I heard quite a bit about the original Umami Burger that started down in Southern California, but truth be told, it wasn’t all raves and praises. The general consensus seems to be that the burgers are tasty but really quite small so considering what you get for the price you pay, it’s a pretty over-rated burger place.
When I heard that Umami Burger had opened up an outpost in the Marina, I was definitely curious to check it out, but I had decided to let the hype die down a bit before venturing a visit. Pdho and I had a tough post-Nike workout that left us so extremely sore that we decided to skip the gym and go get something yummy to eat. By the time we arrived, there was a decent number of people waiting, but the line quickly grew pretty fast. After about 35 minutes, we were finally seated at the bar. It really could have been worse had we gone on a Friday or Saturday.
We were seated at one end of a 8 or so person bar. The space wasn’t very big, and it actually had a very awkward layout. There was seating in front and back both connected by a narrow hallway, but the total capacity of the restaurant probably wasn’t more than 50.
Umami is the fifth taste representing savory. The four others being sweet, salty, sour and bitter. So the theme of their menu focuses on preparing flavors that trigger the savory taste buds.
We had visions of a plate of french fries with the ever-so intoxicating aroma of truffle oil, but the Truffle Fries ended up being a bowl of crispy albeit plain tasting fries that had very subtle truffle-scented cheese melted on top. The fries were fine, but I was expecting more.
The Tempura Onion Rings were better. The rings were large and thick which was a little too much onion for me, but Pdho really enjoyed them.
The key to the fries and onion rings was the Umami Ketchup and Jalapeno Ranch sauces. I really liked the Umami Ketchup. It tasted like a slightly sweet, faintly salty version of its normally plain tomato brother. The Jalapeno Ranch was herbier but still quite tasty. I tried the Roasted Garlic Aioli and some other spicy sauce, but neither of them were as good.
Their signature burger, Umami, comes topped with 2 small shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, a parmesan crisp and umami ketchup. The beef patty was good, but it was the accoutrements that really made it taste better, in particular the mushrooms and Umami ketchup. The shiitake mushrooms were tender, juicy and tasted like they had been marinaded in similarly savory sauce that was added to make the the Umami Ketchup. The parmesan crisp was an interesting way of making it a cheeseburger, but it was probably my least favorite part of the burger.
The most intriguing sounding item on the menu was definitely the Bacon-wrapped Scallop Burger. It was a scallop patty topped with crispy pork belly, sweet chili sauce and yuzu-garlic aioli. Not only was it the most interesting combination of flavors that I’ve ever tasted in a burger, but it really was the most delicious item of the night. The scallop patty tasted like real scallops and the pieces of pork belly, albeit small as they were, completed the unique twist on a savory surf and turf burger.
Overall, I enjoyed the food much more than I was expecting I would. I’m not sure if it would be worth any longer than we had waited, but it was worth trying at least once to see if the hype and reviews are worth it. I definitely think the prices are on the high side, but the quality of the food is also on the higher side, so it’s not completely unjustified. However, I think when compared to other gourmet burgers, Umami Burger doesn’t really knock them out of the water. Pdho thought that compared to Father’s Office, Umami probably seems quite overrated, but I think for the SF burger scene, Umami holds its own pretty well.
2184 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
PAFO Ratings for Umami Burger:
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars