Vegas Eats Preview: Umami Burger at SLS Las Vegas
SLS Las Vegas is opening in August and wallpapering the world with PR that states that they are importing from Los Angeles are like awesome. Fortunately for you, most of the VT staff lives in L.A., enabling us to give these spots a spin and share the results. Previously, we visited the original Katsu-Ya location in Studio City and the Griddle Cafe in Hollywood.
As before, this series of posts are previews of what might happen at SLS, based on reviews of the existing venues in Los Angeles.
We now return to our program, already in progress.
...hours after suffering through a mind fuck sugar crash at the hands of The Griddle Cafe a plan was hatched, partially in anger, partially in desire to get this tortuous sbe/SLS Las Vegas preview dining tour over as quickly as possible. We got on the phone and called in a superhero - Blackjacker1979, "Join us at Umami Burger location in Burbank, across from Bob's Big Boy where perennial Tonight Show gag and Invasion of The Body Snatchers location Papoo's Hot Dog Show was located for 62 years." "Affirmative" the superhero said.
This is the seventh time I've been to Umami Burger, starting with two visits to the original (now closed) location on La Brea followed by two visits to the Los Feliz outpost (where we sat next to Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick!) and two visits to "Valli" version shortly after it opened in Studio City. There are at least 20 Umami Burger locations in California, with a handful sprinkled throughout the United States, Illinois, Florida, New York and soon to be at the SLS Las Vegas.
As their slogan says... Umami Burger - "There is no substitution." Which implies that there is no substitute for an Umami Burger. What it really means is "there are no substitutions" as in... if you can't eat beef and you want a turkey patty instead, you are shit out of luck. DON'T ASK. "Have it our way, or here's the highway." Seriously. Clever? Witty? Assholery?
"If you don't like it, don't complain, keep eating and come back again now y'all!"
Umami is the Japanese word for "yummy" and foodies have been debating whether 'yummy' is as equal of a taste as 'salty', 'sweet', 'sour' and 'bitter.' Why spicy isn't on that list baffles me.
Seeking opportunity, Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman trademarked the word 'umami' and brought legal action to anyone who used it, suffering a precedent setting loss at the hands of Umami Mia Pizzeria in Austin, Texas. In 2011, Fleischman signed up with sbe entertainment to help him build an Umami Burger in every neighborhood on earth.
Speaking of taste, version 1.0 and lower Umami Burgers look like Japanese loading dock, version 2.0 and greater Umami Burgers (post sbe) are all full of shiny vinyl hammertack furniture, damask wall paper and laquered chandeliers.
The menu is divided into Greens, Starters (really sides cleverly disguised), Burgers, Non-Beef Entrees and Hot Dogs (see first photo for Hot Dog Menu)
"Umamify your fries" is their version of Waffle House's scattered, smothered and covered. We ordered the "truffle'em" - shoestring fries with melted cheese, shaved truffles, truffle oil goo plus chopped chives. Tasty.
You can fuck off if you like to dip your fries in bleu cheese or ranch dressing, ketchup or mustard.... but Umami will serve you these fine condiments of their invention...
...the orange stuff is "Diablo Sauce" (red peppers and mayo?), the buttery looking stuff is "Garlic Aioli", the white is "Jalapeno Ranch" and the red ones are Umami's home made ketchup. Have you ever had catsup... fruity, sweet stuff that isn't spicy salty vinegary Heinz? That is what Umami's katsup tastes like. Ick.
Five years ago, tater tots were a minor dining craze. I ordered the tots.
Crispy pureed taters in a tot shape with parmesian and cheddar cheese inside. They were good, but $4.50 for six tots stuck in my craw like a bad blackjack table. The same ratio works with their onion ring orders... six rings for $4.50. Kind of a rip.
Miss Monkay asked Jesse, the server (plucked from the extra pool for "Teen Mom 3"?) about 'The Burb' corn dog, asking her if it was good. She responded by proclaiming it was incredible and excitedly stated that it had been "written up on a food blog!" Miss Monkay and Blackjacker collectively rolled their eyes while I channeled the most sarcastic Merv Griffin I could and hollared "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH a FOOOOD BLOG!"
The server sulked away. I think I heard her make the "pissed chick tongue click followed by a loud exhale" noise as she walked away. Maybe not my finest moment in dining, but the pretentiousness level at Umami Burger is barely tolerable.
Eventually the server returned. Blackjacker ordered the truffle special. He asked if he could have a turkey burger instead of beef burger. The answer was a resounding no.
Miss Monkay ordered the "Dog Combo" - any dog from the dog menu (she picked "The Burb" - a corn dog) with choice of fries, sweet potato fries or onion rings plus a soda. The answer was a resounding no. "You can't have The Burb with the Dog Combo, you can pick any other one though." Miss Monkay dropped the combo and ordered The Burb.
I ordered The Manly burger and an Allagash White, which will defintely be served with some of the server's excess snot wiped inside.
Umami burgers come with a "U" stamped on the bun, in case U didn't know where you were eating. OR if U were going to take a photo with your uPhone and post it to Ustagram or FacebU. I think they used to stamp them with the lips logo, but I may be mistaken like Kevin's bacon.
Sunny side up egg on top of a truffle juice, cheese and arugula covered burger.
Until recently, all burgers at Umami were served purple inside... not medium rare, or rare, but uncooked in the middle. They've relented on their militant purple burger stance and give customers the option of having theirs cooked medium rare. Medium, medium well, well... you can go fuck off.
I'll let Blackjacker1979 add his two cents in the comments. His burger was tasty if you got some of the yolk on it, otherwise.... eh?
Miss Monkay's stick stuck deep fried meat phallus arrived, with catsup and brownish mustard mayo goop.
Crispy batter, steamy dog on the inside. I tasted it... and this occasional food blogger didn't find it to be particularly memorable. I found the flavor of the teeny weenie to be lost in the batter. I'll defer to MissMonkay to share her thoughts in the comments.
The Manly burger arrived, which is basically Umami's verson of a western/smokehouse burger - onion rings, cheese, bbq sauce, bacon.
The bun was toasted quite a bit more than Blackjacker1979's truffle burger, perhaps by design, perhaps to cook in the boogers.
It came rare. Like, really rare. As you might expect, it was super tender and juicy. There were chunky bits of warmed fat in the middle, straddling the borderline between disgusting and delicious.
The bill arrived. Lunch for three with one beer and an iced tea came to $56.59 plus tip.
We paid it and left.
On the way out I saw an employee grabbing large brown industrial bags marked "sweet potato fries" from an non-air conditioned shed in the parking lot. How is that legal?
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