"a mean perfectionist streak that borders on the tyrannical."
May 11, 2012 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Empire of the Bun: Today, burgers. Tomorrow, the world. The casual-dining revolution of Adam Fleischman and his Umami Group. 'In 2009, with $40,000 in his pocket from selling his stake in BottleRock, Fleischman decided to open a restaurant centered on the umami flavor. He knew that an umami-focused menu would attract a burgeoning breed of foodies who had been weaned on the Food Network and had developed a sort of teenybopper crush on the heady flavors of pork, organ meats, West Coast IPAs, and superripe cheeses.'

The Backstory, or Why It Takes A Year To Write About Burgers.

Umami, previously on Metafilter.
posted by the man of twists and turns (55 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Flesichman

Eponysterical?
posted by threeants at 1:36 PM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


THAT HAS A TYPO Y'ALL
posted by threeants at 1:36 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of overhyped LA restaurant that know all the right buzzwords to use ("House-made," "locally-sourced," etc.) and turn out expensive crap. Umami Burger is not one of those places. Their burgers are damn good. I like the pork one, myself.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:39 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Adam Fleischman and his Umami Group.

Eponysterical?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:41 PM on May 11, 2012


Damnit, preview Foot, PREVIEW!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're in Downtown Los Angeles, go to Umamicatessen. You might hate Fleischman (and most of you probably do for some reason or another... this is the internet, after all), but damn... that restaurant is badass. Probably one of the few places where you can have matzo ball soup as an appetizer along with a sashimi-topped potato salad (sounds weird, but it is yummy), a pad thai inspired burger as a main, and coffee with donuts for dessert.

The best part? It's all delicious. And if you're into pork... you'll be in for a treat as well.

(Snark-time: I'm not a huge fan of 800 Degrees, though. The crust falls way too much at the middle and toppings are on the sparse side. And Five Guys deserves no place on that list... terrible, terrible, terrible.)
posted by raihan_ at 1:45 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised more of these places aren't expanding into the Northeast. We really only have Five Guys, and a couple of Shake Shack outlets.
posted by smackfu at 1:50 PM on May 11, 2012


Soy and ground fish heads to add more "umami" to the burger does sound like a gimmick to me, but I defer to Bookhouse and other people who have actually tried the burger in question.

On the one hand, I am allergic to fish (though drying them and just using bits for flavor, a la katsuoboshi or fish sauce, doesn't seem to bother me).

On the other hand, I started eating beef again a few months ago after about eight years going without the stuff.

Decisions, decisions...
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:50 PM on May 11, 2012


And if you're into pork...

How charming, precisely, are Fleischman's muthafuckin pigs?
posted by tigrefacile at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The other night after that caramelized onion thread, I made sliders featuring the aforementioned onions and also lots of Red Boat fish sauce, which is the best fish sauce.

Then I ate the leftovers the next morning, cold out of the tupperware, standing in my pajamas over the sink. HEAVEN. Umami crazy heaven.
posted by padraigin at 1:56 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out how an IPA counts as "umami".
posted by curious nu at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll be in LA in a few months.

YEAH !
posted by flippant at 1:58 PM on May 11, 2012




pork, organ meats, West Coast IPAs, and superripe cheeses

This is not a menu I would recommend for close-talkers. Yikes!
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2012


An IPA can be anywhere on a scale of bitter / sweet / yeasty, so might itself also be Umami.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:07 PM on May 11, 2012



I'm trying to figure out how an IPA counts as "umami".
posted by curious nu


I'd say the aggressive hoppiness of a well made IPA mimics the sensation you get from umami, a full pallette intensity that other styles of beer don't provide. I think it also works as an umami simulacrum in that it provides "big flavours" like umami rich foods.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:11 PM on May 11, 2012


I think it also works as an umami simulacrum in that it provides "big flavours" like umami rich foods.

Marmite doesn't give me borderline-illegal farts.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The full recipe is classified, but he will allow that the sauce contains some soy sauce and the dust, some ground-up dried porcini mushrooms and dried fish heads, among other umami enhancers.

He began to experiment with recipes, incorporating dashi, miso, fish sauce, and soy. He ground up fish heads and sprinkled them on top of ground beef and pork. He tried making Parmesan fondue and melting it over the patty.

Fleisch-man—so he claims—created his masterpiece in a single day.

Ok, honestly? This sounds like a challenge. I think I might make some burgers this weekend. If he can do it in a day, then so can I.

now-patented Umami Sauce and Umami Dust
Food is patented now? Or does that mean the process behind making it is patented?
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:23 PM on May 11, 2012


When I was in Los Angeles last summer, I went to Umami Burger with MeFite Ambrosia Voyeur. The burger I had was alright, but the veggie burger she had was amazingly good. (But the Rounds Burger I had in West Hollywood was better than both)
posted by ColdChef at 2:25 PM on May 11, 2012


I did this a few years back. Burger with bonito and soy, and powdered dried mushrooms, which are nearly as high in msg as parmesan. Topped it with roasted tomatoes and kimchi. I also tried one with all of that and Parmesan but it was overkill. Surprisingly blue cheese and kimchi kinda works.

I posted the recipe on facebook when I did it so there is some prior art to fight his ridiculous mushroom dust patent. (Even more ridiculous given commercial msg has been made much the same way for years, and even more ridiculous on top of that to says his burgers with home-made msg don't contain MSG. Just educate the people that msg fear is stupid and that they eat natural MSG all the time.)
posted by darkfred at 2:54 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


...this sounds utterly revolting.

(...so much fish, so little to actually like...)
posted by mephron at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2012


And Five Guys deserves no place on that list... terrible, terrible, terrible.

I'd say that for the Counter too. They aren't horrible, but they are a long way from being worth the price.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:09 PM on May 11, 2012


So I read this article about how cats have this soft spot for cooked mushrooms and it turns out it's because of umami, which cooked mushrooms have a lot of. And, ever since my kids were tiny, every night before bed, they get a 15 minute cartoon and four pieces of flavored nori (it started as an alternative to candy once and has kind of worked ever since). Well seaweed, like mushrooms, and other heavily umami stuff, has glutamate. So one night, I tried giving our new kitten a piece of nori, to see if he'd eat it, and sure enough he gobbled it right down. Now, every night, 15 minutes before bed time, as soon as I tear open the package, two little girls and a cat sit down on the couch for cartoon and some nori. And that's not even our weirdest family ritual. That would be blaming the ghost of the deceased dog whenever any of us farts.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:10 PM on May 11, 2012 [30 favorites]


Another version of this concept is the Japano-Dog. We used to make them at my old restaurant as crew-chow. It was your basic hot dog with shredded nori, shredded cabbage, kimchi and siracha aioli. It was awesome.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:12 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always forget that Parmigiano-Reggiano is positively bristling with MSG and then wonder why the bag of oven-baked parmesan never lasts more than a day at my house. Mmmmmm.....
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:21 PM on May 11, 2012


...the bag of oven-baked parmesan...

Would you care to elaborate on this?
posted by helicomatic at 3:43 PM on May 11, 2012


It's sad how almost no good IPAs exist in Britain. The only good British IPAs are the ones made by The Kernel, although BrewDog's Punk IPA is drinkable.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:45 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cat's and mushrooms. A cat eating nori. Lest ye doubt my good word.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:50 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised more of these places aren't expanding into the Northeast. We really only have Five Guys, and a couple of Shake Shack outlets.

Wouldn't b.good in Boston fit in this category?
posted by stopgap at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2012


I'm sure NYC will figure out a way to have a umami food truck sooner or later.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:57 PM on May 11, 2012


Empire of the Bun is such an attrociously bad pun that it is actually good. It's hard to come up with good Japanese/Burger puns. I just wasted 10 minutes on that, and the best I could come up with was Hero-shima Sandwich, which isn't even about burgers.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:16 PM on May 11, 2012


Blew the closing italics tag after "Bun"
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:17 PM on May 11, 2012


From the NPR link: But veterinarians say that neither dogs nor cats should eat mushrooms.
posted by smoke at 4:26 PM on May 11, 2012


Is anyone besides me visualizing an ad campaign that goes like this:

'How do these burgers taste?'
"Umami.'
'Yo Mama!'

It could be the next Wazzzup!
posted by jonmc at 4:47 PM on May 11, 2012


"Umami" really a terrible borrow word. It just sounds wrong used as an adjective. Sure does taste good though.....

apparently 'savory' comes pretty close....that works for me...
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:13 PM on May 11, 2012


I'm trying to figure out how an IPA counts as "umami".

Honestly (and I'm saying this as an IPA lover), I think it's that the same who people swear that West Coast IPAs are the end all of beer are the same people that are likely to go in for gourmet supercharged burgers.

The first reason is pretty obvious, people who like lots of flavor like lots of flavor. For the second let me paint you a picture:

Imagine the setting, you just turned twenty-two and have been swilling beer that bares the same relationship to water that "eggshell" paint has to white. It's "off-water." Your social group is all starting to have a little more disposable income, and is using more of it on food. As a result you're just starting to realize that food can actually taste like something.

Now, someone, say an older sibling's boyfriend has a BBQ. You show up, and the only beer in the cooler is a variety pack from a local brewery. The beers all have funny names, so you pick the one that makes you laugh, it's a pale ale. You open it up and take a swig. Wow, that's good. You ask somebody about it, and talk about how nice an crisp it is. They tell you "oh that's the hops." So you go into the liquor store and look for a hoppy beer, maybe the clerk helps you, maybe you just look at the packaging, but either way you walk out with an IPA. It's like the beer you had at the party, but more so. Soon you're hooked. You know what you like and it's hops.

So, you start seeking out hoppy beer, it's easy. This is America, even our Barley Wines are hoppy. Even better, your friend tells you about this website for people like you, Beeradvocate. It's great everyone there's like you, they LOVE Hops, they'll tell you what beer is hoppy and which aren't worth drinking. They'll tell you what hop variety tastes like once. Soon you're a hop epicure, you can tell the difference between Cascades and Chinook hops. You're aware of the noble hops and know the English have a kind called "Fuggles" you're damned if you know what they taste like, but man is that a funny name.

At the same time, your friends, start REALLY getting into food. And a similar thing happens, but this time replacing "umami" for "hoppy" and "appropriate foody site" for "beer advocate." The two are comparable, they're easy to taste, they're WAY more present in quality food and beer than flavorless mass produced stuff, and the popularizers love to mention them for just those reasons, and so your early research to the wider world of either topic is likely to encounter both and nest them firmly in the "Things that mean good X" categories.

I love this scenario, because hey if you find something you like, stick with it. If you want to go balls to the wall American "we do EVERYTHING bigger" about your beer and food, go for it. I love big flavors. In fact, if anyone ever wants to go out for super umami food with a big IPA, I'm in. In fact, I've been looking for an excuse to drink some Lennie Bruce's R.I.P.A I just hope that you'll try this really good porter I know about, or maybe this great Belgian Wit that'll goes perfect with this spinach and shrimp salad that's on the menu.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:16 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


And Five Guys deserves no place on that list... terrible, terrible, terrible.

...

I'd say that for the Counter too. They aren't horrible, but they are a long way from being worth the price.


I've said it before. Now, I'm going to say it again:

The Apple Pan. Only, always, and forever.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:17 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been looking for an excuse to drink some Lennie Bruce's R.I.P.A

Its really tasty, and it will get you nice.
posted by jonmc at 5:18 PM on May 11, 2012


Snuffleupagus, I agree with all of that except "only".

Food enjoyment is not the highlander. There can be more than one.
posted by flaterik at 5:30 PM on May 11, 2012


Umami's Hatch burger (with 4 kinds of green chilies and a spicy cheese) is excellent. I was less impressed with their signature burger - kind's flat.

But the Santa Monica location has a great beer selection, outdoor seating, and is a really quirky freak show of customers (between normal locals, foodie hipsters, Fred Segal customers, and people for whom plastic surgery is apparently a hobby). Definitely worth trying out if you're in the area.
posted by Davenhill at 5:30 PM on May 11, 2012


I've been looking for an excuse to drink some Lennie Bruce's R.I.P.A

Its really tasty, and it will get you nice.


Wrong coast though. I was getting it and Bear Republics Rye IPA mixed up. Both are great drinking though. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I've got a bottle of 400 Pound Monkey (a British IPA brewed by the fine folk at Left Hand) hidden in my fridge that needs drinking.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:39 PM on May 11, 2012


elwoodwiles: "Another version of this concept is the Japano-Dog. We used to make them at my old restaurant as crew-chow. It was your basic hot dog with shredded nori, shredded cabbage, kimchi and siracha aioli. It was awesome."

TIL Japadog is in NYC. Guess where I'll be tomorrow?
posted by Splunge at 5:49 PM on May 11, 2012


Cupcakes are long gone. Molecular gastronomy is already retro. Burgers are approaching "well done." Food trucks are here to stay, as they're good marketing for good restaurants, and the new first rung on the ladder for an aspiring chef.

What's next?

Sandwiches. Local bakeries are already making a big deal about the perfect sandwich here in Providence... you know, the city that features in every single episode of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate?"

It's about the curation. Bread made from locally grown rye flour. Locally raised and slaughtered beef brisket, pickled in sea-salt and smoked in the chef's custom designed smokehouse. Locally grown crushed tomatoes and California garlic powder and sea-salt, infused with a finely diced tsukemono made from local cucumbers and fair-trade raw sugar,(ketchup and relish) introduced into an emulsion of local eggs and Turkish first-press extra virgin olive-oil(Mayo. Makes Russian dressing.) Locally grown cabbage, with vinegared local white wine, fermented by the chef in an earthen pot. Artisinal cheese from a local dairy. Tossed onto a panini press, and served with hand-cut, hand-cooked mixed-tuber chips, locally grown, of course.

Since we're not being pretentious, it's on the menu as a Pastrami Reuben. $18.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:30 PM on May 11, 2012


TIL Japadog is in NYC. Guess where I'll be tomorrow?

Damn. After looking at the munu, I may swing by myself.
posted by jonmc at 6:37 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Menu. I don't know what a 'munu' is.
posted by jonmc at 6:37 PM on May 11, 2012


Hi-faulting sandwich shops are already popping up in LA. One of the Voltaggio brothers has one on Melrose that's not terribly good.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:50 PM on May 11, 2012


Sandwiches must first clear the bay cities godmother hurdle. It is not insignificant.

Metafilter leads me to eating a surprising number of burgers. I'm at Santa monica umami right now.
(for the fifth or sixth time). The current Kalbi burger special is pretty damn good.
posted by flaterik at 7:54 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since I was a baby, I've had a strong dislike of vegetables (and their flavors) and a very strong love of umami foods. I didn't know what that was until about ten years ago, but when I found out, it was obvious because everything I love is very high in umami. I just bought a nice blue cheese this evening and just reading about mushrooms is making me crave some. So a umami-centric menu sounds like heaven to me.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2012


As an aside, I find www.burgerbusiness.com a fascinating read for the (ahem) business side of the quick-service industry.
posted by reiichiroh at 9:49 PM on May 11, 2012


Another version of this concept is the Japano-Dog.

This is not a patch on Korean-Dog though. Made with 100% real Jindo...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:48 PM on May 11, 2012


Super hoppy beers are the porn star boobs of the beer world.
posted by srboisvert at 5:33 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, freeze distilling is the porn star boobs of the beer world. Super hoppy is more like really enjoying going down. ;)

Alcohol isn't particularly healthy stuff. If you've the money, then only drinking exceptional stuff does help restrict your intake.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:14 AM on May 12, 2012


Super hoppy beers are the porn star boobs of the beer world.

I get where this is coming from, but I disagree. There are legions of unbalanced hop teas out there, but there are also legions of poorly made other styles. I'm convinced that the standard for New Belgian sours is they only get made if they're more acidic than stomach acid, and don't get me started on the endless stream of cloyingly sweet browns I've tried. On the other hand, I can name many good beers from each style. Well, I'd have to think about browns, because... well they're browns, they're not supposed to be remarkable.

There's really only three different things contributing all those possible flavors to beer (well four counting water, but water's super subtle and takes a chemist to understand just what it does). Hops, Malt, and Yeast strain. Every brewing culture has there own take on those three things (There's a big difference between English hops and German Hops for example), and every culture seems to be a little more virtuosic with one than the others (which seems to mainly be a function of geography), but all four have a beer that features one of the three, and any one of those can be pushed too far towards the extreme really easily.

One of the main reasons you see so so many badly made hop-bombs is that there's a huge cultural press to innovate and push things to the extreme, and hops are the easiest thing about beer to do that with. It's much more noticeable than say going crazy with malt (although I thing Rogue is doing "single Malt" batches, which just screams gimmick); much easier to do consistent flavor and quality with than yeast; and getting higher alcohol content is mainly yeast breeding, and takes years. Plus you have to factor in the fact that the craft brew revival got a big chunk of it's moment from people by a major hop growing region (which is where those West Coast IPAs come from), so a lot of the next generation of brewers cut their teeth trying to make Sierra Nevada Clones, etc. That created a big starting bias towards brewing hoppy beers even before the pissing contest began.

Also, hops and reverb both cover a multitude of sins.

Sure Double and Triple IPAs (or whatever we're up to these days) attract a lot of mediocre brewers, but they also attract people like the folks at Firestone Walker, who make a fantastic Double IPA. It's got this great citrus aroma and a surprisingly balanced flavor, all without the cat-piss and grapefruit flavors that seem to be the only hop flavors brewers like anymore. Or the man himself at Dogfish Head, 120 Min IPA is a beautiful beer.

In many ways the whole thing is an echo in American Foodie Culture in general. The main thing is figuring out who you can trust to brew\cook\tell you about food that you like. I have nothing against pumping up the Umami as long as good burgers and not "More Umami" is the goal.

No, freeze distilling is the porn star boobs of the beer world

For a second I thought you were talking about Eisbocks, and we were going to have a problem.

When I think of Brew Dog I think of that part of one of Douglas Adams' books where he talks about the guy made of David Bowies, but I replace "David Bowie" with "Stone"
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:19 AM on May 14, 2012


I consider Brew Dog IPA, Franziskaner, and several Belgian options the best "commonly" available bears in the U.K., that's not saying they're particularly great beer, just what's available in the U.K.

I recall Dogfish Head's various IPAs being good, with the 120 min being the best, but I cannot remember if their IPAs struck me as excessively sweet like their Raison d'être. I recall Great Divide's IPAs being good but too sweet. I enjoy Stone's IPA and Ruination IPA more than correspondingly priced Dogfish Head or Great Divide, maybe the 120 was a price increment up though. Arrogant Bastard might be just as sweet as Raison d'être, but I honestly never buy it. All this American stuff costs way too much in the U.K. And honestly The Kernel tastes better, while being slightly less expensive.

I've surely drunk eisbocks when living in Germany, but they never made much impression, always returned quickly to weizen. There are many towns where a local brewery like Ganter in Freiburg owns half the bars but produces amazingly disgusting beer. It seemed the Germans were well acquainted with finding a bar with a weizen though, probably for Bavarian friends.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:59 PM on May 14, 2012


All this American stuff costs way too much in the U.K.

The circle is now complete.
posted by flaterik at 4:33 AM on May 15, 2012


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