Monday, February 3, 2014

Umami Burger

Recently, J, N, and I had a little girls' night out. We dressed up, hopped in an Uber, and traveled downtown to the fabled Umami Burger, famous for their culinary exploration of the fifth taste--umami! It's one of the five basic tastes, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. According to Wikipedia, umami is a word borrowed from Japanese, which can be translated "pleasant savory taste".

We were seated immediately at a cute little table, and made ourselves at home. It's so nice to get away from school, even if it's only for a few hours. Umami Burger is certainly a cool place to sneak away--think lots of exposed wood, cool bar, friendly waiters, very Los Angeles.

As we pored over the menu, our awesome waiter served our drinks and delivered their umami ketchup. Curious, we all sampled straight from the spoon to see what was so different about this ketchup from normal Heinz. I would say it was more like a marinara sauce in taste, rather than ketchup. It was tasty, but I wouldn't have exactly defined it as "ketchup"... I suppose there's not a better word. We enjoyed it so much with our meals that our waiter had to bring over extra!

Up first came J's sweet potato fries. Slightly sweet and wonderfully crunchy, we all noshed on these quite contentedly. Oftentimes, sweet potato fries can get a little soggy after cooking, but these maintained a great crunch throughout the short time it took us to devour the lot. After our meal, we agreed that these were the best fries out of the three we tried.

Next, N's fries came out. She told the waiter to "make 'em manly"--aka smothered in beer cheddar, bacon, and onion strings. I didn't eat these because of the bacon, but N and J both agreed that they were sinfully good. I do have to say, it's pretty hard to go wrong with cheese, onions, and potatoes.

Finally, my fries! I got the classic Umami thin fries, which were crisp but still very potato-y. Is that how anyone else quantifies their fries, by their potato-ness? I am definitely not the only one. Anyways... these were just plain good fries. Well executed, and a great accompaniment to my meal.

J and I both ordered the same entree, the lentil sloppy joe. It was a heck of a lot of food, and we both cleaned our plates. Even when I ate meat, I was not a fan of the sloppy joe... but this has totally changed my opinion. The lentil, mushroom, and tomato mix was topped with umami-ed crema, cheddar cheese, onion strings, and jalapenos. The bun was great as well--nicely toasted, great flavor, all that jazz. Each bite was a really great combination of all of the "five flavors", and I personally think that the jalapeno added the perfect amount of bite.

J loved hers as well. She said that the sloppy joe's main strength was its consistency. Many vegetarian options lack a general density, "when it doesn't really feel like you're eating anything", according to her, and this meal was extremely hearty. J also praised the tomato flavor of the lentil mixture.

N ordered the straight-up truffle burger. While it came out looking less than impressive, it apparently tasted quite nice. There was truffled cheese, garlic aioli, and truffle cheese on this baby, but N thought it could have done with more truffle flavor. She still ate it all very happily, and it was apparently a very perfectly cooked burger. She also praised the bun... she particularly wanted that classic "U" stamped on top!

After we demolished our entrees and our fries, we settled the bill and decided to stroll up Broadway a ways to digest. We popped into Urban Outfitters to do a spot of shopping, then, with slightly lighter wallets, carried along down the street until we came to Bottega Louie. Known for their awesome desserts, we grabbed a few, ordered coffee, and headed back home to enjoy our spoils.

J bought this monster macaron, which was the usual almond flavored with vanilla cream, raspberry jam, and fresh raspberries. She praised it heavily for being light yet very flavorful.

N ate two regular-sized macarons--salted caramel on the left, and raspberry on the right. She said that the salted caramel tasted a bit burnt, which was a huge bummer, but the raspberry was apparently incredibly delicious. Luckily, she ate the salted caramel first, and saved the best for last!

To finish it all off, I ate a little mini hazelnut chocolate thing. I have no idea exactly what it was, but it was like a very dense, fudgy-frosting thing inside a chocolate shell. It was extremely rich, but incredibly good. My pastry was really small, probably about two inches in diameter, but I savored each tiny bite.

It was a fantastic, laid-back girls' night out, complete with delicious food and great company. While it's a bit of a splurge meal, we all loved being off campus and having a well-executed meal. Downtown LA is really going through a revival. There's all sorts of shops, cool restaurants, and things to do besides just offices. I go to CrossFit downtown, and have the firsthand chance to see the dozens of restaurants, clubs, and stores that look interesting. Whenever you have a chance, I recommend exploring Downtown a bit. It's changed a lot in the past ten years, and I think you'd be surprised to see some of the cool things it has to offer.

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