Monday, August 5, 2013

UMAMI BURGER THE HIGH COST OF AN AMERICAN STAPLE

Burgers, they are pretty much a staple on every menu at every restaurant you eat at. In San Francisco finding/suggesting/eating your favorite burger can be a sometimes intense or contentious discussion among friends due to the number of places that offer variations burger and a bun. Whenever I try one I keep an open mind and judge on its own merits instead of comparing it to others around town as every burger has something to offer--right? Umami Burger on Union Street is part of a California chain that has exploded up and down the coast with local, organic, etc., etc., high end burgers. It's been open here in town coming up on a year and I finally had a chance to stop by and give them a try.

        


Even arriving shortly after they open the place is pretty busy so I just sidle up to the bar and scan the menu. I think unique is the term I would use to describe their variations on burgers from truffle to pork to turkey. The mix of meats and toppings is their effort to stand out from the crowd--but how will they taste? I decide to go with the triple pork burger and then I throw in sides of onion rings and smushed potatoes. Let's start with the sides...


The smushed potatoes I asked if they were like mashed potatoes rolled in balls and fried and the guy said yes, they are round and double fried then smushed. Turns out they weren't mashed but small round potatoes that they deep fry till done then press slightly to pop them open then back in the fryer for a bit to crisp up. They are served with a garlic aioli for dipping--which is really just a mayo with garlic and some black pepper on top. They were cooked well and had a nice crisp but I they weren't really anything out of the ordinary, they reminded of the chunky hash browns you get at breakfast places. And the aioli was not my favorite--literally it was too much like mayo and not enough of a dip. The onion rings were also pretty basic. Fried crisp in a tempura batter they were good but there wasn't really anything to distinguish them from o-rings I've had at any number of other places in town. Decent sides but at $4.50 a pop each not anything that makes me go wow and recommend them. One thing to note, they do make their own ketchup (among other things) which has an interesting mix of sweet and earthy between the sugar and the truffle oil. I liked it on the salty fried stuff, though the more of it you eat the sweeter it seemed to get so my taste buds did reach there limit (which says a lot considering my sweet tooth). Now for the burger....

        

made with fresh ground pork, chorizo, applewood smoked bacon, house American cheese, pimenton aioli, lettuce, a single sun-dried tomato on a bun. I would say the picture you see is shown actual size, but it's (almost) not. They don't do big two handed burgers here, plus for $11 all you get is the burger, sides are extra. Burger prices range from $11-15. For me this is like $8 sandwiches--it's kind of a rip--no matter how it tastes. Did I like this burger, yes I did. All 3 porks are ground up into the patty of the burger. The chorizo gives it a nice little kick and the bits of bacon add some fun crunchy texture and I could actually taste the sausage and bacon separately--one did not necessarily overwhelm the other. Plus it was cooked perfectly and was very juicy. What gets lost is the cheese, didn't really have a flavor, the pimenton aioli (a Spanish paprika and mayo mix) that you could taste either. Besides the pork the other taste I got was the from the bread--it brought in a sweetness bordering on something like a Hawaiian bread. Not quite as cloying as that, but pretty close. I asked about it and was told they have the buns specially made for them and use hoisin and honey in the mix, which explained a lot. I really liked the idea of this burger and actually the burger patty itself was done well, the rest just didn't come together for me. At $11 for a burger that sits in the palm of my hand I want to be wowed by more than just the patty and sadly, here I was not. 

The sad thing about all of this is that they are planning on opening a new location of Umami just around the corner from where I live, but for high priced fare and just okay side dishes, there are many other places in town I could go for better bargains and flavors. 


Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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