2184 Union Street, SF, CA 94123 | 415.440.8626 | website
My friend DebbiG chose the new temple of ground flap meat, Umami Burger as the location to celebrate her birthday last week. Our party of 10 were told to expect a 45 minute wait for the only large table in the restaurant, so we wandered down the block to find a bar or cafe to hangout. In one of those inevitable mishaps, we ended up at a very disorganized outdoor cafe that delivered our drinks just as we received the message that our table was ready. I know, huh? I had to chug my $12 glass of Turley zin which gave me a warm and fuzzy glow.
The logo is a stylized bun, that also resembles lips, which by the way, are all branded with a big U. They grind their own meat, process the cheese and make the pickles to boot. The menu is pretty much burgers, with options for a turkey burger, a couple of vegetarian burgers, a variety of sides and has a wide selection of wine and beer. Umami Burger is a small growing chain that began in Los Angeles, which has received a lot of press (read it on umami tumblr). This is their first location in Northern California and we hope that they open up a spot in the east bay as the rumormill indicates. Long ago, 1908 to be exact, a professor in Japan observed that the taste of konbu dashi was distinct from sweet, sour, bitter and salty and named it umami, meaning “savory” in Japanese. Umami is imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods. The taste of umami itself is subtle and blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavors, most people don’t recognize umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role making food taste delicious. A burger to me is pretty much an umami bomb to begin with, so I was interested to see what the fuss was all about.
I had to order the Bacon-Wrapped Scallop Burger($15) mostly because it is only offered at this San Francisco location, and well I love bacon wrapped scallops! It was gorgeous, the scallop patty was nicely seared but juicy, topped with slices of crisped rich pork belly, sweet chili sauce and yuzu-garlic aioli. Not exactly bacon wrapped, but the flavors were heavenly. It was really delicious, I recommend it if you like scallops and pork belly!
Mr. K had the Umami Burger ($11), their signature dish which includes shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, and a swirl of umami ketchup. Most of the toppings were on the sweet side which knocked the balance off for us who prefer mustard to ketchup on our burgers.
The burgers are slow cooked and then finished off at high heat and are generally served medium rare. The patty was delicious, juicy and flavorful, the shiitake were velvety, and I loved the parmesan crisp; but overall I prefer the traditional toppings (lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles) on my burger.
Scott had the Hatch Burger ($10) roasted green chilies, house-made American cheese. He ordered it as one of several packages available, Kombu Meal #3 which includes the hatch burger, tempura onion rings, and a Hoegaarden draft beer for $17
Elizabeth had the Manly Burger ($11) which was topped with melted beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt-onion strings, and bacon lardons. How did I miss this on the menu? That looks so good.
A couple of people had the Ahi Burger ($15), which is made from hand-chopped sushi grade ahi tuna and is topped with crushed avocado, pickled ginger, and sprinkled generously with wasabi flake.
I can’t remember who it was that ordered the Earth Burger ($12), that required a visit from far across the table. It is a mushroom & edamame patty, white soy aioli, truffle ricotta, cipollini onions, lettuce, slow-roasted tomato.