Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Umami Burger Arrives in OC

Umami Burger
2981 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

The burger invasion continues in OC. In recent years we have been invaded by other towns burger favorites. Five Guys, The Counter, The Habit, and now, LA export, Umami Burger is putting down roots in our great county. This is one invasion I can really get behind.

I have had Umami Burger once before in Santa Monica. You can read that review here. This OC Umami Burger is taking over the old Valhalla Table space at the Camp in Costa Mesa. They have been open here for almost two months. There is also another outpost of this burger chain opening in Laguna Beach on June 13th, and yet another one planned for Anaheim later this year. With all of this expansion, I was really excited to see what they had in store for us in OC.

We got to the restaurant at six thirty on a Wednesday night. The word has definitely gotten out about this place. We had about a fifteen minute wait to be seated. Once inside we were seated at one of the communal tables in the middle of the restaurant. The seats and tables are located very close to the ground. The atmosphere here is kind of hip, with murals on the walls, and a young hip serving staff. The dining room was very loud and bustling with activity. After checking out the menu, this is what we ordered.

Not your normal drinks at Umami Burger. Kat, from Kat's 9 Lives was eating with us this night, and ordered the Boozy Breakfast Coke Float ($6). What made this a breakfast float? This unique float was made with Kahlua infused ice cream, Grape Nuts, (that is the breakfast part), and pure cane sugar, Mexican Coke. I had a sip of this and thought it was okay. I did not get the Grape Nut vibe, but the Kahlua was prevalent here. Both Katie and I opted for a more traditional beverage, the Iced Green Tea ($2.50). This was not a sweet tea, which is the way I enjoy my beverages. Umami Burger also has an eclectic selection of beers and wines, ranging in price from  $4 to $21.

When we go out with Kat we really like to get a good selection of food, so we got four side items to start. The first were these Truffle Fries ($4.50). I was not too big of a fan of these. I did not like the cheese/truffle sauce here. It really globbed together and the taste was off for me. This might have worked if the fries were a little bigger, so they could have held more of the sauce.

Do not tell anyone, but at Umami Burger they have a secret menu item, the Cheesy Tots ($4.50). I guess it is not that big of a secret, because our waitress told us about these, but it was cool thinking we were in the know. These were definitely better than the fries. They were fried crisp, but the cheese inside was not overly abundant. These were kind of plain tasting.

The Tempura Onion Rings ($3) were served very hot. The breading here is very light, and not very greasy at all. The onion inside was good, but these broke away from the breading very easily. I would get these again though.

Of course I saved the best side item of the night for last, the Smushed Potatoes ($4.50). These double fried creamer potatoes were cooked perfectly. Fried lightly on the outside, and still soft on the inside. These were the unanimous favorites of the three of us. Skip the fries, and go for these smushed spuds instead.

Of course with all of these side items, condiments are a must. We opted to get the Umami Ketchup, Roasted Garlic Aioli, , and the Jalapeno Ranch. After looking at the Jalapeno ranch, I thought it was going to be too runny, but this was my favorite sauce of the night. It was a little on the thin side, but you could really taste the jalapeno in this dressing. Very good. I always enjoy a good garlic aioli, but this one was not my favorite. It was lacking when it came to the garlic portion. I liked the texture though. The house made umami ketchup was not as sweet as the ketchup we are used to, but it worked out well for us.

Now on to the real reason we are here, the burgers. First up is Katie's selection, the Cali Burger ($10). This one came with lettuce, roasted tomato, house made American cheese, and caramelized onions. Katie thought this burger was just okay. She was more happy with her burger here on her first visit. She called this burger, "just okay".

My burger of the night was the Port and Stilton Burger ($11). This burger came with port-caramelized onions and blue cheese. The burger itself was very juicy and had a decent flavor, but that flavor was not due to the blue cheese or the onions. This was a very plain tasting burger. Nothing really wowed me about this hamburger.

Kat really wanted to get the feel of this place, so this Umami Burger ($11) was the first of her two burgers. The namesake burger of this restaurant comes with shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, a Parmesan crisp, and umami ketchup. She was happier about this burger than her next one.

Again, truffle disappointed here. Kat had the Truffle Burger ($12). It is true what they say on all the cooking competition shows, too much truffle is usually a bad thing. This burger got a double dose, with house made truffle cheese and a truffle glaze. Just like the fries, the truffle cheese had an odd texture for us. Kat was less than enthused by this burger.

By this time I was pretty full, but of course there is always room for dessert. At Umami Burger they offer five different versions of these LA Creamery Ice Cream Sandwiches ($5). True to form, my favorite of these three was the peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, with a chocolate cookie. The peanut butter could have been more pronounced here, but it was still good. Other versions included a chocolate ice cream/chocolate chip cookie and a vanilla ice cream/sugar cookie option. All were pretty good, but I was so full from dinner, it was hard to enjoy them.

I was not so enamored as I was on our previous trip to Umami Burger in Santa Monica. It could be that I was not as hungry as I should have been, because of a big lunch I had eaten earlier in the day. It also could be that we have been eating at some real good burger places recently, and I am subconsciously comparing these others to Umami Burger. More than likely though it was my choice of burger on this night. I should have stuck with a burger that included some kind of pork in it. You can never go wrong with bacon in a burger. The prices here are definitely not a value. For over $11 per burger, these burgers need to be bigger. I know you are paying for the quality of ingredients, but if I had not eaten a big lunch, I would have probably left here hungry. It was busy during our visit here, and the service could not have been better. Our waitress was right on top of things, and gave us some good suggestions. We will definitely give Umami Burger another try when I am more hungry. For now, I am just happy that we are getting to try some other regions burger places.

Out of five storage units, (because Dave Hester, one of the buyers on the show, "Storage Wars", lives in Costa Mesa where this location of Umami Burger is located), five being best to zero being worst, Umami Burger gets 3 storage units.

For more information on Umami Burger, click here:

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon


  1. I'm considering giving them another shot -- I was so underwhelmed by the first visit it's prohibited me from readily wanting to go again.

  2. I feel the same way as you. I will definitely try them again. Thanks for the comment.