe it or not, we still had dessert after all that food. We ended up sharing Cake Monkey Desserts, which included Ho Ho’s and Red Velvet and Peanut Butter “Ding Dongs.” The Peanut Butter “Ding Dong” tasted too artificial, if that makes sense, but the Ho-Ho’s and the Red Velvet “Ding Dong” were the perfect sweet ending.
Overall, I really enjoyed almost everything we ate that evening. Of course, I have my favorites as did everyone else at the table. What I really appreciate about Umami Burger is that it’s obvious that they care about using quality ingredients for their food and with such a creative variety of burger offerings on their menu, I really think that Umami is destined to be one of LA’s go-to places for delicious gourmet burgers.
The Pork and Stilton Burger with blue cheese and port-caramelized onions was my second favorite burger of the night. It was just so meaty and rich with strong, intense flavors coming from the blue cheese and the port. Absolutely delish.
The Sea-Mami Burger, an open face scallop burger with nori and meyer lemon on a toasted bun was fantastic. OMG! Can I say that again? OMG! This was by far my favorite burger of the night. The scallops were tender and delicate and the nori added the right amount of saltiness.
If I just had the Truffle Burger on its own, I probably would have liked it just fine, but after just having had the richly satisfying Pork and Stilton Burger, the Truffle Burger didn’t quite compare. The burger was excellent, but somehow, the truffle flavors were too subtle for my palate. I was expecting something more earthy, more woodsy, but didn’t get that or perhaps, I’m just missing the boat entirely about what the truffles were supposed to contribute to this burger.
I think most of fellow diners were underwhelmed by this particular Umami offering, but I liked it alot. The chili was excellent. It had good flavor, it didn’t have beans and it wasn’t oily. The one thing I would have done differently would be to actually amp up the chili with more heat. Do a Spicy Chili Burger version and maybe, even add sliced sliced green chilies, just to give it more pop. As it was, I still enjoyed it, but would have preferred bolder flavors.
The Malt Tempura Onion Rings were light, non-greasy and crispy and the perfect accompaniment for a meaty burger. If you’re into onion rings, these are a must order.
The self-titled Umami Burger had grilled onions, fried Parmesan cheese, grilled shiitake mushrooms and an oven dried tomato. Considering that this the was signature burger of the restaurant, I was expecting to be wowed by it, but ended up thinking it was just okay. The flavor of the mushrooms didn’t really pull through and the too tart-sourness of the tomato overwhelmed the burger in general.
The Triple Pork Burger was made up of a patty made of fresh ground pork spiced with chorizo, cob-smoked bacon, aged manchego and pimenton aioli. Spices from the chorizo and the smokiness from the bacon really gave an oomph to this burger and made it one of the favorites of the night.
Made of sonoma lamb with honey-harissa sauce, this burger was good, but it needed something else. There was a vibrancy in taste that was missing, especially when compared to the first two burgers we had. The lamb patty needed some stronger spicing or maybe, the sauce could have been a little less honey and slightly more harissa. On its own, without comparison, I would have been fine with it, but compared to the burgers we sampled that night, it wasn’t quite up to par and this particular burger wasn’t that much of a hit with my dining partners either.
The SoCal Burger came with butter lettuce, oven dried tomato, spread, house made processed cheese and caramelized onions. When this was served to us, the owner mentioned to our group it was his take on the In-N-Out Burger. So was the SoCal Burger better than the In-N-Out Burger? Taste-wise, I’d say Yes. Would I drive 45 minutes from my house just to get the SoCal Burger? No, especially if In-N-Out was just 10 minutes away. However, I would make the trek for other burgers on Umami’s menu.
February 18, 20094.0
I’ve been waiting for an establishment to challenge the monopoly Father’s Office has on the Westside on gourmet burgers. Looks like Umami Burger has answered that challenge.
I am loath to admit I found out about this place through Thrillist. 99% of their emails I consider spam, but every once in a while, they let me know about a restaurant that I might be interested in. So when they announced that Umami was having a soft opening a few days ago, it piqued my interest.
I drove by the place on Saturday night, but they were already closed. Today I called them around noon and someone answered stating they would be open between 5 PM and 10 PM. I arrived around 6:30 PM. The parking lot is tiny. If you can’t find a spot, perhaps you could try using the valet service of the neighboring restaurant. Or take your chance with the meter maid on La Brea (its free after 7 PM) or permit only neighboring streets. Or try parking at the Car wash across the street when its closed.
Like the parking lot, the restaurant is small. It can maybe seat 30 people tops. It took over a lease from a Korean restaurant that didn’t make it. I kind of chuckle at comparing this place to Father’s Office (FO). FO is founded by a guy of Korean descent that modeled his establishment on 1950’s Anglo Father’s Knows Best type of genre. Umami is founded by a white guy who who went for the Asian genre instead. The owner is Adam Fleischman, who sold Bottlerocket in Culver City a year or two ago. Umami is his latest love child with his biz partners.
For those of you that don’t know what Umami means, its basically the Japanese word for savory. For those of you that love booze with your burgers, sorry but this place isn’t a gastropub. Its strictly a burger joint with a straightforward menu. There are several burgers you can choose from, most of them in the $8 range, which is actually a very good price for a gourmet burger. Most gourmet burgers tend to cost $12 or up in other establishments.
They also have a few side dishes. One major plus is that they serve Mexican Coke, which is made with cane sugar instead of the acidic tasting corn syrup. I took pics and close-ups of the menu, so all the names of the burgers, side dishes, etc. have their pricing included.
I ordered the house specialty Umami Burger, the roasted garlic potato salad and a Mexican Coke. Total damage was $12.45. Not bad. I thought it was interesting that the Umami was the only burger on the menu where the contents weren’t listed on the menu. If my memory serves me correctly, it has the following: oven roasted tomatoes (which is very similar to sun dried tomatoes, just a bit more moister), shitaki mushrooms, oven roasted Parmesan cheese (almost like fried cheese), Umami ketchup, and the burger itself. So how does it taste? Really good. Its a juicy burger. I couldn’t taste the mushrooms though – their taste was overpowered by the oven roasted tomatoes. I will point out that though I found the burger to be filling, the heavy eaters (you know who you are) out there probably won’t be satisfied unless they eat 2 burgers.
What was disappointing was the garlic roasted potato salad. I really wanted to like it since I love the Russian blue potatoes. But the potatoes were barely cooked. Some of it tasted like I was eating a raw potato. I think steaming the potatoes would be much better in preparing them.
I saw some neighboring diners order the fries and it just looked very skimpy in portion. I understand they are trying to get that Zen like ambiance you get at sushi restaurant, but for heaven’s sake, this is a burger joint. Then again, its great if you are on a diet.
Overall, I liked Umami burger I had that I want to try their other offerings. I’ll probably come back with my foodie friends in a week or two so that we could order everything in the menu in one sitting. The only problem with meeting here in a group is the tight parking, which I pointed out earlier. I would recommend a party no larger than 8 people, and carpool if you can. The place also currently has limited hours. They are open for lunch and for dinner, but its not continuous between the two. Your best bet is to call ahead to make sure they are open when you plan to dine there.
Undercooked and it needs a more robust garlic flavor. I think it would be a lot better if the potatoes were steamed.
April 15, 20094.0
Umami is a very small restaurant that caters to the “elite” burger foodie – that is, someone who wants to eat something other than the latest Carl Junior’s assembly line crap.
It is a small restaurant- so don’t plan your family reunion or pink slip parties here. Do however, gather a few friends who enjoy a great burger and can live with only 8 fries.
I went in wanting one thing and I left in love with another.
I wanted the famous triple pork burger that the foodies were all drooling over but since they were out (yes they were actually out of pork – how is that even possible in this great land of pigs?) I “settled” for the Port and Stilton Burger. A juicy concoction of ground beef grilled to perfection (I must interject that I am a “well done” kind of burger girl. I don’t want to remember the burger once ‘mooed", thus I had them grill it well done and it was still incredibly juicy!) with grilled onion and blue cheese. It reminded me of the burger at Father’s Office – the night I fell in love for the first time with a burger without that great mistress on the side – Ketchup. The burger contained just the right amount of blue cheese and onions to blanket the juicy patty. And the bun oh the bun! Dare I say I have never eaten such a soft lovey creation as that?
I am ashamed to admit that I wolfed it all down along with the sweet potatoe chips (they were delightfully glazed with sugar and just perfectly crisp) in about 7 minutes flat. I was by myself in the restaurant having gone well after the lunch hour and well before the usual dinner hour so I was free to enjoy my gluttony in record speed. I devoured my Port Stillton prey like our hungry carnivore hunter/gatherer ancestors who knew it would all soon be gone – too soon. It was not a pretty sight to watch and thankfully I only had the waiter to snicker at my squeals of foodie delight, but I didn’t care – I was in love!
They say love is unconditional. This was proven to be true on a cool day in March when Port Stillton and I met and we were both consumed. I was consumed with the love of Port Stillton even without ketchup (believing ketchup to be the universal solvent I never eat a burger without one) and the port stillton burger was – well just consumed by me.
I gave this restaurant 4 stars because I know love is not perfect and in the case of the port stillton burger it is over all too soon in my hands. Good-bye my love for now I will now move on to your cousin – Triple Pork!
I don’t care call me Jezebel!
March 15, 20094.0
I went to Umami tonight with a friend and had a decent overall experience. I had the chili burger and fries, she had the turkey burger. Both burgers ($8 or 9, can’t exactly remember!) were very good. I’ve never tried such a juicy turkey burger. The chili on my burger was tasty without being overwhelming as with most chili burgers, and the burger itself was juicy and a nice medium/medium-rare.
The fries ($3) were ok – you get about 7 or 8 “triple-cooked” fries. They are thick (which I actually like) but really greasy. Tasty, but I didn’t want to eat more than a couple. I feel like they may have been overthinking these fries. Perhaps they could add a simpler preparation to the menu for those of us who just want once cooked fries!
Service was friendly and quick. Atmosphere is nice although if this place ever gets really popular, there’s not a comfortable place to stand and wait, so diners may get crowded by others waiting.
One tip – there’s TONS of street parking that opens up exactly at 7:00pm because it’s a no parking zone between 4 and 7. Much easier than the tiny lot.
Better than I remember, but still not as good as fathers office.
Great fresh beets. Truffle ricotta cheese is awesome. Mild truffle flavor though.
December 22, 20092.0
It’s almost as if Owner Adam Fleischman wanted to open a sushi restaurant…then suddenly the day before opening he realized he couldn’t get fish, so scrambling he got meat, so he opened a burger restaurant with an Asian theme.
From the look alone it feels like you’ve entered an Americanized sushi bar. This feeling is further confirmed when they offer you Iced Green Tea and when you see they serve their sauces in Asian Soup Spoons. Maybe I just don’t get it, but this was totally impractical. Not enough sauce can fit into the spoon so when you awkwardly dip a lot of the over filled sauce spills over the side onto the table.
The menu’s are rectangular like a sushi list. There are 8 burger options that range from $9 to $11. Seven of the burgers are a combination of some kind of beef. Our server either did not know the cuts of beef in the grind or simply refused to tell us. All he kept saying is that the beef is a combination of a bunch of meats with Skirt Steak for the fat. So we’re thinking Skirt Steak ground with unnamed beef parts…doesn’t sound appetizing. Besides beef, they do a pork burger, No. 5 Burger, and they also serve a Turkey Confit Burger. Both might be good options if you wanna stay away from those unnamed beef parts. We took our chances.
We ordered the Manley Burger, rare. It includes, beer cheddar cheese, smoked salt onion “stringd” and bacon lardons". We also ordered the Umami Burger, rare which comes with “umami x6 – our signature burger you will crave this one.” We also went with an order of the Hand Cut Fries and the Malt Liquor Tempora Onion Rings.
First came the Iced Green Tea which was delicious and surprisingly sweet. It tasted like it was sweetened by Agave Nectar or Honey, which kept it sweet but not over whelming like Sugar. The Burgers followed in about 10 minutes. Both burgers were tall, but not huge, maybe 4 inches in high but only about 3.5 inches in diameter, like a Double Double.
The Manley Burger was cooked perfectly at Medium Rare, which is why I ordered it rare…everyone seems to over shoot the cooking temperatures. The meat had a great flavor but crumbled inside the bun upon biting into it. This is a product of either not packing the meat tightly enough or grinding it too thin. The toppings were tasty and the bun was good and held together. However it was a bit too greasy.
The Umami Burger was cooked to medium well. When we told the server he said “OK” walked away and never came back. He never apologized nor did he tell Owner Adam who was wandering around the restaurant.
The Fries were super thick, under cooked and served in a miso soup bowl. They were well seasoned, however were more like smooth long tater tots than french fries. Not to my liking. The Onion Rings were delicious, very salty but I say that in a good way. The Garlic Aioli was great! The Umami Ketchup, which they make themselves, was too thin and wasn’t as good as regular Heinz Ketchup. I wanted the Heinz…
Umami Burger is good, it’s not great and it’s surely not the best in LA, but if you’re in the area of La Brea and Wilshire go give it a try.
Check me out at www.LAFoodGod.com
August 15, 20093.0
This place got some good reviews and the wait for a table reflected the hype. However, I just don’t get why this place is so popular right now. Its true that their burgers were tasty, but they are tiny. The waiter even commented that my friend and I looked like we could use more to eat. The sides we ordered, the onion rings and fries, were lacking in seasoning. Their house ketchup seemed watered down. Maybe I can’t taste umami?
Bottom line: I will be trying Father’s Office when I want a burger
April 24, 20093.0
Everyone loves umami burger and I’m possibly in the minority and am willing to give it another chance but for what I did have one time, I was not that impressed.
A few weeks ago I swung by Umami to get burgers for me and my boyfriend. I got the umami burger and I got my bf the port stilton. He likes blue cheese.
He liked his burger but I found mine to be too soggy and too gimmicky without any real wholesome taste. I like my burgers less wet and with fewer ingredients that are more flavorful than trying to pack everything in one burger.
later, i got sick but i have a weak stomach so i will not blame them for it. my bf loved his burger and didn’t get sick. i did like their variety of interesting sodas but they gave me one that i didn’t order. still, im willing to give them one more try only because everyone else loves it so much.
January 27, 20103.0
No, I am not a lunatic for giving them 3 stars.
I have no clue how to rate this place. The menu keeps getting changed. I follow Umami on Twitter and they let you know what new burger they’re making but they never tell you what burger they discontinue. It kind of sucks when you are out and decide that you need your fix on a triple pork burger only to realize that it has been taken off the menu or that you would like the seamami and that’s gone. Wait, how about the onion burger, nope guess again that’s gone too. I could try to review the chili burger or the veggie burger but yep they’re also gone.
So here is what you need to know the only burger that stays on the menu is the Umami burger guess they can’t change that.
The burger I tried last week was the No. 5 burger. It’s their new pork burger but not even close to the original triple pork burger they started with. This one was served to me medium rare and when I asked the server to have it re-cooked he advised me that all burgers are served medium rare. This was more on the rare side as it was still mushy, The server was a bit upset at me that I didn’t tell them when I ordered it. Well, I have ordered the triple pork burger and it was never served to me medium rare. I do not like my pork medium rare. I’m the one paying for it and eating it so just cook it the way I want.
Well, it seems that this is the only review that I can give you on the pork burger but don’t hold me to it for all I know they probably no longer serve it.
It seems pointless for me to tell you what I ate and show you pictures, then you go there and it’s all changed. I know right now the economy is bad but you pay $ 2.50 for 4 onion rings. I know the prices of onions have not gone up by that much.
Why did I give this place a three star rating: inconsistency.
These dishes from the Umami Burger menu are contributed by Menuism users directly, as part of a restaurant review, or as part of an image upload.