Thursday, April 24, 2014

Umami Burger

So what's this hoopla about Umami Burger? Best burger in the country? Wow, that is a bold statement but with that kind of press, I really have to go and see what it's all about. Lucky for me, Dessert Zombie decided to pick Umami Burger as his choice to celebrate his birthday (this was month and month ago).
Since Umami Burger doesn't take reservations, we tried to arrive before the evening rush to grab a table. When we arrived, they weren't taking names down because of some system issue. So we just had to wait until our entire party arrived. When we did all get there, they were taking names down. WTF! We were annoyed! Why did they lie and say they weren't taking names down when they clearly were doing so at some point? They need to work on the front of the house.

When we finally sat down, we looked over the menu and decided to order a burger and side for each person. While we waited for our food to arrive, these soup spoons of sauces showed up in front of us. From left to right, housemade ketchup, roasted garlic aioli, diablo sauce, and ranch (I think). Umami Burger is known for making their own...everything. The seasoning in the burgers are secret and so why not step it up with homemade sauces as well? You know what is the problem with that? Not everything is going to be a hit. Like these sauces. They just fell flat for me. Nothing really stood out as being really good and memorable. They were just there occupying precious table space.
Before the burgers arrived, the plethora of sides came and graced our tables. We nibbled and snacked until the main even came around. For myself, I ordered the tempura onion rings ($6). These onion rings didn't remind me of any tempura I've had before. The coating of batter was thick hiding sweet onion underneath. Underseasoned and underwhelming. When I don't finish my onions rings, as I did here, that says something.
Mr. M&P picked the smushed potatoes ($6) which are twice fried leaving them crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. These were the best side we had that night. Well executed and well seasoned. I picked on these while ignoring my own onion rings.
The Feisty Foodie had the thin fries ($3.50) but ordered them manly (+$3). What does that mean? Well, the thin fries are topped beer cheddar, bacon, and onion strings. She really seemed to enjoy these and ate and ate until there was no fry left unturned.
Feisty Foodie's BFF ordered the sweet potato fries ($4) which were nicely fried and had a good sweet salty taste. I guess I lost in the side contest. Boo to me.
And now the burgers. Both Mr. M&P and Dessert Zombie chose the Manly Burger ($12) which much like the fries came with beer cheddar, bacon, and fried onion strings. This was good. Thick meat patty and lots of delicious toppings. The different textures also were nice together.
For myself, I had the Original Umami Burger ($12) which comes with a parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, and housemade ketchup. This burger was just okay. While the patty was a decent size, it lacked that big beefy flavor that I looked forward to. Also, it lacked a deep crunchy sear that not only helps keep the patty together but also provides a layer of texture to an otherwise soft sandwich. The parmesan crisp was really lackluster too. When I want a cheeseburger, I want to taste the cheese against the burger but in this case, it was completely lost. The bun though not vertically challenged was actually pretty soft and squished down well so that my mouth can wrap around the entire burger.
Before, I move onto the dessert, I wanted to share another little story with you. In fact, I'm pretty sure this involves the front of the house again. Before we dined at Umami Burger, I called and asked if I could bring dessert to celebrate a birthday. I was willing to pay a plating fee. The person on the other end of the line explained that not only do they not allow outside food to be brought in to be consumed but she also explained that they do not offer dessert either. With that, I had planned a couple of places to check out after dinner to enjoy some dessert with none other than Dessert Zombie himself. But to my surprise, after we finished dinner, we were offered the dessert menu. WTF AGAIN! What is up with the front of house lying? I don't understand. Why not just say no?! Please don't make up any excuse. It's horrible business practice because people remember things like this.

So now onto dessert. We saw ice cream doughnuts. When someone asked what's ice cream doughnuts, Dessert Zombie just replied with a strong "YEA MAN!". Okay, he sure wants these doughnut ice cream sandwiches. We shared a chocolate ice cream one and...
A vanilla one. These sounded so good on paper but failed on so many other levels. First, the ice cream doughnuts were premade and then frozen together. The cold does not do well for doughnuts. The light airyness of the doughnuts were completely lost. Together with the ice cream, texture and flavor was not good. In fact, Dessert Zombie's chocolate ice cream doughnut tasted like mooncake which is a lotus bean Asian dessert. Doughnuts and ice cream should not taste like this. While my doughnut ice cream tasted better it wasn't good per se either. We left a lot of this on the plate.
If you must have some kind of dessert, I would advise just getting the ice cream as is. It's the safest route to happiness. Otherwise, skip entirely and go some place else. You're in the village. There are so many places to choose from. Big Gay Ice Cream, anyone?
So my overall assessment of Umami Burger is basically a skip. Between the okay burger, sad onion rings, and ice cream doughnut dessert, I would not choose to go back. And it wasn't even just the food that was disappointing. The front of the house service left a bad taste in my mouth as well. I do want to note that the waiter was friendly and knowledgeable. He was a delight. Otherwise, one and done for me.

For the Feisty Foodie version of this meal, please click here.

Umami Burger
432 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 677-8626
umami.com/umami-burger

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