With 15 locations in California alone and the hype to match, Umami Burger is testing the waters in New York City. Its new 128-seat restaurant with a full bar is scheduled to open on Monday, followed by locations in Williamsburg and Brookfield Place.
Umami Burger's vision is difficult to forget, given how liberally the restaurant uses the word (Umami Dust, Umami Master Sauce, and Umami Ketchup are all featured on the menu). The Japanese concept of umami is often referred to as a fifth taste that doesn't quite fit the descriptors of sweet, sour, bitter, or salty—a rich, savory flavor that makes certain foods so appetizing. It's found naturally in foods like mushrooms, fish, aged cheeses, and ripe tomatoes, and used chemically in the flavor enhancer MSG.
The burgers at Umami Burger have been painstakingly created to produce that elusive taste. Straying from the traditional approach that has made rival burger chain Shake Shack successful, Umami Burger incorporates as many ingredients as possible that are naturally rich in umami, and creates a few flavor-enhancing ingredients of its own.
The Original is the classic order: a griddled Portugese-style hamburger bun sandwiching a six-ounce ground beef patty. Coating the patty is the restaurant's homemade Umami Dust, which includes konbu and dried mushrooms. A Parmesan Reggiano crisp, roasted tomato, shiitake mushrooms, and caramelized onion provide the filling, which isn't complete without a brush of Umami Master Sauce (with seaweed, miso, and tamari). No Heinz here; the restaurant uses its own Umami Ketchup.
The Five Spice Duck Burger is debuting in New York, combining duck meat with Chinese Five Spice, caramelized fennel, and apple-peach chutney. For an Asian-inspired twist, the Ahi Tuna Burger offers seared tuna with wasabi flakes, pickled ginger, and avocado spread. And the Truffle Burger's reputation precedes it: roasted garlic aoli, house truffle cheese, and a truffle glaze over a ground beef hamburger patty.
Since the recipes were developed with a specific intention, customers cannot substitute one ingredient for another. The only exception is the burger patty itself, which can be exchanged for a portabello mushroom cap. Fries come plain or with flavorings like truffle cheese and truffle salt (truffles are rich in—you guessed it—umami). But word on the street is that the Cheesy Tots are worth an order.
432 6th Avenue