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Vegas Eats Preview: Umami Burger at SLS Las Vegas

By Chuckmonster on Tuesday, 17th June 2014 12:05pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 10

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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.

Sls Umami Menu Back

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.

Sls Umami Substitutions

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?

Sls Umami Menu Disclaimer

"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.

Sls Umami Decor

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)

Sls Umami Menu Interior

Sls Umami Menu Sides

"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.

Sls Umami Fries

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...

Sls Umami Condiments

...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.

Sls Umami 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.

Sls Umami Truffle U

Sunny side up egg on top of a truffle juice, cheese and arugula covered burger.

Sls Umami Trufflesspecial T

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.

Sls Umami Truffle Inside

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.

Sls Umami Burbdog

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.

Sls Umami Burbdog Inside

The Manly burger arrived, which is basically Umami's verson of a western/smokehouse burger - onion rings, cheese, bbq sauce, bacon.

Sls Umami Manly Top

The bun was toasted quite a bit more than Blackjacker1979's truffle burger, perhaps by design, perhaps to cook in the boogers.

Sls Umami Manly Inside

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.

Sls Umami Bill

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?



Tagged: vegas eats   preview   umami burger   dining   reviews   sls las vegas   sbe   



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Comments & Discussion:

Literally the best parts of this meal for me were the snark and disbelief we all had regarding every bit of douchedom that was going on in this place. If you felt the ground move that particular day in LA, it was from all of the eyerolls collecting their power into one grandiose thrust against this bullshittery.

Oh, about that burger. It was meh. Like super meh for truffle stuff, and I live for anything with a truffle attached to it (save maybe truffled dog shit, which would actually have more personality than this burger). The bun was fine, as was the egg which was poached perfectly and runny and gave flavor. But the rocket was really quite tame without any bite, and the truffle seemed lost in the patty. The whole reason I wanted turkey was to have some texture and maybe added flavor. While Umami does their own meat blend, the preparation tends to push it into the mushy bland burger meat world. And there's nothing less flavorful than hand ground undercooked meat. There isn't even usually a texture of finished sear, and therefore the toppings have to star.

This is a constant problem for my meals at Umami, and why I defer at all times to go to The Habit, Hook, or any of the other lesser priced and infinitely better burger stands in SoCal and the world at large.

The SLS location will do well because of the brand's reputation among foodies and burger aficionados. But the thing is there are plenty of good spots for a burger on The Strip even without all of the places that have popped up recently without having to schlep to the North Strip. There are folks that make a point to hit In-N-Out every trip because they don't have one where they live, and this will likely be true for Unami Burger (as well as the upcoming Shake Shack at NYNY).

The corn dog was amazing. In fact, I have always contended that the corn dog at Disneyland is the best. This one was pretty close. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it more with some basic yellow mustard, but I am an uncouth bitch like that.

Burger bars in Las Vegas? Let's party like its 2008!!

I'll pass.

I want a well done burger with cheese oozing out the sides, and a side of greasy fries. I'll stick with Hawkin's House of Burgers in Watts. If all you LA people haven't tried it yet, you should. Best $5 you will ever spend.

Other than the Tandoori Lamb burger at BLT Burger, I rarely eat any burgers when I'm in Vegas. I try to eat stuff I normally don't eat at home or can't stuff my face without paying an arm 'n leg like really fresh seafood

I am a fan of burgers and make it a point to go to Cheeseburger in PH or Holstein's every visit but I want my burger cooked the way I want it and not how you want to serve it to me. Thie means medium and not medium rare with a hint of attitude. Seems I will pass on this place and it's pretension. It's a damn burger after all.

I'll stick to BLT Burger and Bobby's Burger Palace. Funny review though.

Gotta give the LA-based VT team credit for not being Los Angeles "homers" when it comes to previewing these SLS eateries. You've been mercilessly (and hilariously) honest. And yes, sounds like Chuck likely got the spittle-burger special and that's definitely taking one for the team.


The no substitutions makes me less likely to try the place, even if I found the absolutely perfect burger combination listed on their recycled menus. I'll buy into that for certain restaurants, but for a pretentious burger place, where in my opinion one disliked topping can ruin the whole experience, no thanks.

I'm not a fan of corn dogs, but I have to say that one did look tasty.

Loved the review, I only wish we had more casinos that were being redesigned over the course of 4 years and then were taking restaurant concepts from LA for the team to review.

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