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Jun 15, 2013 08:04 PM

Umai in Lansdale, PA

Not to be confused with well-known Umai Umai near the PMA in Philly (AFAIK, no relationship), this suburban HIDDEN-GEM is located in an attractive strip mall, right next door to my regular stop, Primo Hoagies. Toting a medium-sized, sharp Italian with everything & long hot peppers, I've often looked into the windows of small, ~35-seat Umai wondering...but given the dismal state of suburban sushi, it took an invitation from friends to occasion our first visit.

Friends who, being weekly regulars, proceeded to warn me not to write too "umai" ("delicious") a review, or "everyone will discover our little secret!"

With the reservations necessary for a Saturday evening in hand, we sat at the 8-seat sushi bar and ordered Omakase. Omakase translates to "entrust", and as any serious sushi-lover knows it essentially means, "Dude, I'm leaving my dinner up to you, don't let me down!" In other words, leaving the number of courses and fish selections almost entirely in the hands of the very friendly owner, Chef Rae (sp?) and his two able assistants. And as is usually the case for Omakase, they rose to the challenge of presenting a fantastic array of their most creative dishes.

I didn't take detailed notes, in part because the next 2 hours resulted in a never-ending flood of perhaps ~15 dishes, many bite sized, some larger, until we finally declared "chigau masu!"

The wide variety of seafood, from shrimp to white tuna to fluke to whole baby octopus (I didn't know they turned bright rust-red when cooked!), was very fresh, served in decent medium-sized portions, and beautifully, even artfully presented. Chef Rae obviously cares deeply about his craft. We started with oyster shooters, enjoyed an unusual deep-fried, stuffed Jalapeño (apparently one of Chef Rae's favorite ingredients, appearing in many dishes, although judiciously deployed), to the penultimate spicy tuna roll and dough-wrapped ice cream poppers for dessert. Not to forget the famous (according to other reviews) complementary kale juice, which I wish I could buy by the gallon.

The meal was well-paced, with unobtrusive service by the charming and attractive staff. It was clear that many patrons were regulars who knew each other and were on a first name basis with the Chef. There were also families with children, but well-behaved. Easy parking in the lot out front.

$55/person + tip is a good deal! Tell Chef Rae what your limit is, and he'll take care of the rest. To be safe, call a day early for a reservation and let them know you want to do Omakase.

BYOB, so we enjoyed a nice sparkling Vouvray, and an well-matched 2006 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spätlese, the modest sweetness of which tempered the spicier dishes.

Someone should call up East Norriton's Bluefin and warn them. Something "umai" is going on over here in Lansdale...

[Photos below:
1) Miso cod
2) Tuna taco
3) Uni
4) Baby octopus hand roll at the chef's counter
5) Oreo tempura (sounds like state fair food, but actually very tasty!)]

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  1. I agree with your review 100%. Rae is the best! He is one of the most creative chefs in the area. If you want a top notch omakase experience I recommend umai.

    1. Trying to visualize where this place is. Sounds like I need to go there like yesterday!

      1 Reply
      1. re: givemecarbs

        Carbs, if you are headed west on 63, turn left on Church. It is on Pennbrook Parkway at Church.

      2. Do you know what kind of uni you were served?

        3 Replies
          1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

            Apologies for any confusion. I should have asked if you knew where the uni you were served was from (eg, Canada, Maine, Santa Barbara, Hokkaido, Kyushu). I almost never see uni from Kyushu offered in the States.

            1. re: mookleknuck

              I'll ask next time.

              All I know is the uni I've had in Japan seems milder than the stuff I've usually had here.

        1. Another excellent BYOB dinner at Umai in Lansdale. If you haven't made it here, you need to get your act in gear. We ordered a lot of sashimi, and it was expensive, but some of the best salmon I've ever had (huge thick slices), utterly fresh and delicate uni, and amazing Blue Fin otoro ($60 for just the otoro, you can see how much we got in the upper left of the photo).

          Blue Fin and Fuji are great, but Umai is nipping at their heals.

          ~2005 Domaine Ostertag Pinot Gris Muenchberg A360P
          ~2004 Ratzenberger Bacharacher Posten Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken

          1. I have been a regular at Umai for several years.
            The sushi/sashimi here is always excellent.
            Some great rolls , sashimi specials that you won't find at
            other restaurants.
            Have eaten at all the sushi places in the Philadelphia area
            this is definitely one of the best
            Just happened to be at Bluefin last night Good sashimi
            but significantly smaller portions than Umai.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cpski

              You should have seen the size of the salmon sashimi they served us. Each piece was 2-3X what you would get anywhere else! Of course it was probably $30 of fatty salmon.