Saturday, January 30, 2010

HFF Quickie: Umami Burger Part 2

After enjoying an Umami Burger from their food truck a few weeks ago, I can say that I was more than intrigued by their product. So a few days ago when I had an appointment with a friend in Los Feliz I suggested that rather than the douchebaggery of Fred's or the pretentiousness of Psychobabble, we hit up the Umami Burger around the corner from Vermont Ave. on Hollywood Blvd.

Strangely, that is their "Hollywood" location, despite being in Los Feliz, and the location on Cahuenga in the heart of Hollywood is called the "Urban" location. One can presume that should an Umami Burger open Downtown it will be called the "Venice" location.

This Umami Burger was an overnight turnkey redo of the old Cobras & Matadors, retaining virtually all of the original design, embellishing it only with Kanji painted and/or carved on the walls and shelves full of wood Japanese dolls that look like crosses between bowling pins and Hello Kitty vibrators. It's the most elaborate of the three locations and has the most extensive beer selection: in addition to the well-curated line of draughts, the Hollywood Umami Burger also has a bottle bar of Japanese beers.

I had the Maple Bacon Pork Burger. I'd had my eye on that since I first read their menu a few months ago. It was fucking amazing. A well-balanced mix of ground pork and smokey chopped bacon that was impressively juicy. The burger's topped with a slightly sweet cranberry aioli, roasted & diced apples, and bits of crispy fried chard which provided an extra textural dimension that made the dish. Perhaps the best burger I've ever had.

The side of tempura onion rings was nice too--the fluffy tempura batter was still a bit greasier than the best tempura I've had at Japanese restaurants, but a fuck tonne lighter than the doughy messes that pass for "tempura" at most gastropubs and fusion joints. They're sprinkled with what appeared to be ground sea salt, which helped to unobtrusively salt the rings.

As a last note, the staff was friendly, attentive, and well-trained.

So Umami Burger, I think, has me hooked. Prices are reasonable ($10-$14 for good sized top-notch burgers) and the selection is dynamic and innovative without being over-elaborate or pretentious. It's that rare LA beast: a restaurant with a strong concept and big ambitions but where the food quality still, unequivocally, comes first.

Umami Burger (Hollywood)
4655 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90027


SinoSoul said...

I wish people would expose this "umami" for what it truly (usually) is: MSG, or, at least, glutamates. And I often wonder how often people who rave about Umami actually eat burgers on the regular. Still not convinced...

David J.D. said...

Umami's not MSG. Umami is the taste produced by MSG. But umami is tasted (naturally) in seaweed, mushrooms, cheeses, meats, etc. MSG is used as an additive to increase savoriness, often used in processed meats.

But you won't find me on the anti-MSG bandwagon. Its been used naturally (the Chinese made a seaweed distillate flavor additive that's essentially MSG) for over a thousand years and unless you're in the tiny fraction of folks with an actually allergy, it's not bad for you.

Have you had Umami Burger?