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Umami Burger? Um, No

e
Ernie Apr 30, 2010 12:39 PM

So after reading all the hype about Umami Burger for the past few months, I finally got around to trying the La Brea location last night and it was not good at all

The tiny space is uncomfortable and loud which made for a stressful eating environment. Our party tried 3 different burgers, the SoCal, the Manly, and a Stilton burger. We also tried several sides including their signature thick fries, onion rings, and a truffle beet salad

Truffle beet salad arrived first which comprised of a few sliced, pale beets next to a small mound of arugula. There was a scoop of soft white cheese in the middle (ricotta?) and the salad was topped with sliced almonds and drizzled with creamy truffle dressing. Nothing had much flavor except for the overpowering truffle oil

Our burgers arrived first without the sides and was disappointed at the size of the burger on the plate. Mind you, I wasn't expecting a huge burger, but for the $10-12 average price of burgers here, these were on the small side. My burger was a "Manly" burger and the first thing I noticed was an oily sheen on the outside of the bun. The flavor was just OK but the grease level was overwhelming

Our sides arrived several minutes after the burger. The tempura battered onion rings were mushy and extremely oily. The signature thick fries had an off-flavor, like the frying oil needed to be changed. The housemade ketchup served with the fries and onion rings also tasted strongly of truffle oil which was very off-putting and unexpected

For having such heavy greasy flavors, I was amazed that no wine was available on the menu (server explained the other locations have this available). I do enjoy rich foods, but this was just over-the-top greasy and I went home with an upset stomach

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

  1. TheBurgerBusters Oct 15, 2010 08:41 PM

    For a truly fantastic burger, try the Santa Monica location at Fred Segal Get a plain burger--all of those topping detract from the phenomenal ingredients and preparation.

    I went today, and this is what I came away with.

    The Burger Breakdown...

    The Beef: The various and flavorful beef cuts (short rib, flap, skirt, and brisket) were clearly well-marbled prior to being ground into the medium coarse blend that became burger patties. The burger had a luxurious mouth feel from the fats and juices. The patty was precisely and evenly formed yet loosely packed. This created uniformity and avoided chewiness while allowing the texture of the various cuts to come through. The blend also retained a nice volume of juices, which later soaked into the bun.

    The Sear: The sear was completely even and dark. This was accomplished with top heat, lots of it, from a mighty broiler rather than the bottom heat of a griddle.

    The Preparation: Med-Rare as ordered.

    The Seasoning: Yeah--just right. The burger patty was thoroughly seasoned on the exterior. The patty was thin enough not to require seasoning throughout the blend. Still, they clearly tricked out the blend with some extra umami ingredients, which made the cheeseburger's flavors really come together.

    The Cheese: I went with the American cheese that Umami Burger made in-house. It was pretty fantastic. It melted perfectly and evenly. The flavors were creamy, sharp, mellow, and salty.

    The Bun: The burger came on an evenly toasted, non-seeded, pillowy, domed, white, hamburger bun. I was pleased to see that they didn't oil the bun as they had on previous visits--I was never a fan of grabbing an oily bun. The bun had that "school lunch roll" sweetness with the yielding firmness of a potato roll.

    Meat to Bun Ratio: This was just right. The precise meat to bun ratio provided a last bite, which was identical to the first bite.

    The Fries and Tots: The skinny fries were as good as McDonalds was back when they cooked their fries in beef tallow, and they were seasoned perfectly. The Tots were more like cylinders of minced au gratin potatoes with Cheddar, which were breaded in panko and then fried to a crisp golden brown. Both starch choices were fantastic.

    Burger Review : The themes that ran through Umami Santa Monica were consistency and precision. They truly shamed almost every other burger that I have tried in Los Angeles by executing everything perfectly. This was case of quality ingredients prepared with great care. If you have not tried Umami Burger in Santa Monica at Fred Segal do it soon.

    Umami Burger is at the top of my extensive list of burger sampled and reviewed in LA, and second nation-wide.

    www.theburgerreview.com

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

    1. choctastic May 25, 2010 05:26 PM

      I was shocked by the following things I learned by eating at the Hollywood location of Umami Burger:

      1) I liked the veggie Umami Burger (portobello mushroom instead of beef) much better than the regular Umami Burger and even over the Stilton burger. The real surprise is that my carnivore friends also preferred the portobello burger. I think it's because they added caramelized onions. That parmesan frico didn't add as much taste as I would have thought.

      2) The sweet potato fries at Veggie Grill have a better tasting coating and also aren't as hard and stale tasting, maybe due to practice.

      3) I had no idea they sold Mexican coke. Nice. I also had no idea that diet Mexican coke comes in a mini-bottle. Cute. But do they recycle the bottles like they do in Mexico?

      4) Onion rings here are totally greasy, but awesome in size and taste.

      I will probably not come here again, because the burgers are so small and honestly kind of bland. Maybe the Hatch burger isn't bland, but at these prices and my lack of interest in joining the burger wars, I won't find out.

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

      1. mucho gordo May 25, 2010 05:02 PM

        Interesting. Just watched the Food Channel last nite. On the "Best thing I ever ate" program, Giada just waxed poetic over Umami burgers. I think she was at the Santa Monica location.
        If you want greasy (and I do cuz that's where all the flavor, and cholesterol, is) the best burgers are at Boulevard Burgers in Woodland Hills. I love mine almost raw and most places won't serve it that way. They will. Add the cheese and grilled onions and the juices flow. Messy but delicious.

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        Boulevard Burgers
        21718 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364

        2 Replies
        1. re: mucho gordo
          GenevieveCa May 25, 2010 10:51 PM

          that piece was filmed months ago at the original umami location.

          1. re: GenevieveCa
            mucho gordo May 26, 2010 10:48 AM

            Thanks for that, GenevieveCa. Still, this whole board boils down to individual taste, Here's a professional chef, that knows what ingredients work well together to bring out the true flavor of the food, and thinks it's the best food on earth. Several people have said otherwise. I've never tried it, so I can't say. I still feel that the best burger that I, personally, have ever had is Boulevard Burger in Woodland Hills.

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            Boulevard Burgers
            21718 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91364

        2. l
          LeS2Ki May 23, 2010 09:31 PM

          I did like their hatch burger but I would never go back to Umami Burger because of their slow, non-existent service. I went with my fiancee on a Wednesday afternoon around 1:30 about a week ago. It took nearly 10 minutes before anyone even brought us a menu, another 10 minutes to get our order, then another 35 minutes before we got our food. There is no excuse for this slow service as it wasn't even that busy. We went to the one on Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood so I'm not sure if they are all like this, or if it was just an off day. Regardless, it should not take this long for a burger. I wouldn't even give them a second chance as there are many good places for a burger in L.A. F-U-mami.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LeS2Ki
            m
            mc michael May 23, 2010 09:58 PM

            FWIW, I understand the manager is about to change at the LaBrea location. Never been to Cahuenga.

          2. a_and_w May 3, 2010 09:26 AM

            That's a bummer, Ernie. I've had two amazing experiences at the SM location, but both were at off hours on beautiful days. For what it's worth, I did try the thick fries on my second visit and thought the skinny fries were superior.

            1. b
              Burger Boy May 1, 2010 12:01 AM

              Check out seriouseats.com and click on A Hamburger Today. They just did a piece on Burger Kitchen on 3rd, OMFG I was looking frward to trying it out, maybe not.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Burger Boy
                r
                RicRios May 1, 2010 11:57 AM

                http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...

                1. re: RicRios
                  b
                  Burger Boy May 1, 2010 02:43 PM

                  Thanks Ric

                  1. re: RicRios
                    b
                    bsquared2 May 2, 2010 02:32 PM

                    Wow. Those burgers don't look good at all. Maybe they should bring back the Indian restaurant. Those sides look so generic. It's like somebody was using Google Images to find a generic photo of "French Fries".

                    1. re: bsquared2
                      b
                      Burger Boy May 2, 2010 04:11 PM

                      I think the reporter from AHT took those at the restaurant!

                2. m
                  mdpilam Apr 30, 2010 06:32 PM

                  Heh, I guess there's always going to be people who dislike it, but every time I've gone, I've had a really good (to excellent) burger. Each time was at the La Brea location, except once at the new Santa Monica location, which I didn't think was quite as good as the original (I thought the burger, medium rare, was a little too medium).

                  I will say it again, the Hatch burger is their best. Their sides range from bad to pretty good, but I usually will skip the sides and split another burger with my friend. I never really liked their ketchup, but I think they changed the recipe, as now it tastes more like ketchup; although when talking to a server about this, he said it just depends on who's making it that day.

                  La Brea location doesn't have a liquor license, thus no wine.

                  Regarding price, I believe all burgers are $9-$10 (with the exception of maybe a newly rotated burger). Sure they aren't as big as some other "gourmet burger" places, but most of those burgers charge you $14+.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mdpilam
                    A5 KOBE May 1, 2010 10:11 AM

                    The ketchup is somewhat like a tonkatsu sōsu.

                  2. SecretAsianMan Apr 30, 2010 06:01 PM

                    Agreed. Its greasy and lousy and loud.

                    Apple Pan is still the apple of my eye.

                    SAM

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                    Apple Pan
                    10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                    1. f
                      flowergirl Apr 30, 2010 05:43 PM

                      The Santa Monica branch was mediocre at best. There are so many better burgers in L A

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: flowergirl
                        a_and_w May 3, 2010 09:22 AM

                        The Santa Monica Umami is probably my favorite burger in the area. Better than Father's Office or 26 Beach, which were my two gold standards previously. Where do you think is better?

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                        26 Beach
                        3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                        Father's Office Bar
                        1618 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA

                        1. re: a_and_w
                          e
                          epop May 24, 2010 09:19 AM

                          Yes, I find it astoundingly delicious.

                          1. re: a_and_w
                            TheBurgerBusters Oct 16, 2010 01:49 PM

                            Amen--FO and 26 Beach are NOTHING compared to Umami Santa Monica.

                            -----
                            26 Beach
                            3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                            M Restaurant - Hotel Metropole
                            205 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704

                        2. e
                          estone888 Apr 30, 2010 01:13 PM

                          I agree. I've now tried the Los Feliz location twice and the LaBrea one once and I am unimpressed. The sides have all been awful - badly cooked, presented, meager portions. The tiny portions of condiments on spoons are ludicrous and not special enough to deserve any sort of special treatment. The burgers are okay, the meat is juicy and cooked to order. I like the buns just fine. If they were half the price maybe I'd go there again, but I expect a lot more from a burger in that price range.

                          1. wienermobile Apr 30, 2010 01:07 PM

                            I actually really like Umami Burger alot. The Manly Burger, the lamb burger, the triple pork and the Umami burger have all been really good each time I've had them. I agree with you I do not love their sides. The cake monkey deserts are really good. I do prefer the two Hollywood locations to the La Brea store. I have not been to the new Santa Monica store but do look forward to trying it.

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                            Umami Burger
                            4655 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: wienermobile
                              w
                              whatsfordinner May 1, 2010 10:04 AM

                              I had my first Umami experience last night in SM. I thought everything was delicious. Sure, the hatch burger was a little greasy but that only added to the goodness, I think. The meat was cooked perfectly, it was juicy, the bun was fresh and the chile topping was fantastic. We also had a special lump crab and burrata cheese sandwich. It was served on the same bun as the hatch burger and was stuffed full of fresh crab. Really, really good. The sweet potato fries were good too.

                            2. m
                              mc michael Apr 30, 2010 12:46 PM

                              Sounds like an off night. Try the Los Feliz location.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: mc michael
                                e
                                Ernie Apr 30, 2010 12:47 PM

                                Does the Los Feliz location douse everything in truffle oil too?

                                1. re: Ernie
                                  m
                                  mc michael Apr 30, 2010 02:10 PM

                                  I've been to LaBrea and Los Feliz a number of times and never encountered any truffle oil. And Los Feliz has beer.

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