Friday, February 20, 2009

Umami - Part 1: Fiasco, Part 2: Much Improved

Umami, Part One

Have you, by chance, heard the This American Life show about fiascos, specifically the part about the school play that devolves into one hilarious fiasco? If not, head over for a listen. As Tater and I were driving down Pico on the way home from lunch at Umami, I was thinking about how unfair it is to review a newly opened restaurant. And I was reminded of this classic This American Life bit.

Now let me pause to just say several trustworthy bloggers have been to and enjoyed meals at Umami, so my first experience may have certainly been an exception. But as Tater and I were sitting there, waiting and waiting for my sliders, I realized I had just witnessed a true fiasco. I'd also just like to say up front that the sliders were pretty darn good, so at least the food is off to an encouraging start. And they carry Cake Monkey's amazing cakewiches and cookies which is always a good thing. And the music was great: the Shins.

It turns out that Heather John, from Foodinista, was also at Umami at the time and caught the second of the two arguments I heard. The first, between the owner and a couple and then one between the couple and another table. There was actually talk of "taking it outside" during the second fight!

Anyhow, in the hour or so that we were there, we witnessed two tables angrily walk out, two confrontations, and the poor cashier/server running around overwhelmed, yet trying to remain calm. It took way too long to order and even longer to finally get the sliders. I'm pretty sure they forgot my order, even though by the time I got my order I was the only table in the place! The sliders turned out to be pretty tasty, though there was just the tiniest bit of blue cheese and just a few onions.

They ran out of food which prompted an early closing. It felt like things were spinning out of control and I left wondering just how this place would fare.

Umami, Part Two
I didn't want to review Umami without trying it one more time, so the three of us went today on the way to shopping for glasses. Good news, Umami was SO much better today in almost all areas. The owner seemed more relaxed, there was a busser and more staff in general, our burger was delicious, and there were no brawls. The fries were pretty good (I prefer shoestrings), even better with the aioli and the buttery bun was perfect. A couple menu changes: the sliders are only for kids now (with blue cheese and onions??) and the order of fries is larger and $3.

While Umami is quite small, there's enough space for the portable high chair and I think loud baby noises would be fine. Tater didn't freak out during both of our visits so I'd say he seems to like it. They must have amazing PR because they're being mentioned everywhere (see here, here, and here). I'm hoping their operation can keep up with the crowds.

Umami Burger
850 South La Brea

1 comment:

SinoSoul said...

we finally made it to Umami last week. No one was convinced. From the pathetic service to the brioche bun overload, there are simply better burgers at the same price range.

And triple fried fries? Someone tell me how they ended up all looking limp in need of Viagra?