Umami: it’s the fabled fifth flavour, sounds like ‘tsunami’ and makes an ideal name for a kitten. It’s also the yumminess in Parmesan cheese, truffle, mushrooms, pork and breast milk. So what? No biggie, right? Thing is, that special Umami yumminess can be credited to the unfairly maligned evil genius of amino acids: glutamate. Otherwise known as the ‘G’ in MSG. Otherwise known for the headaches, dehydration, nausea and chest pains you claim to suffer after eating Chinese food. But before you saddle up your food intolerance high horse and ride poor Umami Burger out of town, think about it. Apart from both science and Dr Chef Dave Chang’s MAD Symposium lecture disproving ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’, historically speaking if you tack the B-word on to the back-end of a commonly offensive adjective, you’re on to a winner. Cases in point: FatBurger, Douche Burger and Fat Ho Burgers (RIP). So, if fat, douches and fat hos can be tasty, how’s about a little Umami? Hmm? Just a teeny taste? At the outlet in Los Feliz, on Hollywood Boulevard near the Wacko store, I order The Original Umami Burger – beef patty, Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelised onions and house ketchup ($11). It’s intravenous Umami. From the sweet, milk bun to the medium-rare ground steak patty, pleasingly pink in the middle and sprinkled with magical Umami Dust™, you’ll want to get Umami all up in your grill. It’s savoury and thrilling, like thinking about a packet of salt and vinegar chips. Along with the tsunami burger we share a plate of tangy treats – cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes et al on the House Pickle Plate ($5) and Sweet Potato Fries ($4). Smothered in the Signature Sweet Salt, these fries are like chomping on a hot cinnamon donut: comforting, indulgent and finger lickin’. Like the best things, the word Umami comes from Japan and means something like ‘delicious’. DUH. But if you’ve already named your new kitten, you can just call it ‘savoury’. Whatever name you give it, Umami is universal and hardly the root of digestive evil and sleepless nights. I mean, how can gravy be bad? Or Vegemite on toast? Or a bowl of salty edamame? Or working your way through an entire wheel of aged Parmesan by yourself? It’s true, Umami Burger is cool and beardy and thus repellent, but what tasteless monster among us can resist an extra flavour? Salty, sweet, sour and bitter sure are something, but they’ll never be sublime without Umami. Just like The Jackson 5, sans Michael.

Umami Burger

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