Saturday, March 31, 2012

Getting the meat sweats at Umami Burger Costa Mesa

Yes. It's the last day of the month, and I have next to nothing to show for it on my personal blog. If you know me, you'll know that this was by far the craziest month....ever. There was the loss of a loved one (and getting drunk as a result). I co-hosted my first media event, which was well-received, thankfully. Made unexpected friendships with some great people. I even agreed to a radio interview and television segment. To top it off, I started a new job. Yes. This was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in 30 days. So what would I write about that related back to food? The general consensus is that we love what's new and shiny, so this morning I attended a media preview/soft opening of the trendiest chain to descend upon our citrus kingdom: Umami Burger.

Originated in LA, Costa Mesa is the newest in the privately-owned collection of savory, meaty goodness. SF got their very own last autumn, but we are getting three in a 20-mile radius before the end of the year ~ Laguna Beach is slated for summer, and Anaheim whenever they get around to it. Formerly Valhalla Table (RIP), it appears that some of the former tenant's communal furniture was re-purposed for this quick turnaround. A mural along one wall is an interpretation of the Umami story, with the ocean representing salt, the flowers sweet, and a warrior meant to kick all the other tastes to the curb.

For opening day, there were a number of things 86ed:
A) Craft beer and wine were not in stock today. They pulled a Mozza and are delayed upwards of a month.
B) They are not carrying Cake Monkey desserts. I miss my faux ho-ho *sad face*
C) The house specialty burger, Tandoori (with cucumber herb tzatziki salad and black beluga lentil spread), was not available. Who forgot to order the chicken?!?!

What they did have available, we approved of.

Many items are created in-house, like their American cheese that pairs with roasted green chilies in the Hatch burger. While only a couple of toppings, they complement the slightly sweet Portuguese bun and perfectly medium-rare patty to a tee. Truffled glaze and matching cheese surround their t-burger with richness that's nearly overpowering. Yet we cannot help but wolf it down. Our Manly version had mandatory bacon duty in the form of chunky lardons. Slap on smoked salt-onion strings and beer-cheddar, and I was ready to raise my pint of...oh wait, there's no beer yet.

Matchstick fries remained crisp from start to finish, getting a mild kick when dipped in jalapeno ranch. A teppanyaki tower of tempura rings tasted even better drizzled with their signature ketchup. The secret menu, made-from-scratch tots were infused with proprietary cheesiness and tasted fine when munched naked. However, I sided towards Umami's version of Irish nachos - double fried creamer spuds smushed and served alongside a generous slather of roasted garlic aioli, dusted with salt, pepper and herbs. Pause for visual.

On the sweeter side, retro pop options galore were a change of pace from mainstream sodas. Strawberry and plain lemonade puckered some tastes, but I was all about the simple, unsweetened iced green tea. If you order a boozy breakfast Coke float, prepare your senses for corn flakes swirled into alcohol-infused ice cream. Oh wait, alcohol isn't available yet....Instead, request some L.A. Creamery ice cream sammiches. Cool treats normally reserved for Diddy Riese lines, the sandwiched dairy courtesy of Straus Organic.

Long-term plans for world domination include roughly 40 locations nationwide. Short-term menu specialties will feature a red Mole sauce simmered for a week. We suggest avoiding The Camp between 11:45-12:45, unless you have incredible parking karma.

Umami Burger
2981 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa