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Restaurant Review: Umami Burger

Photo source: Jun Seita

Salty, sweet, bitter, sour…umami? Umami is the fifth taste, a Japanese word that cannot be accurately translated into English; it means “deliciousness”, “beauty,” or “perfection.” It’s the savory, meaty quality of mushrooms, steak, and soy sauce. Umami Burger in downtown Oakland tries to infuse this flavor into all of its artfully crafted burgers.

Their signature burger, the Umami Burger, comes topped with shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, and a parmesan crisp. This burger was cooked perfectly to medium rare, and the combination of flavors was unique. The salty parmesan melded with the sweet onions and tomato to create a balanced burger. The Truffle Burger is covered in housemade truffle cheese and truffle glaze. Truffle is one of the major flavors associated with umami. The burger was slightly soggy, overwhelmed by the cheese and the creamy sauce. It was extremely rich, but the burger was still cooked really well.

On the lighter side, they offer the Greenbird Burger, the Ahi Tuna Burger, and the Earthburger. The Earthburger is a mushroom and edamame patty with white soy aioli, truffled ricotta, onions, lettuce, and roasted tomato. The Ahi Tuna Burger is topped with avocado, daikon, pickled ginger, and wasabi. The Greenbird is a turkey burger with avocado, lettuce, sprouts, green goddess dressing, and “green cheese.” The green cheese is a mix of goat cheese and herbs spread on the bun. The patty was surprisingly juicy; usually, turkey burgers are super dry.

Umami Burger doesn’t only have burgers; they have a wide variety of sides as well.  I tried the “Smushed Potatoes” and the fried pickles. The pickles were pretty strange; once battered and fried, the pickles didn’t retain their crunch. Hot, soggy pickles…not my favorite. The smushed potatoes, on the other hand, were my favorite dish of the night. They were small potatoes, fully cooked, then smashed, the fried. They had perfectly browned, crispy skins with creamy, almost buttery centers. The potatoes came with an aioli that enhanced the dish. I also tried a beet salad with toasted almonds and truffled ricotta. It wasn’t overdressed, which restaurants often do, and the acidic dressing complemented the yellow and white beets. The toasted almonds added crunch and an extra flavor dimension.

The ambiance of the restaurant was pretty quiet, but that may have just been because it was a Sunday night. The servers were friendly and attentive, giving free refills on lemonade and taking away dishes frequently. Overall, I would recommend Umami Burger for a quick and satisfying meal.


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