Waiting for the UMAMI Dust to Settle

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“The wait is about 40 minutes right now,” the hostess said through a crooked, but pleasant smile.  Downtown LA’s newly opened, UMAMIcatessen was full and foaming over.  Adam Fleischman’s creation is an interesting eatery cocktail. One part Deli, one part Burger Joint, one part Pork-ery, oh, and one part Donut Shop.  *Wizzle, my foodie companion/the toughest critic I know, and I were prepared for the waiting game.  We did what any restaurant savvy team would do, we went to the bar.

The brown paper menu we shared was inked with red and black.  One side drinks, the other side eats.  We ordered two of the new “catessen’s” signatures.   I got the Black Jack; Jack Daniels Honey, Blackberries, St. Vincent, and fresh Lemon Juice.  Wizzle got the Micha-Mami: Corzo Tequila, Umami house-made-spiced Tomato Juice finished with Pitburger Pilsner, a florescent Jalapeño Pepper and a rim clouded in “Umami Dust.”  What is Umami Dust? We both pondered…maybe it’s the success drug they sprinkle in everything?  Whatever it was, it was thick and powdery on Wizzle’s Micha glass.

My Black Jack tasted like a teenager’s boozed up fruit smoothy. Trying to be clever, but just making a mess. The first second it was sweet and pleasant, the next it was pulpy and dryly bitter.  I brought the purple-filled glass to my eye-line for observation.  The dissected bits of blackberry were crowding the ice cubes.  I would have liked the essence of the blackberries more than the seeds of the blackberries.  Good thing we came to eat.

We continued staking out the bar for vacancies in the restaurant purgatory that is, waiting for a table. With only blackberries and Jack pulsing in my veins I stood sideways and bent to look at the other side of the menu.  It’s got three sections: The Cure, UMAMI Burger, and PIGG.  The Cure covers kosher-deli inspired dishes (turkey on challah, matzo ball soup), UMAMI Burger is the same menu offered at all UMAMI Burgers, and PIGG is a detailed list of pork products and Pâtés by Chef Chris Cosentino.

Wizzle’s eyes were getting bigger and crankier as his stomach growled through them.  He scanned the space past me. The crowd didn’t look familiar, maybe Pasadena or South Bay in attendance tonight? The two seat/stools we had been hovering behind became available, our asses and stomachs were relieved. We struggled for a moment to get our balance on the seat/stools…just go, you’ll know what I’m talking about, they’re weird.

Our silver-haired bartender was friendly and seemed to be a veteran of the hospitality industry.  From The Cure, we decided on the Potato Knishes (a favorite in an earlier review) and the Aromatic Chicken Salad.  To Wizzle’s dismay the Aromatic Chicken Salad was no longer available and hadn’t been all day.  Oops.  We skipped down a half step to the UMAMI menu and went with the Truffle Beet Salad and the Greenbird (Turkey Burger), since it was the one burger I had never tried.  We passed on PIGG. It was a rare time that pork didn’t sound good to me.  This way, guaranteed room would be saved for donuts.

The Truffle Beet Salad came first.  We ate it.  However, it seemed too obvious to put the trendiest go-to salad along with the trendiest go-to flavor adder.  I love both of these things, but I don’t think they are a match for each other.  Would you wear Zac Posen and Dolce and Gabbana at the same time?  I don’t think so.

The plate of Potato Knishes were soon placed next to the salad.   I was tempted to shove one of the whole golden-doughy-potato-mash-filled balls into my mouth, but didn’t want the heat to burn me.  I took a small bite instead, without dipping it in the grainy mustard.  Tasty. The next bite I did dip in the mustard.  Still tasty.  I can’t specifically pinpoint what they tasted like, but they were warm and had a perfect bread to potato ratio and the texture was pleasant.

The Greenbird didn’t disappoint.  I picked up my half and took a big bite.  This is the UMAMI I have always known and loved.  Juicy meat with fresh green effects resting between those one-of-a-kind buns.  Wizzle asked what was in them…the buns. Maybe that Umami Dust? No, milk and honey.  I wouldn’t mind stealing those buns and making french toast.  Whoa…I might be on to something with that!

The plates were empty except for one lone Knish…they were so rich, we had to leave one behind.  It was time to look at the dessert menu from & a Donut which was part four of the ‘catessen.  I know that there were several donuts to choose from on the menu but the moment I read “German Chocolate Donut” nothing else mattered.  I poked Wizzle’s arm and then with the same finger pointed to “German Chocolate,” my smile stretched as far as it could go. We’re both big fans.

Wizzle, a fellow of finer tastes, needed a good after dinner drink to go with dessert.  “What bourbon do you have?” he asked the bartender.  “Those ones up there?” he continued.  The bartender gave him a recommendation for their new bottle of whiskey from Breukelen Distilling in Brooklyn, NY.  Wizzle liked.

Whiskey and a German Chocolate Donut sounded like the perfect way to end the evening.  We toasted with our forks and let the bites begin.  Mid-chew we looked at each other.  There was a mutual feeling that this was everything wrong.  The donut was a chocolate corpse.  It was dry and and dead in taste.  The shreds of coconut lying on top may as well have been ashes.  If anything needed Umami Dust, it was this donut.  I hoped the other donuts were better, but we didn’t have time to try them. With the last sip of whiskey traveling down Wizzle’s throat, we settled the tab and headed out.

I continue to be a fan of UMAMI as an individual entity.  I never met a burger I didn’t like at any of their locations.  As for UMAMIcatessen, I love their ambition, and the concept of having multiple eateries in one.   The next time I go I will do more menu exploring, stay away from the Black Jack and German Chocolate Donut, and ask for an extra side of Umami Dust.

*Nickname has been used to protect individual’s identity, but if you know anyone whose nickname is Wizzle, it’s probably the same guy.


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Categories: Restaurant Review

Author:The Food Pervert

Tara Redfield, The Food Pervert, is an actress, writer, host and obviously food lover. She started her blog and website, "The Food Pervert," in 2010 after an incredible visit to New York City. Her soul acknowledged a genuine passion for food and a desire to share her experiences with friends and family. She’s been sharing ever since. One of her most exciting experiences living in Los Angeles has been working on the TLC reality cooking show, “The Take Home Chef” with the charming and talented Curtis Stone. Redfield has a true love for cooking, dining, travel and story telling. She continues to spread the food love by visiting restaurants, markets, and food festivals as often as possible and sharing her finds through photos and stories. TV Host Representation: Paul Barrutia Commercial Talent 9255 Sunset Blvd. Ste. 505 West Hollywood, CA 90069 310.247.1431


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