Thursday, April 1, 2010

Umami Burger - Santa Monica edition

The 4th location of Umami Burger opened last Thursday in Santa Monica, bringing new twists to the year old Umami Burger empire. The salad section on the menu is unique to Santa Monica.

The first UB opened on La Brea in February 2009, the 2nd Umami Hollywood opened in October 2009, and the 3rd - Umami Urban on Cahuenga in November 2009. Then the temporary Umami Burger truck parked at Fred Segal in Santa Monica in December, which was replaced by the 4th permanent outpost - Umami Broadway in the Fred Segal Santa Monica store at 5th and Broadway. It is amazing to see a restaurant go from one location to four in little over a year from when the first location opened.

I had only been to one Umami location, the original, last year and had the signature Umami burger, fries and a Mexican coke. I did not care for the burger as I felt the seasoning/sauce overwhelmed the burger flavor, as if it was doused in Worcestershire Sauce, and the bun was too wimpy for the burger. The fries were also less than tasty. So I had stayed away from the growing chain despite the continual buzz.

But as the new Santa Monica location was so convenient, I decided to check it out and order something different. I had the truffle burger ($11), which comes with italian truffle cheese and a truffle glaze. This was a much better hamburger. The truffle flavor was noticeable but didn't overpower the burger. A nice balance. The bun was better able to handle the burger juices this time. I also learned my lesson and ordered the thin fries ($3.50), which I don't think had been an option on my prior La Brea visit. These were crispy and came with a choice of sauce. I picked their take on ketchup. It was a nice savory ketchup they call Umami ketchup. It was portioned out in a dainty chinese style soup spoon. I was not charged for refills on the ketchup, although the menu notes that additional servings are $0.50. I am a big ketchup user for both my burger and my fries so one spoonful is not remotely going to meet my needs....

I had a root beer float, made with Margo's Bark root beer. This was a great and refreshing root beer float. Both the vanilla ice cream and Margo's are of high quality. Perfect on a hot day. The Santa Monica location has both indoor and outdoor seating and also does a bustling takeout business.

I was glad to have a significantly superior experience at this location. Service was also very pleasant. The waiter was helpful, continually refilling my water glass and making sure I had everything I needed. His positive attitude and excellent customer service made the good food an even better experience, especially considering how many restaurants & bars have poor service.

The space feels airy and open and has lots of windows.

Umami Santa Monica will be hosting a wine/beer & burger pairing with local sommelier David Haskell on April 7th with three courses of burgers/sliders and 3 paired beverages for $35, according to Feast and Eater.

Umami Burger Santa Monica is located at 500 Broadway @5th St. Phone: (310) 451-1300. Website:

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