432 6th Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets
$68 for 3 people, with drinks, without tip
I’ve tasted an Umami burger in Los Angeles before but the craziness that surrounded its New York opening sent me on a Citibike to check it out. Jase, Dash, Harry and I put our names down around 6:45pm. We went in to try and get drinks inside but because they have reached their room capacity, they didn’t let any more people in which I actually liked because then people are not screaming at your ear at the bar or hovering over you while you eat your burger.
We opted to walk down the block instead to take advantage of Happy Hour drinks and oysters for the next three hours. The crowd that was milling around in front of Umami died down then and we were seated as soon as the next table for 4 cleared. We wondered if the staff was also shipped from California because they were so nice even after they’ve had to deal with the crowd since they opened at 11am.
Our waitress gave us the speech about how Umami is different from other burgers because of science–the meat grounded in-house and the Portuguese-style bun–but all we wanted to do was order and eat! (None of those were scientific to me by the way.) We ended up ordering four different kinds to taste as much as we can: the original Umami with shiitake mushroom and Parmesan crisp, the Truffle burger, the Manly with beer-cheddar cheese and bacon lardon, plus the duck special. They were all good but it starts to get difficult to tell them apart when you’ve been holding out for 3 hours. The truffle and Parmesan flavor from the 2 burgers stood out, but everything else melded and tasted like, oh hey, regular (but juicy) burgers!
Skip the duck with peach-apple chutney (above) though. The chutney was a tad too sweet and just wasn’t burger material to me. The caramelized fennel and “Madagascar pepper” just seemed too silly: it’s California trying to fit in New York City. We New Yorkers are pretentious, but we’re not that pretentious! The beet salad is surprisingly good, a nice respite from all the meat. Don’t miss the fries and tots as sides but feel free to skip the special sauces to get more of the unadulterated meat taste of the burgers.
So was Umami worth the 3-hour wait? Of course not; nothing ever is. But go and be nice to our California friends and show them what New Yorkers are made of: we’re there because it’s the place to be at the moment.