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Umami Burger, Los Feliz - Really?

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I have not been to the original. And last night was only their second night in operation, but if that was the way it's supposed to be, who are they kidding?

Homemade pickle plate - $5 for a meager portion of good, but not exceptional pickles.

Onion rings - 5 onion rings that were mushy and greasy. The onions inside were good, but the batter was way undercooked and had soaked up a ton of grease because of it.

Thick fries - they claim these were fresh cut from potatoes. No potato I have ever encountered has the consistency that these did. They tasted like they were mashed potatoes that had been formed into little blocks and then only lightly fried. We sent them back for further crisping. They came back with the exterior crisped okay, but the interior totally mushy. More like inferior, oddly shaped tater tots than anything to do with fries.

My Hatch burger was not particularly good. Oddly flavorless, the bun too thick and somewhat sweet for the amount of meat. I suppose it looks good having the burger by itself on a big plate, but some extra stuff might be nice for $10.

My friend's Manly burger was nice enough, bacony and flavorful, but again, seemed a bit meager on the plate for the price.

My girlfriend's Casablanca burger was the highlight of the three, a good, not too gamy lamb-burger with nice condiments. Still, at $12, it seemed sort of overpriced.

As for the condiments - I'm sorry, delivering them on little Chinese soup spoons is ludicrous. There is not nearly enough of them and they are certainly not special enough in any way to warrant having to pay extra for them. The ketchup may have been marginally better than Heinz or Hunts, but not enough better.

The beer was good. The place was almost painfully loud even though it wasn't quite full. Maybe, just maybe, I'll try it again after a month or two to see if they get their act straightened out. But all things considered, when I want a burger there are any number of places I'd rather go to.

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  1. "Homemade pickle plate - $5 for a meager portion of good, but not exceptional pickles."

    That does seem to make the A-1 Pickle Company's $18 for a 5 gallon container of Kosher dills an even better deal than when I first read about it... ;-D>

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/649763

    1. I am not a fan of Umami Burger anyway.

      What really put me off was their attitude about ketchup. I loathe ketchup and prefer mayonnaise on burgers. They had none and actually had nothing but distain for my preference.

      1. It was always painfully loud in its prior incarnations as Cobras & Matadors and Hilmont, so this should not be a shock. Would imagine they spent very little on changing the feel and look and acoustics of the place, as opposed to just trying to get it open asap.
        The ketchup thing is beyond dumb - how much does it cost to make homemade ketchup by the vat, or mayo for that matter.
        Trying to turn away all patrons, one at a time.

        1. I've not been to any of their locations. But can someone tell me if the original location is worth a trip?

          3 Replies
          1. re: J.L.

            All I can say is that I've been to the original location about 6 times. I had 4 different really tasty burgers, a good but overpriced ($18) Lobster Roll and one lousy burger that had Stilton which stuck with us for the rest of the day!
            Service has been mixed. One waiter was snotty when I asked about our 2 burgers that were ordered 50 min. earlier and customers that had ordered after us had been served, eaten their meal , paid and departed the joint. Another server, Dennis, has been excellent and would be an asset to any establishment! Owner Adam Fleischman has been helpful when I had questions about his restaurant and forthcomming during conversations about the L.A. and S.F. restaurant scenes.
            Is this place approaching perfection - no. Is it worth checking out - absolutely!

            -----
            Umami Burger
            850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

            1. re: J.L.

              Burgers on the first three visits to the orig location were excellent (I'm with the others on the weird brick fries (they tasted like frozen to me) wtf?) However, I did not stay to eat on my LAST visit -- I asked for a table inside and was told that the (2-top) tables are for TWO PEOPLE; solo diners will be sat at a counter in the back room facing the wall or can sit outside...

              1. re: J.L.

                I would definitely check it out. The flavor and quality of the meat is great, I enjoyed it but definitely not my favorite in LA.

              2. I've only been to the original, and I love it. I've had 4 different burgers, all very good. The service was fine too. I hope the new location comes up to speed.

                4 Replies
                1. re: rednyellow

                  I agree. I've been to the original 4 times too, and each burger has been exceptional. The sides are more miss than hit for me, though I did like their onion rings, even if they were a bit greasy. I hate their ketchup though, but have never needed it, I prefer a bit of the garlic aioli to add to the burger. But, when the original started, they had alot of problems too; I hope that when the SM location opens, they are running smoothly. :)

                  1. re: mdpilam

                    I've been there 3 times and tried several burgers. My favorite is the Hatch Burger with garlic aioli. Love the pickles.

                    1. re: fdb

                      I like the Manly burger (bacon cheeseburger) boy is that a good burger.

                      1. re: wienermobile

                        i just had the manly burger for lunch and i agree. boy is that a good burger.

                2. I really enjoy the food there but can't disagree about any of the gripes with portions and pricing, especially the ridiculousness of the ketchup... but my biggest complaint about the place is the HORRIBLE service. Went there on Sunday afternoon and there were 5 tables taken with 9 service people. By the end of my meal, none of the NINE service people came around to refill my water, ask if I needed anything else, or any other gesture of service other than to bring me my check. In fact, I had to push aside all of the the dishes on my table to sign my credit card receipt. Earlier in the meal, I asked for some sweetener for my iced tea and NOBODY working there knew where it was and where to get it. Then a request for sliced lemons was met with the same dumbfounded scramble by the staff. What a shame that they have such an opportunity to really make a great mark on the uniqueness of LA food and are most likely gonna implode with the lack of service and attention to the needs of their customers at this new location. I certainly hope I'm wrong with my prediction.

                  21 Replies
                  1. re: mrshankly

                    Wow, that some horrible service. And I think I agree with your assessment, they will implode if they can't get their act together. Totally makes me not want to try the place, as much as I love burgers, but there are too many good places out there to spend my money, especially in this economy, you'd think waiters would be falling all over you. Don't get it.

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      Especially when top-quality hamburgers are so easy to make at home -- reasonably fresh, high-fat ground beef, salt, pepper, a touch of good BBQ sauce for the wicked, and the decent store-baked buns now widely available. Simple cooking skills. For most people, it's not like building your own BMW. So how do these places get away with murder, patrons?

                      1. re: Harry Nile

                        A quality burger joint better make a wonderful burger, provide it in a setting appropriate, and have service that makes you want to return.
                        If not, it will be out of business in 30 minutes, as many patrons will not return, and competitors will show up to make sure they have reasons not to.
                        To not make a good burger in this day and age is unbelievable, and any outfit doing so deserves every brickbat thrown at it.
                        Only hope Adam and the gang gets its act together asap.

                      2. re: Phurstluv

                        I had similar service problems over the weekend. I always drink iced tea straight, since this isn't the South I haven't ever had to specify "unsweetened". What they brought was (I think) a sweetened bottled Snapple on ice. My request for unsweetened was followed by a dirty look and a whispered consultation amongst three waitpersons, followed by my server's offer to pour cold water over teabags. Thanks but no thanks.

                        1. re: maxzook

                          Wow. That. Says. A. Lot. Forget it, I'll take the Counter burgers anyday over traipsing to h'wood for bad service.

                          1. re: Phurstluv

                            If you wait until next month, you can experience the service for yourself at the new SaMo location without driving to hollywood ;). I for one, am unwilling to ding a place completely without giving it at least one shot unless the reviews are uniformly abysmal, which I don't think can be said of Umami.

                            1. re: mollyomormon

                              You read my mind friend!!! I was about to comment that I thought they were opening a west side branch!! Again, tho, gotta say, extremely bad & rude service REALLY turns me off. And most of the recs on this board are not exceptional re: the burger. Some say it's decent, others say not so much, others hated it. That spells wildly inconsistency to me, which makes me wonder also, how are they going to keep up with other places that do have decent burgers, like the Counter for instance. Been twice and their burgers were spot on excellent, each time. Fries & onion rings were great.

                              If I want rude service and a mediocre hamburger, I will go to Father's Office. (LOL!) After five, on a weekday, real convenient, too!!!

                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                See I've actually had issues with overdone and underseasoned burgers at the Counter so I'm looking for another good lunchtime SaMo burger! I'll definitely give them a try when they open (which will give me a convenient excuse for some Fred Segal shopping) and report back as to whether the service is problematic there as well.

                                1. re: mollyomormon

                                  Very good, will wait your review!!

                                  FWIW, I always order M-R, b/c I love the juicy red meat thing, but it also gives you a bit of an allowance if they overcook it :)

                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                    I have had a problem consistently at the Counter getting them to cook it rare, where I've only had a problem once at FO with them overcooking and they brought me out a new burger cooked to rare after I pointed it out. I get that some restaurants won't cook hamburgers rare, but I'd rather they just tell me than cook it to medium rare or medium!

                                    1. re: mollyomormon

                                      Exactly, I hear ya!!

                                      Well, don't know what to say, these were definitely perfectly done, juicy & pink pink on the inside. Guess it just depends on who is on the grill that day!!

                                2. re: Phurstluv

                                  This seems to be the first thread where there aren't mostly very good to great reviews of their burger. I've only been to the original location, so I can't comment on the new one, but each burger I've had at Umami has ranged from very good to phenomenal. To me, this is the best burger in LA. I also really like FO, so if you don't like them, maybe we just have different tastes (and I don't really care for The Counter).

                                  1. re: mdpilam

                                    I haven't seen that many negative reviews of their burgers, but I have seen several bad reviews of their French fries, and many bad reviews of their service (at both locations).

                                  2. re: Phurstluv

                                    I find the Counter to have juicy/greasy burgers without a lot of flavour to go with that juice/grease. They've cooked my burgers fine but eating them is such a sterile experience.
                                    I live around the corner from FO and have to defend their service. Say what you want about the burger (I disagree) but I've never had anything but great service there. My burgers and fries have always been delivered fresh off the grill / out of the fryer and the bartenders have been gracious and friendly. The patrons, on the other hand, they can be rude.

                                    1. re: Wolfgang

                                      I agree on both counts, Wolfgang. Even if I can get my Counter burger cooked rare, it stil requires ordering blue cheese as a topping because they're so underseasoned.

                                      My burgers at FO have been consistenly great and I've always had friendly service.

                                      1. re: Wolfgang

                                        Really? What do you get on them?? I always get beef, and found mine to be flavorful, and with different condis each time. And the perfect temp. Maybe sitting at the bar eating alone has something to do with it, you def. get your food faster since there's no other orders holding it up. I don't know what else to say, except I'm a fan now. And, at least they will give you ketchup. As much as you want.

                                        And don't even get me started on the surly service at FO. We've already been there, done that, right Molly O?! I know it has legions of fans, but I don't buy into all the hype. Which one do you live by, the CC one is supposed to have better service, room, everything, but haven't gone to it yet.

                                        1. re: Phurstluv

                                          I have only tried beef, although I've heard their veggie burgers are good and would like to give them a try. I should re-visit them. I stopped going after the same thing kept happening but maybe they've become more consistent. I am a fan of their dill pickle chips (although I think the ones at Hooters, of all places, are better).

                                          I know, we've been there and no need to revisit it ;). All I can say is that I live near the SaMo location, have been to both locations, and have always had friendly service. I've never requested a modification, so that may have something to do with it. I don't think that it has anything to do with hype, I just think they make a genuinely great burger. I will say that I only go to the SaMo location in the mid afternoon during the weekend or later at night during the week because the seating policy during more crowded times is crazy-making

                                          1. re: mollyomormon

                                            Okay, that's it. Next time you go. let me know, I want to go with you!! Maybe I will like the burger, maybe not!! I know re: the POLICY so I won't dare embarrass you by asking for ketchup, or something else on the burger!

                                            Problem is, with kids, you don't get a free afternoon in the weekend!! Only mid week, and that's what also bugs me about the place. But, hey, it's a free country, and Soon can make whatever hours he wants. I'm not even gonna ask what the SEATING Policy is!!!

                                            And up above, you're right, I will go to the Umami when it gets to SaMo, and judge for myself, only b/c I'm such a burger hound, and won't let a few negative reviews deter my research!! Maybe we can meet there too!!

                                3. re: maxzook

                                  The Los Feliz location is too close to me (walking distance) not to give it another shot in a month or so. I think it's only fair to give them a chance to work out the opening-weekend service wrinkles ... I can't believe they intend to serve only sweetened iced tea, for example.

                                  I like their port-onion-Stilton burger and I very much like their onion rings, and since I don't use ketchup I just ask for aioli instead. So, they get another chance in a few weeks.

                                  1. re: maxzook

                                    i was there for lunch on tuesday and i ordered an iced tea. they informed my there was no iced tea so i assume they are revamping their iced tea service. :)

                              2. re: mrshankly

                                Yep, I've had equally horrible service there as well on multiple occasions. Not just passively bad but actively rude and hostile. The place is way too small and they have no idea how to run it. I will never go back, it is absolutely not worth it.

                              3. just tried original location. disappointing. seemed like good quality ingredients but both burgers we tried were just too ... composed. Didn't feel like I was eating a "real" burger. Based on the others' descriptions of the fries, even the complaints, I thought I'd love them. They're awful. Onion rings fair at best. Ketchup upsetting. Makes one appreciate Apple Pan, 25 Degrees, Hungry Cat -- my faves right now, all for different reasons, but all way more craveable than anything I tried at umami.

                                1. Hi... I was going to hold my tongue about the $5 pickle plate, since our experience (at the original location) of the triple pork burger several months ago was generally of a positive nature. But ever since the OP mentioned that $5 pickle plate, my disappointment re: those pickles has re-blossomed into belated discontent. The pickle plate in question consisted of, as i recall : a single pickled okra pod _surgically_ sliced into three wafer-ish lengths, along with another three small pickles, more or less also given the surgical treatment. That's it, all on a stark white plate. I enjoy pickles with my burger, and I enjoyed these (i assume) home-made pickles. But I keep thinking about those wafer thin slices of a single okra pod, and I feel like a chump! To quote Sally from Peanut's Great Pumpkin classic episode; "What a fool I was!"

                                  1. Tried the original last week. I didn't care for their version of ketchup - perhaps I like the sweetness of some ketchups better and I thought the fries were yech.

                                    Burger was OK - tried the Umami Burger. Didn't seem special.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Senor Popusa

                                      yeah, i never got this place and am amazed they opened another location. who are the chumps that keep giving umami business? The burgers are okay at best, way too small for the price. the fries are terrible, the ketchup is atrocious, and the service is garbage. boo.

                                      1. re: GrillEmAll

                                        Hey Ryan, they do make cook em as requested by the customer though, something any quality burger restaurant or truck should do!

                                    2. Passed by on the way to Thai Town Noodle for some soulful Boat Noodles early this week. Stopped in for a burger to share and decided to have two and take the soup to-go. Didn't know they had just opened.

                                      -Hitichino Amber Ale, hard for us to find, even at $6 it was a treat

                                      -Rainbow Beet Salad with Truffle Dressing, $6
                                      delicious, tad pricey for the portion, excellent ingredients, loved the truffle creme fraiche or sour cream dressing, we asked what was in the dressing and the waiter said it's truffle dressing, just having opened, it makes sense now

                                      -SoCal Burger
                                      loved the bun, perfectly cooked burger to medium rare, condies were yum, well-executed burger

                                      -Umami Burger
                                      perhaps we just liked the SoCal better or maybe it was a tad over seasoned, but we loved the crispy fried mozzarella strings on top

                                      - Onion Rings
                                      among the best we've ever had, crispy, light, good batter to onion ratio

                                      - Sweet Potato Fries
                                      terrific, but heavy hand on the salt

                                      - Service
                                      though there were many servers and they were not very busy at 6:30pm, it took a long time for us to see our waiter, though, someone did come over to say a waiter would be right with us. after that service was really very good.

                                      we've never been to the original, but we'll be back to try the Casablanca of which they were out.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: revets2

                                        I've been to both locations. Liked the burgers and the sweet potato fries. Triple Pork burger was pretty good. Bartender at Los Feliz was very good to talk with.

                                        1. re: revets2

                                          They have sweet potato fries there? I hope they have them at the SM location. I've only seen sweet potato salad at the original location the 4-5 times I've been. And it sucked! I hope the SM location has beer too!

                                          1. re: revets2

                                            Really? Best onion rings you have ever had.....Good, but definitely not the best for me.

                                          2. Linking to the new location ...

                                            -----
                                            Umami Burger
                                            4655 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: maxzook

                                              I finally visited this location of Umami Burger, but for one specific reason. The "happy hour" special in the bar of $4 draft beers and the Smash Burger, which is a REALLY juicy burger with grilled onions, "artisan" American cheese, and pickles. No fries, no garnish, but a REALLY REALLY good, dripping burger. It's only at the bar, and I believe the hours are from 4 to 7. The burger comes out as is, take it or leave it. For $5.00, I'll take it.

                                              Also, Monroe, our bartender, was extremely good at his job.

                                              -----
                                              Umami Burger
                                              850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                              1. re: annalulu

                                                I think you meant to post this Umami Burger on Hollywood. We went for the first time last week and I was bracing to hate it. I have only love for this place,

                                                YES! Delicious and reasonably-sized burgers. You can eat a whole one and function afterwards.
                                                YES! They have tasty sides and specials. I had some really refined and kobe pot roast,
                                                YES! The wait staff was pretty attentive and got organized at the end,

                                                -----
                                                Umami Burger
                                                4655 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                                1. re: scurvy

                                                  First visit to Unami Burger today . Went to the Santa Monica location. Arrived about 1:00 and it was not crowded. I ordered the SoCal Burger and LOVED it. I ordered it medium and it was done perfectly. Neither my guest nor I ordered any sides. I did, however, order iced tea and it tasted so weird. I asked the server about the flavor and she said that it was Moroccan Mint and offered to bring me another beverage. That tea actually grew on me. I thought the burger was delicious; meat very juicy, bun perfectly paired with the burger. Not too messy! Perfect size. I'll definitely return. Big plus-- easy and plentiful free parking.

                                            2. I've tried Umami three times now. My first experience was at Umami Urban (Original Location) and i've dreamed of going back for years after. I recently heard about the new location in Los Feliz and HAD to go back. I've gone there twice and both experiences were pretty bad. The food was under seasoned/bland and incredibly greasy. The only things i enjoyed were the bottled sodas and the thin cut fries. My first trip to Los Feliz I had the Green Goddess Burger which was incredibly bland and left me with a stomach ache. My second trip I got the truffle burger (that i remembered from my first visit) and wanted to recreate the amazing experience but was left VERY disappointed. I had grease DRIPPING DOWN MY ARMS...all over my hands and my napkin was drenched with oil. A little heavy handed with the oil? I think so. I also ordered the cheesy tots which were mushy and not cooked on the inside...incredibly bland. The onion rings were bland, mushy and very greasy. I don't know if i'll give this place another chance.

                                              -----
                                              Umami Burger
                                              4655 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                              1. Btw, why is this place ALWAYS running out of items on their menu? Every time I go I hear multiple waiters telling their tables 3 or 4 things they're out of. I've tried ordering the Truffle Beet salad twice now with no luck and it was only 12 noon when i tried ordering both times. What do they serve their customers who come later in the day? Ketchup? Why are they so under stocked on their items...I dont get it.

                                                -----
                                                Umami Burger
                                                4655 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027