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Jun 5, 2007 09:22 PM

Ummba Grill - Century City mall Brazilian joint

I am not one to frequent shopping mall food courts, but friends goaded me into lunch at the new Century City food court.

As sleek a setting as they've built, it's still not for me. I found ten different offerings that failed to spark my imagination or appetite. They deserve credit for a massive upgrade, and for one saving stroke of culinary counterprogramming.

Outside of the main food court hall, there is a semi-sitdown Brazilian churrascaria cafeteria line with a full bar. I know, it sounds bizarre. It kind of is.

Looking at the array of side dishes in the self serve line, I had vivid flashbacks to a summer exchange program to Brazil about 15 years ago. Each dish was more authentic looking than the next.

I ordered a roasted sirloin sandwich (big and meaty, though the beef was meh), a side of roasted lamb (the winner of the bunch, the best roasted lamb I've had in recent memory, do not miss it), and then piled a plate full of perfectly sweet, firm and hot plantains, and then built a grain-elevator sized pile of faroffa, a dish whose exact contents escape me. Perhaps it's an acquired taste, but faroffa as done at Ummba is a savory pile of lightly toasted breadcrumb-like grain, suffused with lots of smoky bacon. You have to chew, grind, inhale to fully appreciate it. The staff found it odd that I would choose it of all the available options.

In addition to the excellent lamb and overall authentic Brazilian grub, they serve a very, very, very (they warned me three times before serving it to me) spicy tomato/pepper salsa and delicious mild green sauce. This salsa ties the Lamb Frankie at Bombay Cafe for the "spiciest thing I eat voluntarily" award.

The pricing structure is a bit confusing at Ummba. I just closed my eyes and hoped not to get screwed. All of the above was between $20 and $30. Given the foodcourt options, I felt like I got the best possible meal for a pretty reasonable price.

They have a full bar outside with lots of plasma TVs. This would be a GREAT place to watch the next Brazil vs. anyone soccer match.

Check it out.

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  1. Thanks for the review. Have you tried the somewhat similar stand at the L.A. Farmer's Market called Pampas Grill? We thought that place was just so-so, and I was sort of assuming Ummba would be similar (if a little bit slicker-looking). Comparisons would be welcome.

    1. I went there last week for the first time and was pleasantly surprised.

      The pricing structure is odd. They have a few options: (1) sandwiches with a set number of sides for a set price; (2) meat of a set weight plus two sides for a set price; and (3) do it yourself -- as many types of meats and sides that you want -- at a per pound price. Of the three of us, two did the per pound option and the third had a chicken sandwich (which he enjoyed).

      Per pound, the price depends on whether you want hot sides only, which i think was $6.95 per pound, or hot and cold sides for $8.95. I think there is a meat-only option for a bit more. Then you go through a cafeteria-style set-up with the sides and then reach a station where they will slice meats of your choice off the skewer.

      I enjoyed it, thought some of the meat was on the salty side. Of the meats, I tried the alcatra, picanha, garlic beef, sausage, and grilled shrimp. Surprisingly, nothing was overcooked. Of the sides, I enjoyed the faroffa, feijoda (black beans with sausage), cassava with cheese. I stuck to the hot sides only, because none of the cold sides really grabbed me and it allowed me to save $2 per pound. My total order was about two pounds, so it came to just under $14.

      My friend who also did the do it yourself option spent a bit more because she had a cold salad or two. She also had some chicken items that she said were good.

      I enjoyed it and will go back. It is a little pricey for being part of the food court, so I do not know if it will become a regular stop.

      1. We tried this place on Friday night before a movie and found it to be surprisingly good! Some of the sides were really excellent, and we had a few tasty pieces of sirloin. I wouldn't make a special trip for it, but if you're there to see a movie anyway, it's a great option!

        Ummba Grill
        10250 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90067