Umami Burger has taken the burger world by storm, and has become a household name in major cities across the country. This full-service chain has built its reputation on not just creating fun, intricate burgers, but engineering them to showcase umami to its fullest extent. Umami, by the way, is a Japanese term that describes the savory ‘fifth taste’ on top of the traditional sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavor spectrum. So the real question remains: has Umami Burger produced true umami?
Rich patties and decadent sauces make for some darn good burgers. The manly, for instance, unleashes tremendously hearty flavor with housemade beer cheddar sauce, bacon lardons and smoked salt onion strings. The sunny side takes a less rich, but equally hearty approach with perfectly-cooked fried egg, arugula, truffle aioli and Parmesan frico [a crunchy disc of baked grated parmesan] that adds excellent texture.
Additionally, Umami Burger is part of a growing trend where each location has its own signature burger. Those venturing to Hollywood must try the blue Lucy, which literally bursts with cheesy goodness.
Fries are a must, of course, and take their own approach to umami. The manly fries are every bit as potent as the burger, and make you yearn for even more bacon. Maple bacon sweet potato fries and truffle cheese fries each boast their own excellent qualities as well.
If you insist on steering away from the core menu, Umami’s ‘don’t have a cow’ menu features some excellent nontraditional non-burgers from the crispy [and very hot!] diablo chicken sandwich to seared ahi tuna and falafel ‘burgers’.
While everything on the menu undoubtedly holds its promised savory flavor, the biggest criticism comes with leaving hungry. The standard Umami Burger patty is six ounces, which is just big enough to push into the entrée category but still too small to truly satisfy someone seeking a substantial meal. This factors in fries, which are extra, and quite a bit extra at that.
While we’re on pricing, Umami Burger is far from cheap. $15 burgers are a breath of fresh air compared to the overpriced small plates that litter LA, but making it a meal with a cocktail will more than double the cost…hard to justify even with one of the best old fashions in town [read: bacon].
Does Umami Burger live up to its accolades? Yes, as long as your food isn’t left on the kitchen counter for too long and served cold [yup, this happened]. Just don’t come starving and looking for a bargain.
Umami Burger has locations across California, New York, Chicago and Las Vegas. Average out-the-door cost for burger, fries, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$50/person. For more information visit Umami Burger online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.