Umami Burger now open in Palo Alto
I read Umami Burger opened today Fri 3/15/13 in Palo Alto. Hope to read some hounds report back.
452 University Ave, Palo Alto
We stopped in for dinner tonight. We ordered "Smushers", which are double fried, smashed creamer potatoes, sweet potato fries, a truffle burger, and a "manly" burger (beer cheddar cheese, onion strings, and bacon lardons). We really enjoyed everything, and decided it was our new favorite burger place (replacing The Counter). No milkshakes, however, and we did miss that.
Checked it out for lunch this afternoon.
1) Prices are high. Original Burger + basic thin fries + ginger beer was $18.
2) Portions are small / reasonable. I would call the burger a light lunch, like the portion size I should be eating.
3) Original burger is pretty good. The bun is a very light brioche kind of thing, the umami toppings add quite a bit without overwhelming. The meat itself is the weak point. The burger is simply on the smaller side (not thick), and the sample I had was truly rare (dark red). At that level of rare, the fat hasn't melted and the taste isn't there.
4) Service was aggressively friendly. When they asked about my meal I showed them the burger (which I had ordered "default", no statement as to done-ness). After a few defensive statements, then offering a new burger (which I declined because two would be too much) the manager-type said "thanks for letting us now" and came back a few minutes later to let me know she comped my burger.
5) It's fair to compare this burger to In-n-out. INO has a certain single taste in the primary burger, and you're a fool to mess with that too much. INO also has a smaller burger. Umami also has a particular taste, and although they have more variants, sticking closer to the original seems safe.
Compared to the local food scene, the burgers are superior to Slider Bar, but I'll still give the nod to Palo Alto Creamery ($10 w/fries). The Mayfield burger is only $3 more, and far more substantial. Another sample - properly cooked - might change my mind, but the price tag is staggering enough to keep me away as a regular.
I've been here twice. Here's my take, with a huge qualifier here that (you can laugh), I haven't tried the beef yet. I've been trying to cut down on my red meat intake and with relatively strong non-beef choices, that's what I've had so far.
1) I've tried most of the salads across the visits. Caesar, the "market" salad, chopped, arugula/beet. None really float for me. The caesar was too lightly dressed (and I like that, but this was too much so) and I'm not a fan of using kale as the base. The market salad had an overwhelmingly powerful dressing, and the chopped was again, thrown off by too much bitterness from the radicchio without enough supporting elements to balance. Stick to the burgers and fries.
- The Ahi Tuna burger is pretty spot on. It's chopped ahi tuna, formed into a patty, seared lightly on both sides and served with sushi-ish condiments on a really nicely toasted bun.
- Had the pork burger, which blends ground pork, bacon and chorizo into a patty (rather than keeping them separate). It tasted good, but chorizo, as usually can be the case, stands out quite a bit and can mask the other flavors.
- I pinched off a bit of the earth burger's patty. Not bad for a veggie burger. Very heavy in the shiitake, if you're into that.
I know it's supposed to be a burger joint, but it's pretty bad here, or maybe we just got unlucky twice. The service trends more towards what I'd expect from a Pho place (aggressively curt, efficient in doing everything) than an upscale burger joint.
Overall, I like the burgers, though they're quite pricey considering the size and the fact that they're a la carte. Hopefully, the supporting elements can match the core product. I'm also a fan of Peninsula's Creamery's burgers and feel that for a basic, classic burger, they can outdo Umami. When I do try their beef, I'll report back and update.