Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heading to Santa Monica for Umami

Umami Burger
500 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401

I have been hearing whisperings about the great Umami Burger for a while now. Deemed the Best Hamburger in America by GQ magazine, raved about in food blogs, and fawned over in the print media, it was a no-brainer where we would be going when my good friend Ed was in Santa Monica for a job interview.

What is Umami? To be honest I am still not sure. The definition of umami is a pleasant savoury taste imparted by a glutamate, an amino acid, and ribonuncleotides. Those are probably some of the biggest words I have ever typed on this blog. Anyways, umami blends well with other foods and supposedly expands and rounds out flavors. To know anymore I may need a science degree, but I am here to eat burgers, not become a scientist, so let's check out the burgers and sides.

To start off our meal we got the three side items above. The best of the bunch for me were the Tempura Onion Rings. These had a very light batter, and taste to match. The onion part of this really tried to be the star of the show, which is rare for an onion ring. We all thought that the Thin Fries were just your basic fries, and nothing special. The Sweet Potato Fries are not my cup of tea, but both Ed and Katie felt that these light fries were very good. With each side you get to choose one condiment to accompany your side item. Our choices were the Roasted Garlic Aioli, Jalapeno Ranch, and Umami Ketchup. To my surprise I enjoyed the aioli the most. The ranch failed to pack the punch I would have liked, and the ketchup was just okay.

Here is the reason so many people come here, the signature Umami Burger. Grilled shitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, Parmesan cheese, and roasted tomatoes combined to make up this burger. I did not try this burger, because Ed did not share with me, thanks a lot bug guy. Anyways, he threw out adjectives between bites to describe his umami experience. They were, manageable, messy, exotic, juicy, and adventurous. I take it from these that he was satisfied with his burger.

Katie went with the Truffle Burger. This simple looking burger was made with truffle glaze and house made truffle cheese. She liked the simplicity of this burger and felt that it had a great taste. I had a small bite of this burger and I would have to concur, it was very flavorful and rich.

The first of my two burgers is above, the Triple Pork Burger. This had the hat trick of swine, ground pork patty, chorizo, and bacon, paired with manchego cheese and pimento aioli. I loved the saltiness of this burger. This, like the other burgers, was very juicy, but the pimento aioli kind of got lost here, but that is to be expected with all of these pork products. I would definitely get this burger again.

The Manly Burger was my second burger of the night. This burger was made up of beer cheddar cheese, smoked salt onion strings and bacon lardons. The burger was cooked perfectly, all of their burgers are cooked medium rare. The juiciness of this burger was definitely evident. The bacon could have been more prominent though. The buns here were very good. They stood up to the toppings well, and complimented the burger and its contents perfectly.

Dessert was the last stop for us, and Katie went with a Root Beer Float. This was made with Abita root beer, which is made with real pure cane sugar. This float was good and creamy. The Ice Cream Sandwich is made by Milk, the trendy LA ice cream parlor/eatery. I went with a rocky road version of this sandwich, and I have to admit it was pretty good. The ice cream was smooth, and the sandwich part of this was way better than any that you could get at your local grocery store.

Umami Burger was as advertised. The Santa Monica location is small, and kind of hidden behind a Fred Segal. The service was slow the night we were here, but we were relegated to the picnic tables outside. The waitress was pleasant though. The food was good, but the prices were a little on the high side for burgers just a size bigger than a larger slider. Burgers run in the $9 to $12 range, but they offer a combo meal that includes a burger, side item and a beverage, for $16. I easily ate two of these burgers.

If you are here on a busy night be prepared to wait. The waitress told us that people have waited up to two hours to be seated on weekends. I am not sure I would wait that long, but I was definitely happy that we saw what all the fuss was about here. And, it was just okay seeing my friend Ed. Just kidding big guy.

Out of five fortune cookies, (not because of the Asian influence of the burgers here, but because the motto of Santa Monica is, "Fortunate people in a fortunate land"), five being best to zero being worst, Umami Burger gets 3.5 fortune cookies.

For more information on Umami Burger, click here:

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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  1. Your friend Ed sounds like a cool guy.

  2. Stu - I loved watching you on the ice, but you are wrong about Ed. He is anything but cool. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I like to think that I'm a pretty good judge of character. It's not like Ed stalked me incessantly during my playing days. Anyways, I love the blog and keep up the great work!