Monday, April 9, 2012

UMAMIcatessen Downtown LA

It's like....Culinary Mecca........

Interior is way cool....
Can I just say how excited we were to go to UMAMIcatessen!! Since reading about its opening about a month ago, we have been DYING to go, like kids wanting the newest video game, we were totally upset about not being able to go during its opening weeks. But, the heavens opened up and gave us the opportunity to shuttle our butts back to LA and get to devour this buffet of decadence, without guilt, without shame in full gluttonous abandon!
The Back Bar - Liquid Lunch Anyone?

Notice the stanchions and velvet ropes; they scream, 'You CAN'T come in!  We're TOO SPECIAL'!!! (JK, we know that it's open late at night and so it's for crowd control), luckily we arrive around noon on a Saturday when it was POURING, so we had no trouble getting in!

Click below to

By the way, the building itself is gorgeous and if it weren't for the torrential downpour that occurred upon our immediate arrival into LA, we would have spent significant time outside.

The restaurant interior was just as elegant; modern and noble, it exceeded our preconceived vision of what the space looked like. In fact, we were thinking the place was more like an arrangement of food stalls with open seating in the center.

Cuz everyone loves communal tables......(bleah)

We soon realized that the concept was a full restaurant; a multi concept dining establishment
housing five different F&B venues under one roof.

1) The Cure
3) UMAMI Burger
4) Spring for Coffee
5) & a Donut

We couldn't wait to chow down items from every venue!! let the Bacchanalian Feast begin!!!

PIGG: Chris Constentino's ode to the taboo of all meats with his, 'Pork Park'

We heard so much about PIGG, and the desire to order EVERYTHING on the MENU was overwhelming!!!!  So after Rick slapped me in the face and told me to snap out of it,  I regained composure and regulated the ordering to the Fried Snacks sections.   I love asking the waiters for their favorites, (and then going with something else) and he recommended the PIGG Style Fries with Pickled Peppers, a Ham Puree and Brainaisse (Pig brain sauce).... We went with the Crispy Pig Ears to start...

Cone of Heavenly Crunch
But in what could only be a hand from God, we got the Cone O' Cracklins by mistake:  Pork Rinds seasoned with Sherry Vinegar and Sage, which was a wonderful delight.  I could see this as being a great snack accompanied with a beer and it was fortuitous that we got the opportunity to devour it.

it's funny, we started eating them as though they were the Crispy Pig Ears, (I thought it was kinda strange) and then the waiter passes by us nonchalantly, looks at the table and says, 'that's not your order.....' and then walks back to the kitchen...(he looked miffed, it was cute).

Anyways I hadn't had Pork Rinds since the Atkins Diet craze back in 2001, (fun times) and it was like meeting an old ole friend that became rich and successful that you meet as he's coming out of his Rolls Royces while he hands you the keys cuz you're the valet!!! This was nothing like the Pork Rinds that you know of, the Sherry Vinegar complemented the crispy pork which was light and airy like potato chips!

Questionable looks, tastes sublime!
When we got the Crispy Pig Ears, it looked like worms entangled in a nest and then fried in a lump of Lard and regret, (something Andrew Zimmern would eat) but after popping them into trusty ole pie hole it was a chewy delight!  Dipping them in the Brainnaise gave it even more artery clogging deliciousness.

After the waiter came by to ask how our smorgasbord of cochon was, I slipped in an order of the PIGG Style Fries,  (HA HA, take that Rick)!  Unfortunately, all this lard was starting to weigh on us and we hadn't even gotten to the mains yet, much less the fries!

But we forged on, like George Washington on the Hudson River to our next conquest! Onward HO! ( not you, West Hollywood).

Rating (Out of Five Stars)

Food:  3.5

This little Piggy went to UMAMI.....and never came back......

The CURE: Kosher Style Deli redefined

Deli Counter Redux
So starting from the beginning: we were ravenous for the warmth emanating from the prospect of Deli delish. Being from NY, it's the comfort food that I used to know:  Pastrami on Rye with Mustard and a Side of Smooth Liva.

(Queue to Flashback)  Envision this, (preferably in a sepia tone): overweight, PORTLY and HUSKY Asian kid with BOWL haircut and BIG ASS glasses sitting across a semi-DISGRUNTLED-with-LIFE Mom at Wolf's Delicatessen in the 80's; kosher pickles and coleslaw sitting in bowls on the table, for how long....the mind reels......(ewww).

Tower of Cure (boys don't Rye...)

Kid has a Bacon Cheeseburger the size of his Basketball head with a mountain of steak fries looming over him, Mom has 4lbs of fatty Pastrami on awesome Jewish Rye that can barely sandwich the massive amount of what could have been a calf, (she could never put that sandwich in her mouth, she had to open face it-horrorz)!

That with a Brown's Cream Soda and Black Forrest Cake for dessert, it's no wonder that I grew to the size of a large, sea mammal!!  And to top it off, whatever she couldn't finish of her Pastrami, I would have to eat, like some sort of Japanese-I- must-finish-everything-on-the-plates-so-as-not-to-insult-the-Master-chef-self degrading-custom!  (with years of regressive therapy and meditation, I have learned to cope with that childhood memory & culinary torture well as my subconscious need to finish everything on my plate and everyone else's at the table)...Ahh... scars of an immigrant childhood....

Pastrami Redefined

But I digress.....(blogging can be SO therapeutic)! What came out was the unexpected....and it was beyond our imaginations! Thick, cut hunks of juicy, beautifully seasoned Pastrami between densely speckled thin cuts of Rye bread, along with a grain mustard that can only be described as condiment crack. The warm, soft, rich flavor of the meat, as if all along this was it's pinnacle of being, orchestrated with a symphony of mustard tang and caramelized rye with caraway. 

Need more Bread!!!!
A slice of pickle, so reminiscent of those long afternoons sitting with Mom as she would kvetch to me while she sliced it lengthwise and gave it to me, her confidant and ad hoc partner in this foreign and sometimes hostile world.  I remember juices running down her hand as she reached into the bowl, the tender crunch of sour dill brought back the images of washed white tile floors, aroma of steam emanating from the open kitchen and echoes of mahogany walls as we ate alone...together.        

It's been years, maybe even a decade since I've had liver. I'm so glad that I waited this long to have it now.  Again the memories flood as the creamy, rich texture coats my tongue and fill my mouth, with an added condiment of jelly on tiny bits of toast it's a rich experience that packs so much flavor with such little effort....    

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)

Food:  4.5

UMAMI Burger: The Fifth Taste....and beyond.....
As in our earlier posts on Umami Burger, our favorite all time burger to date is the Umami-it's flavor profile is unparalleled.  But with each locale having an original burger available only to that location, it's always a temptress-glistening like Eve's apple....With our last experience in SF being so successful (Scallop Burger rolled with bacon was delish), we decided to off road this culinary adventure and go with the special:  The Umami Shrimp Burger: Wild Shrimp Patty with Yuzu Kosho (Lime Pepper) and Japanese spices.

Shrimp Burger
Open up-it's the ocean on a bun!
Well, I have to say, it was a disappointment. Conceptually, the burger was beautifully crafted; a patty made with shrimps bits topped with an Aioli and Hijiki seaweed sandwiched between a soft bun. Texturally, the the burger wasn't too bad, the shrimps had a firm bite.  It was the flavor.  What can only be described as cardboard that has been left floating in the ocean,  it was pretty hard to eat. The Hijiki (seaweed) didn't make it any easier. The Yuzu Kosho, meant to mask/balance any fishiness, was not present, whereas the Aioli made it even harder to stomach.
Cross Section 

I don't know what other Japanese spices were present, but it could've used anything to save it. I believe when using smaller shrimps, the briny flavor is more intense and it with it a tighter, glassy texture; therefore it needs a balance of acids (citrus or vinegar) and oils to create an aromatic flavor profile.  In this case the good old reliable Soy Sauce would have saved for something here.......... Not the best work, but that's just my opinion..

Rating (Out of Five Stars)

Food:  2.5*

*not a reflection on the other items ordered at Umami in the past.  Still LOVE the UMAMI burger and Cheesy Tots!

The PIGG Style Fries came with the Shrimp Burger and Pastrami Sandwich, and its fabulous!  Fried in Lard, the fries were crispy and crunchy but also were unbelievably light in texture.  On top, Pickled Peppers added a tang that was unique, Ham Puree that added more decadence and Brainnaise, which was over the top!!! One of the highlights in the mains category..

Now onto dessert:

& a Donut: Does it get any better?

Tres Leches Donut

Yum Yum
We ordered the Tres Leches Cajeta; a Ceylon Cinnamon Cake fried to order.  It was amazing, usually anything Tres Leches can be overly sweet and almost nauseating; this dessert was light and dare I say, refreshing?  The donut wasn't heavy at all; the sweetness of the Tres Leches was well balanced with the homemade Whipped cream (no sugar) and dusted Cinnamon, we wished this dessert could go on forever...

Rating (Out of Five Stars)

Food:   4

Since implementing our new harm reduction philosophy, we had to stop there.  We didn't have any after drinks at The Back Bar or coffee at Spring for Coffee, but we will partake on another occasion.

Final thoughts; it was all a great experience, albeit a few bumps here and there.  All I can say is; it's Umami Burger that brought us here to UMAMIcatessen, but it's the food from the other venues that will bring us back for more!!!!

Rating (Out of Five Stars)

Food:             see various
Service:          4
Ambience:     4

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