Anticipation had been building for months among a certain subset of New Yorkers (e.g. me) the signs on the West Village storefront taunting "Umami Burger Is Coming!" So when Adam Fleischman's feverishly-adored Los Angeles chain finally opened here in NYC, the crowds, needless to say, were immediate and large.
I had the pleasure of eating at the Umami Burger in Santa Monica two summers ago, and with a large enough crew that I think we devoured (and loved) nearly the entire menu in one sitting. Only question is: does the NYC Umami serve up the same sort of burger magic?
A Magical Ingredient Called "Umami"
I've eaten at Umami's new Sixth Avenue restaurant twice now, and am pleased to report that the whole "fifth taste" concept works just as well here on the East Coast, as it did in LA. A little background: in 1908 Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda discovered that, in addition to salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, humans could also taste what he called "umami", which translate roughly as "pleasant savory taste", or, simply, "deliciousness". Whether or not this is an actual, physiological fact or not is still debated among scientists, but either way I will say that all of the burgers and most of the sides do have a unique extra oomph to them that you won't find even at personal favorite burger joints like Bill's, Shake Shack, Five Napkin, and Clarke's Standard.
Savoring The Ultimate Burger And Fries Combo
For my first meal at Umami I went ultra basic: "The Original" Umami Burger topped with fifth-taste-filled delights like shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, and an ingenious parmesan crisp; and the "standard issue" Thin Fries, which were the perfect soft/crispy texture, well salted, utterly addictive. The side sauces are free and terrific, especially the Diablo, which is a spicy ketchup, and the jalapeno ranch. The meat is a house-ground blend, cooked medium rare, and is juicy and rich enough to not get lost beneath all the bells and whistles. The brioche-y bun (branded with giant U on top) is a little too soft, making the last few bites a bit a disaster, but otherwise this is a fantastic burger-and-fries combo.
Umami Burger Has It All: Good Service, Prices, and Food!
Visit number two at Umami Burger was at lunch, and a Manly Burger seemed in order, with its melted "beer-cheddar", chewy lardoons, and "smoked-salt" onion strings. Again, this sandwich serves up an explosion of big flavors. My pairing here was the House Pickle Plate, a generous sampler of veggies (beets, okra, green beans, etc), made spicy, sweet, tangy, and, I guess, "umami". Good stuff. The servers and staffers at Umami Burger NYC are all super friendly and seem unfazed by the non-stop action, and my wait times were minimal, though I hear that during prime dinner hours 90 minutes or more is not uncommon. But that was also true in Santa Monica two years ago, and it wasn't even new out there. People like good, inexpensive food I guess, no matter on which coast they're eating. Oh, and there's an extensive and interesting beer, wine, and cocktail menu here as well.
More Information: Umami Burger NYC
Umami Burger is located on Sixth Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets and is open from Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 until 12:00 midnight. Visit them online, for more information and a look at the complete Umami Burger Greenwich Village menu!