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NEW: Umami Burger, SF (Marina/Cow Hollow) - anyone try it yet?

  • hhc Oct 11, 2011 07:04 PM
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Umami Burger is now open, any reports?:

Umami Burger
2184 Union Street, near Fillmore
(415) 440-8626
www.umamiburger.com.
Open Sun-Thurs 11 a.m. -11 p.m. & Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-12 AM

InsideScoop:
http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

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Umami Burger
2184 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

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  1. Going there today for lunch. Will report back!

    1. Sampled a handful of burgers there last Friday night. We arrived at 7 pm and were quoted a 1-1.5 hour long wait; we were seated at 8:30 pm and ordered shortly thereafter.

      The burgers were all executed well - they're all assembled into neat, pretty little stacks, cooked to a true medium-rare by default, and I found the flavor combinations remarkably well conceived. I sampled the umami burger, a scallop burger, a hatch burger, and a manly burger. Of the four, the umami burger was undoubtedly my favorite, with earthy shiitake mushrooms and roasted tomatoes stealing the show. Those two ingredients are my new favorite burger topping in the city, nabbing the top spot away from those sliced daikon pickles on Namu's. The scallop burger was interesting; I particularly liked that the scallop patty maintained the chew and bite you'd expect from whole scallops as opposed to some sort of cooked mousse. To make things even better, there was plenty of sear on the patty, so you get a lot of that rich, sweet seared-scallop flavor with each bite. The hatch burger was a simple green-peppery, beefy success. The manly burger tastes pretty much as it sounds (with cheese, onion strings, and bacon), and in retrospect, a little bit dry and one-note compared to the other burgers. The bone marrow burger, a special on the first weekend, was unfortunately not available last week.

      While the burgers themselves all tasted good enough and stack up well against the other upscale burgers in this universe, I'll really be returning for the condiments. The sweet, tangy, loaded-with-depth umami ketchup is one of the best things that's ever happened to me, and those thrice-cooked fries are an excellent vehicle for it. I was a little embarrassed to lick the spoon clean, but it was entirely worth it. Actually, I'd consider going back and waiting through that ridiculous line just to order several orders of various potato products to dip in ketchup.

      House pickles were just ok - good variety, but not all that juicy, and not punchy enough to my taste. Onion rings were unremarkable, and cheddar tots were good, but disappointing because they were only barely cheesy. None of that really matters all that much, though, because everything tastes like magic when it gets a big helping of that ketchup.

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      Namu
      439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

      1. We went for lunch today. Got there at 11:30 and went right in. By the time we left, it was full, and a line was starting to form.

        Our server, a very nice guy, gave us a speech about what umami is and how the burgers are put together in a way so that all the ingredients work together. In other words, no substitutions or additions to any of the burgers. Although you can leave things off. Burgers are cooked medium rare, but they will grudgingly cook them more or less. There is no salt and pepper on the tables, and we had to ask for forks.

        The iced green tea was refreshing. There's a lengthy beer and wine list, but we stuck with the iced tea. They say they make everything in house, including buns, condiments, cheese (really?), etc.

        I had a Hatch burger which comes with green chiles and "house-made American cheese". It was very good, not a huge burger, but considering its richness and meatiness, plenty big. It tasted like there was butter on the bun. The chiles were not spicy.

        I also had the house pickle plate with several kinds of cucumber pickles, carrots, kimchi, okra (my favorite), cherry tomatoes, one very long long bean, and beets. The vinegar helped to temper the fattiness of the burger.

        My husband had the Hatch burger without cheese since he thinks that cheese on a burger is some sort of felony. He also bravely asked for it to be cooked medium, which it was. He had the thin fries which were salty, crispy, and excellent.

        What's interesting is that there is no "plain" hamburger on the menu. All of them come with an array of toppings and condiments.

        All tables get the ketchup, ranch dressing, and aioli which were fine.

        Our bill was $35. Were the burgers good? Yes. Would we go back? No. I find the whole concept rather pretentious (these are just hamburgers, after all) and a little arrogant with the lack of choice and seasoning. However, considering the crowds, lots of people must love it!

        1 Reply
        1. re: The Librarian

          thank you, Librarian...i have to live here in LA, Umami Central...yeah, the pretention is pretty obnoxious...i went twice....burgers were very good, but still burgers...not worth the price, the 5 or six fries per order, the "dollop" of ketchup one gets...and wait for 1 1/2 hrs like "drinkmoretang", dont think so!

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          Umami
          2909 Webster St, San Francisco, CA 94123

        2. Went for early dinner last week. Sailed in at 6 pm on a Thursday to no lines, opted to sit at the bar. We tried the Umami Burger and the Truffle Burger. The Umami Burger was quite good - I didn't expect to like the shiitake mushroom, as I don't like large bits of them, but it definitely added to the flavor. I just wish it came with cheese. The Truffle Burger was also delicious - an appropriate amount of truffle scent/flavor. The ketchup was addictive. This is one of the best reasons to sit at the bar - almost instant refills of ketchup! We also got the diablo sauce (not good) and jalapeno ranch (okay). The winner was definitely the plain ketchup. I agree that the cheesy tots (not on the regular menu - ask if they have them) were misleading in name - not cheesy enough. But good if you thought of them as regular tater tots, with a nice generous size. We found the portion size of the fries to be big - the two of us shared the fries and tots, and had quite a bit left of both, as the burgers are quite filling. I would go again at an off-peak time, but would not wait over an hour.

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          Umami Burger
          2184 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123

          5 Replies
          1. re: carieshmarie

            I had the truffle burger too but it wasn't that exciting for me. I couldn't really detect truffle scent with the competing meatiness of the burger. The burger itself was cooked fine, but it was a bit oily and not sure if that was from the truffle glaze. My truffle burger didn't come with anything, not even the ketchup that people are raving about. Do you have to ask for that or pay for that separately? I noticed you could order it off the menu.

            They didn't have the scallop burger when I went (on a Saturday), which I wanted to try. My friend tried the special ahi burger, and he loved it. Thought it was cooked well and nice flavor. He also really liked the sweet potato fries. I ordered the Japanese caprese salad and it was OK, but nothing amazing. Seemed like all the ingredients (burata, cucumbers, tomatoes) were all disconnected on the plate.

            Got there early and there were a lot of people eating already at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, but we were able to get a couple of seats at the communal table without a wait. Seems like a fun place but I don't know if I'd wait an hour for the burgers. I'm interested to try the other burgers, though, because does sound interesting and the patty is cooked right.

            Some shots of the food on my post: http://focussnapeat.com/2011/11/02/th...

            1. re: singleguychef

              The ice cream sandwich looks like it should have been sent back.

              1. re: sugartoof

                Yes, you're right. We should have mentioned it when people kept coming around asking how everything was. It was nearly melted when it came to the table and when the waiter placed it on the table, I looked at it and looked at him, and he had an almost apologetic look in his eyes. But I was busy enjoying the meal so I didn't act quick enough to speak up.

                The ice cream itself tasted great. The cookie was a bit too sweet for me. It really looked like they made the sandwich to order instead of ahead of time. But I'm not sure why you can't make it ahead of time. Southie in Oakland makes theirs ahead of time and when they slice it in half, the ice cream totally keeps its shape.

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                Southie
                6311 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                1. re: singleguychef

                  You weren't even done with your meal when they brought you that? Yikes.

                  Softening ice cream that melts quick is a problem with a lot of these hand made sandwiches, that aren't really functional. I'd have a hard time eating the last bites of a burger without rushing, if someone put one of those down in front of me.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    Oh, didn't mean to confuse you, but yes, we were done with our meals. When I meant "enjoying my meal," I meant enjoying the whole dining experience as I was busy chatting with my friend, drinking, people watching around me, etc., when dessert arrived. So wasn't really focused when the ice cream arrived, although I did mentally note to myself right away that it looked melted already.

          2. I went last week - I got there at 5:30 and it was empty, but about 6:30 it was packed, and when we left at around 7:30 there was a line (this was on a Thursday). I got the Manly burger (beer cheddar cheese, bacon studded burger with fried onions), and it was great -- good ingredients, great bun, well put together, and perfectly medium rare. We shared some of the cheesy tater tots (not on the menu, but a frequent special) and they were really good, I was glad that the four of us shared two orders. We also got some of the regular fries, which were good but not that interesting, and some of the sweet potato fries, which were really good except that they had way too much cinnamon on them.

            The ketchup is definitely good, and unlike some of the complaints I've seen from people in LA, they have a big bottle of it on the table, so no tiny spoonful of ketchup.

            Oh, and while two of us were waiting for our friends, we shared the pickle plate, which is only $5 -- I was really glad that the bartender steered us that way. The pickles are all housemade, there was a great variety (carrots with ginger, serranos, okra, beets, two cucumbers and some mixture), and they were all really tasty.

            1. Interesting concept and passable implementation, but this is an experience as much or more about location and pretense than it is about the food, based on our experience there this evening. We had the Hatch Burger and the Truffle Burger and an order of the Thin Fries and the Japanese Caprese Salad.

              The burgers were bland and greasy even though mine (the Hatch, with four kinds of green chillies, was supposed to "spice up my life" while my partner's might have been expected to be redolent with the earthy fragrance of truffles. Ultimately, the most satisfactory items were the fries (very tasty and perfectly cooked, and well complemented by the umami ketchup) and the salad with its lovely tiny peeled chilled pear tomatoes and burrata laced with miso(?) and sesame(?). And the bun, a too often often overlooked element in burger quality was VERY good. At $50 for two (including two draft beers and tax, but plus tip), this was an experience we will not be hurrying to repeat.... For a place so intent on framing one's meal in terms of the umami concept and the proud touting of house-ground meat, and house-made cheese and condiments, it was surprisingly disappointing.

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              Umami Burger
              2184 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123