“There’s no point of comparison for Umami Burger,” says a spokesman for the burgeoning L.A.-based chain, which will open its first New York City location at 432 Sixth Avenue on Monday. Burgers, he explains, usually divide into two categories: meat bombs and classics. Umami founder Adam Fleischman, rather, began experimenting with this American staple because it was high in umami (savory, mouthwatering) flavor, and he wanted to use it as a vehicle for more umami elements.
His experiment began when he matched beef to parmesan crisp, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, and caramelized onions, creating a burger so high in the flavor Fleischman was going for, he had to blend his own ketchup to bring it into balance. He worked out from there, developing a core menu that includes the manly burger–a patty topped with beer-cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, and onion strings–and the truffle burger, which paves beef with melted truffle cheese and saddles it with garlic aioli and truffle glaze.
As the first location gave way to a chain, though, Umami also became famous for its substantial list of secret, off-menu items, which vary between locations. When the New York City spot opens its doors, it’ll boast secret sides, like cheesy tots, and six secret burgers: five-spice duck; French dip with pickled wasabi; the pastrami-mami with thick-cut pastrami; the Hawthorne, with cognac-infused fondue, parsnip purée, and Hatch chiles; the moco loco, a gluten-free burger inspired by a Hawaiian mixed plate; and a vintage burger, made with smashed beef and classic condiments. Look for unique specials like the holiday–a blend of turkey, sweet potato, and cranberry sauce–throughout the year.
The drinks list is substantial, with craft beer on draft and in bottle, a list of wine sizable for a burger joint, and a long list of cocktails the spokesman says may eventually be edited. Note the smoky michelada, the only cocktail on the board created by Fleischman, and the 21-U Club, which spikes a traditional Bloody Mary with a little umami dust.
When the paper comes down from the windows, it will reveal a large space, but you should still expect to wait–the much-anticipated concept has been a roaring success out in California, which means lines will likely be long.
Umami plans to open two more New York outposts in the future: one at North Fourth and Bedford in Williamsburg, the other down near World Financial.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 26, 2013