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Apr 14 2010

Umami Sliders – The Savory 5th Taste

We’ve been hearing a lot of hype about the newest LA craze – Umami Burger – which is a hip burger joint that has 4 locations in the Hollywood/LA/Santa Monica area that specializes in burgers with Umami flavorings. “Umami” is basically our 5th taste sense which is better known as savoriness. What you should expect when experiencing this 5th taste is the sensation of salivation in your mouth – that’s umami.  Now, you should know that we are not the type to be overly excited about a new fad, but moreso interested in replicating our own version at home! Ha! So, with that in mind, we headed to Umami Burger on La Brea to taste it for ourselves.

Umami Burger is located at 850 S La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036

We came in to Umami Burger with an open mind and came out extremely disappointed. :( I have very little patience for incompetence and bad service, and that was what we were faced with during a late afternoon lunch. We ordered regular french fries in order to taste their Umami ketchup, and out came a small batch of fries… that were cold, bland, and gross. I sent it right back and said “These fries are cold. Are they supposed to be cold??” And rolled my eyes, of course.

$3.50 for these fries that probably came straight from the frozen section of a grocery store. Umami ketchup? No thanks. I prefer Heinz.

The next major red flag was when my $9.00 SoCal Burger came out (which by the way looked more like a slider… a few bites of that thing, and it’s gone. Yet, somehow they can command $9 for that thing.) Now, let me give you the description of the SoCal Burger on their menu: butter lettuce, oven dried tomato, spread, house made american cheese, and caramelized onions.

SoCal Burger, in which they conveniently forgot to put the oven dried tomato and caramelized onions in for me. You'd think the staff would've memorized the 1-page menu by now.

When I got the burger, I looked at it, studied it, lifted up the bun and nowhere to be found were the oven dried tomato or caramelized onions. Are you freaking kidding me? So I waved my hand to the first employee I see and asked him why I had some missing toppings. He made it appear as though they didn’t make a mistake and that I clearly ordered a SoCal Burger. Oh really? I told him to get me the menu so I can point out the description to him, as if teaching a 5-year-old kid how to read. Next thing I knew, he took the burger back to the kitchen to fix it. Now, during this time, a couple more employees were standing nearby and was listening in to my complaint, yet neither one of them admitted fault or apologized for this mistake. Anyway, once they got our order finally right, we tasted it and was wondering if maybe our 5th taste didn’t exist? But no – the meat itself was bland because perhaps the guys in the kitchen didn’t realize they forgot to season the patty? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Daniel ordered the original signature burger which comes with an oven dried tomato and a Parmesan crisp. I gotta say one good thing about this - the Parmesan crisp was definitely a unique topping.

Now, I completely understand that people make mistakes and I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, but from reading some Yelp reviews online, it’s crystal clear that this staff is beyond incompetent and should take a class in good customer service skills. However, despite the horrific experience at Umami Burger on La Brea, we got our sweet revenge by making an even better version at home!

I also didn't like that the buns got overly soggy. It was really hard to pick up to eat this thing without getting it all over your fingers.

The whole purpose of going out of our way to try Umami Burger in LA and to make our own at home was so we can make a dozen sliders and ship it to our friend Ed for his birthday. Yes, it’s a little ironic that we’d still be willing to replicate a burger we didn’t even enjoy – but let me explain. Umami is just a concept for the burger – doesn’t mean they own the word. We incorporated a lot of umami-rich ingredients, many of which are in the actual recipe that we found here.  However, it doesn’t call out any measurements for the seasoning of the meat, so we did our own and added a couple things to jazz up the burger.

Here are the actual ingredients in Umami Burger's burgers - marmite, harissa, truffle salt, and anchovies. Let's just say the first 3 ingredients were a journey to find! We actually couldn't find Harissa paste at Whole Foods, so we opted to use the seasoning blend instead.

The key to making a nice juicy burger? Grinding your own meat! We got 3 lbs of well-marbled beef short ribs and used our meat grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid. Neat, huh?

We combined the umami ingredients and blended it in the mortar and pestle: anchovies, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, marmite, truffle salt, harissa, and bonito flakes. (See our recipe for exact measurements).

Instead of making the fancy Parmesan Crisps like the restaurant, we thought it'd be good to shred the Parmesan and add it to the actual meat, so when it cooks, it will be moist and cheesy throughout.

After cooking a small piece of the burger to test for flavor and adjust seasonings, we formed 3.5 oz. patties of the meat.

Our homemade version of the umami burger was superb! We also cooked it medium rare so that the meat stays juicy and succulent. Umami is definitely a great concept to incorporate into burgers.

We packaged up 12 patties, 12 slider buns, tomatoes, avocado and lettuce from our garden, caramelized onions, our homemade chipotle mayo sauce, and a bottle of Russian Standard Vodka - and shipped it in dry ice to our friend, who has helped us in so many ways with our food blog, and we are forever grateful. Happy Birthday, Ed!! We hope you enjoy these wonderful umami sliders!

I’d have to say we were probably the unluckier ones who had a bad experience at Umami Burger, as I’m sure a lot of you out there are wildly obsessed with this restaurant – and that’s perfectly fine. Because afterall, they’ve popularized this 5th taste of umami and provided a new take on gourmet burgers. We love the concept and are so glad we can make our own at home. We could live without the bad service and $9 price tag on these burgers any day!

To view or print-out this recipe, click here: Umami Sliders with Caramelized Onions

43 responses so far

43 Responses to “Umami Sliders – The Savory 5th Taste”

  1. JPon 14 Apr 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Great piece!

  2. Nancy Goodman Ilandon 14 Apr 2010 at 11:15 pm

    so sorry your experience was not good… I have only eaten in the restaurant once and do take out when we want to splurge. I think they are expensive too, but the flavor is fab. I have never had good fries there either :(
    If you get the chance try “The Patty Wagon” they are one of the trucks around town and can be found on twitter, my assistant Lisa Robinson created the recipes for the burgers and fries and they are large sliders at slider prices!
    I took my son Jared to eat at the truck and he said it was better than Umami, and this is the boy who thinks Umami is the best thing in the world!
    Loved your version!

  3. MaryMohon 14 Apr 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I can fully your disappointment. I was disappointed many times. The worst time was when the sweet corn chicken soup was not only below average but my daughter found 2 small pieces of wire in it!!! When we called the waitress, she just took it to change for another bowl….no apology at all!!! Of course that’s was our last. We were actually angry at their attitude and the danger that my daughter was exposed to.

    Anyway, I just love your homemade umami burger, looks way better than from the burger shop. You made so many. I think I should have one :P You can open a burger shop now :D
    .-= MaryMoh´s last blog ..Spicy Prawn Fritters Stir Fry =-.

  4. Leahon 14 Apr 2010 at 11:19 pm

    We live in LA, too, though haven’t tried Umami Burger. Too gimicky and overpriced for our tastebuds. The Counter (in Santa Monica) makes our favorite burgers.

    Where did you get the slider buns? They look similar to some I have bought before at Trader Joe’s. I’m always on the lookout for good burger buns. BBQ season is right around the corner and I’m still not satisfied with the quality of the buns I’ve bought before.
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..TJT: Chicken Parmesan Grilled Cheese Sandwich =-.

  5. thefoodaddictson 14 Apr 2010 at 11:29 pm

    JP – thanks! not often we get a comment from you :)

    Nancy – I know, I was so bummed. I really wanted to LOVE it as much as you and Jared, but we obviously came at the wrong time. I will definitely have to try your assistant’s burgers on The Patty Wagon! Sounds delish!

    MaryMoh – Wow, talk about a lawsuit waiting to happen! Sorry to hear about that awful experience. Thanks for the compliments on our burger… wish I had some left to give you!

    Leah – Good call on the gimicky stuff in LA. We got the slider buns at Fresh and Easy, but I think it’s not something they carry all the time. We happened to get lucky! If you can’t find it there, I’m thinking maybe Whole Foods or Trader Joes? Not entirely sure, but I need to seek a place that carries nice slider buns year-round.

  6. sweetlifeon 14 Apr 2010 at 11:36 pm

    isn’t eating home so much better than having overpriced food with bad service??I hate eating at the newest thing..always a let down..your burger on the other hand looks totally fab..nice…

    .-= sweetlife´s last blog ..Excuse…. =-.

  7. Katherineon 15 Apr 2010 at 1:24 am

    The Umami concept is a fascinating one. There are so many natural foods that can enhance our taste buds. Glad your burgers turned out well. They certainly look delicious and even better than the Umami burgers.
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..Food For The Gods =-.

  8. Spicy Green Mangoon 15 Apr 2010 at 1:34 am cute! And I love that you bought the attachment for your Kitchen Aid b/c I’ve been meaning to do the same–that thing works wonders. Awesome shots and great blogging!

  9. Edon 15 Apr 2010 at 3:52 am

    thanks daniel & krissy for the wonderful bday gift! your burgers were deeelicious~! i was planning to save it till my bday (today) but couldn’t resist making it last night so i had it for both dinner and breakfast haha… never had the official umami burgers but yours hit my fifth sense

  10. graceon 15 Apr 2010 at 4:08 am

    i can’t abide incompetence either, but i always hesitate to make complaints and send things back in restaurants–i always fear that something malicious will occur in the kitchen and i’ll end up eating someone’s spit or worse. sorry you had a bad experience, but i’m glad it inspired you to make some good burgers! homemade is always better anyway. plus, there’s no fear of foreign slobber. :)
    .-= grace´s last blog ..patent that! =-.

  11. bunkycookson 15 Apr 2010 at 4:23 am

    Your Umami sliders look wonderful! Do you ship to Atlanta? ;) I can understand your frustration with dining out. We have been less than thrilled at many restaurants lately. It seems like the portions are smaller, the food is over salted and the service is less than stellar. We get tired of paying to eat out and being disappointed. When you cook great food at home, it is hard to accept really inferior meals out.

    I hope Ed had a happy birthday!

  12. Crepes of Wrathon 15 Apr 2010 at 5:17 am

    Way to show them and do it better yourself! Your burgers look great and you have a beautiful kitchen!
    .-= Crepes of Wrath´s last blog ..Mini Yellow Cake Cupcakes with Almond Buttercream Frosting =-.

  13. Stephanieon 15 Apr 2010 at 7:14 am

    What a great birthday package! I love how you parlayed a bad restaurant experience into a positive cooking experience. Way to show ‘em!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Ad Hoc’s Easy Caramelized Sea Scallops =-.

  14. StephenCon 15 Apr 2010 at 7:32 am

    It does my heart good to see the food grinder in action. I use mine often for chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, pork, whatever. Nice posting!
    .-= StephenC´s last blog ..Curried turkey legs and wings =-.

  15. Sandyon 15 Apr 2010 at 8:23 am

    Awww that’s so sweet that you guys sent it to Ed! :) Your burger looks so juicy and delicious!

  16. lanon 15 Apr 2010 at 8:29 am

    yummmy…lucky Ed!

  17. Chef Chrison 15 Apr 2010 at 9:23 am

    Great article! Sounds like they opened too many locations and their Chef is not overseeing the operations closely enough. I enjoyed seeing that you made the burgers at home and they came out great – if a great concept isn’t being executed correctly at a restaurant then bang it out in your own kitchen.

  18. ravenouscoupleon 15 Apr 2010 at 10:28 am

    great job grinding your own meats and recreating this burger…what an awesome gift!
    .-= ravenouscouple´s last blog ..Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival 2010 =-.

  19. jenn (Bread + Butter)on 15 Apr 2010 at 11:31 am

    Nice job in creating the burger at home. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the place. So I’ve been unsure whether or not to go there. But I’ll eventually give it a try, just to come to my own conclusion. Then again after seeing your homemade version, I may just make mine at home.
    .-= jenn (Bread + Butter)´s last blog ..A little fun on a Monday night =-.

  20. Peteon 15 Apr 2010 at 11:53 am

    I’ve got to say, your burger looks loads better than theirs, by a mile! Nice job!

  21. norahon 15 Apr 2010 at 5:04 pm

    wow…you’re burgers look uh-maze-ING!!
    .-= norah´s last blog ..Pancit =-.

  22. Dawn@CocinaSavanton 15 Apr 2010 at 6:20 pm

    at least you ended up with your own fabulous looking burgers from the deal. looks delicious!
    .-= Dawn@CocinaSavant´s last blog ..Just Laying Around =-.

  23. tigerfishon 15 Apr 2010 at 6:48 pm

    What a shame! To think they name the eatery after the great 5th taste but does not taste at all good. Well, even if they were “unami” delish, service seems to suck! That is unanimously not acceptable for me. Sorry to say that. It just spoils the entire experience.

    Your own unami burger definitely looks MUCH MUCH better and very luxurious too.
    .-= tigerfish´s last blog ..Homemade mango chutney. Homegrown alfalfa. Fish. Little mystery gift. =-.

  24. Belinda @zomppaon 16 Apr 2010 at 8:40 am

    I want yours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    .-= Belinda @zomppa´s last blog ..Photo of the Day: Preparing for the Garden =-.

  25. Bibion 16 Apr 2010 at 9:19 am

    I prefer my own burgers over restaurants unless it is BLT Burger in Vegas.

    My son just got his very own slider maker for his birthday so I can’t wait to try your version.
    .-= Bibi´s last blog ..Spring Vegetable Soup with Dumplings =-.

  26. Kitchen Butterflyon 16 Apr 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I love the concept of umami…..I bought a jar of umami paste at Selfridges last year and it was lovely. Anyhow, I’m glad your delicious sliders made up for a disappointing outing.
    .-= Kitchen Butterfly´s last blog ..Daring to Cook Brunswick Stew! =-.

  27. Sandy Moranon 16 Apr 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Your burger looks a zillion times more delish ! Way to go ! And by the way my birthday is in July !

  28. Andyon 16 Apr 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Happy birthday Ed!!! Nice way to celebrate with a few umami burgers… hope you didn’t eat them all at once!

  29. Linn @ Swedish home cookingon 17 Apr 2010 at 1:15 am

    Interesting. I really want to go there still, just to see for myself. I’m sorry for your bad experience there. I’ve read so much about it!
    .-= Linn @ Swedish home cooking´s last blog ..Swedish Home Cooking Swedish Cupcakes =-.

  30. sippitysupon 17 Apr 2010 at 7:11 am

    Um… This is Ed (yea that’s it Ed!) and I have not received my box of burgers yet. Maybe you should send another box over to SippitySup and I;ll pick it up from him. GREG, er I mean ED.

  31. Stephanieon 17 Apr 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Glad to see you didn’t get sucked into the hype.
    I’ve been a few times to the La Brea location when they first opened and I have to say that both experiences left me wanting. It looks like they are actually giving out more fries than previously, but trust me when I say that they are being generous in their portions, now.
    In my opinion, if you want friendly service and an amazing juicy burger with lots of fries (included in the price!) you should try Golden State on Fairfax. I am not eating meat anymore, but their burger is the only thing I crave with meat.

  32. 5 Star Foodieon 18 Apr 2010 at 7:41 am

    I’m sorry that you were so disappointed with this place but your homemade burger looks totally awesome!
    .-= 5 Star Foodie´s last blog ..International Incident Party: Wild Little Plum Pizza Pie =-.

  33. Altaon 20 Apr 2010 at 6:07 am

    Your version DEFINITELY tops the original. Sounds delicious. I love that birthday gift – I would be ecstatic to receive something like that!
    .-= Alta´s last blog ..Kids in the Kitchen: Chocolate Ice Cream =-.

  34. [...] From: [...]

  35. Tamaron 24 Apr 2010 at 11:19 am

    Sometimes the greatest inspiration comes when you see a good concept done terribly wrong and you know you can do it better and prove it! Jjang!
    .-= Tamar´s last blog ..Recipe: Kimchi grilled cheese sandwich =-.

  36. Giseleon 02 May 2010 at 11:30 am

    Hi Krissy,

    You can find harissa at Surfas, and I think it’s well worth picking up a tube. I wouldn’t consider it an umami flavor , though. It’s actually pretty spicy, and makes a great addition to certain soups, sauces, marinades etc.

    .-= Gisele´s last blog ..The Advantages of a "Boutique Caterer"-Part 2 =-.

  37. johannaon 02 May 2010 at 4:18 pm

    it was not until i tried a proper home-cooked burger that i understood the concept. the McDo version i first tried at 18 just didn’t appeal. we have tons of “gourmet” burger joint opening up here and while they may not (yet) be adding umami, some of them are certainly almost as good as home-made… minus the hassle!

  38. Lillyon 09 May 2010 at 8:28 am

    I just got the grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid yesterday. My boyfriend and I made the best sliders I have ever had! Carmelized red onion and shiitakes with Raging Fourties blue cheese on top!

    But looking at your burgers, I know more “best sliders” are still to come!

    Re: Umami. I’ve never been, yet, but now I can’t even possibly see wasting $ on an over-hyped burger at a restaurant!

  39. Kathrynon 06 Aug 2010 at 12:12 pm

    That burger looks amazing! You should submit the recipe to the Recipe4Living Juiciest Burger Contest here!
    .-= Kathryn´s last blog ..Cocktail Hour- Tips From the Cooking Channel’s “Dr Mixologist” =-.

  40. Chicken Burger Sliderson 23 Mar 2011 at 2:08 pm

    [...] Sliders – Sauce and Sensibility Super Bowl Sliders – A Communal Table Umami Sliders – The Food [...]

  41. Patrickon 28 Jun 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I like to have a cheeseburger for breakfast on my birthday. Just a tradition I have. Last year, my wife got a ribeye steak and grou d it at home. Add some umami flavor and you can’t believe how good it is!!!

  42. Quyenon 06 Mar 2012 at 8:10 am

    Hi Krissy,

    I live in OC was wondering if I can buy the ingredients for the Umami Burger at Wholefood or do I have to purchase them on Amazon? Thank you for posting such wonderful recipes and photos, my family really admired your blog :)

  43. thefoodaddictson 12 Mar 2012 at 6:57 am


    You should be able to find all the ingredients at Trader Joes, Wholefoods, and Fresh & Easy. Some stores were out of certain ingredients so we had to search them out at the other stores. Good luck! Let us know how your sliders turn out.


    Daniel @ The Food Addicts.

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