Saturday, March 6, 2010

LA for Work, and Burgers

I'm on a flight from LA the night before the Academy Awards and as you could probably guess the plane is empty. In the past few days I've been working (filming), but of course taking time to eat burgers. There was the obligatory stop at In-N-Out for a Double-Double Animal Style and a visit to my home-away-from-home the Apple Pan, but on this trip I hit Umami Burger for the first time.

More than 20 close friends and my father-in-law have urged me to check out Umami so there was pressure to get this burger in my mouth. The Umami empire has expanded in the last few months from a small, clean, mall-front store to a few large, hip restaurants (and a food truck is on the way apparently, and an outpost in the Fred Segal store). We visited the Umami way East on Hollywood Blvd, across from the old-school Cheetah's Exotic Dance Club. Our wait on a Friday night at 8pm was almost an hour. I was in for the ride and not going anywhere. I didn't care how long it took, I was excited, hungry, and was going to eat the burger that so many of my trusted burger compatriots have gushed over.

Did I like it? Well, yes, I did, though I couldn't help but think that it could be better. The burger (above) didn't live up to the hype, but that's the way it often goes, right? And to present your burger with a bun, toppings and an Japanese food theory that requires a flow chart takes a lot of balls (this isn't just any burger, it's an 'umami' burger). The skinny here was that my burger was raw, and so were the other burgers brought to the table. Much in the way April Bloomfield will err on the side of underdone for her vaunted pub burgers at The Spotted Pig, so too follows Umami. I could sense greatness, possibly achieved by an additional 30 seconds on the grill.

I won't get into the Hatch Burger (which didn't have a shred of green chile near it) or the tater tots (which were just deep-fried mashed potatoes) because I understand, I think, why people put their own spins on classics. It's just not my style.

I'll be back and will request the additional 30 seconds of grill time. It's the only way to order at Spotted Pig and the results are always amazing. The same should stand for Umami.