Umami 2: The Truffle and Ahi Tuna Burgers

In this world of ever changing burger menus, you can generally tell whether or not you’re gonna get a winner by the ingredients. Granted, you could have a burger piled high with exotic hams, fancy French cheeses, and an onion jam compote made by the chef’s mother and still strike out if the burger is poorly cooked,  over-seasoned or just made with plain poor quality beef. But most burgerheads (Yes, that’s a word. Starting when? Starting now) will tell you if you look at a menu if there’s something with the words “truffle” and “burger” on it, that won’t let you down.

It is no surprise therefore that the truffle burger at Umami Burger is scrumptious.  The burger itself is a very simple affair. Resting on their signature bun is a patty glazed in truffle sauce and covered in their home made truffle cheese. There are no vegetables, no frills, no bells, no whistles, and no distractions, and the result is an extremely satisfying earthy experience. Vegetarian? No sweat. You can almost have the same experience with their truffle cheese fries which, if you were concerned that your breath wasn’t powerful enough to knock over your date at three paces, come with a side of garlic aioli.  Heath nut? (Why the hell are you in a burger joint? Did you lose a bet?) Even then they’ve got you covered. Umami makes a great beet salad covered in truffled ricotta, smoked almonds, wild baby arugula, truffle dressing, which is almost as good as the fries.  What I’m saying is, if there was any chance I could swim in a vat of their house made truffle sauce…I would.

This burger blog is not just about the safe bets, though. It’s about exploring menus and finding things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Umami is one of those institutions though where taking risks pays off in a big way. They make things that in other restaurants would be the last thing we’d order like a tuna burger. Tuna burgers in general are sad affairs.  Usually they come in two varieties. Either they’re  dry hunks of tuna covered in god-awful tartar sauce layered with iceburg lettuce and a slice of tomato or they’re pieces of sashimi drenched in vinaigrette and mercilessly wedged in the center of a hamburger bun.  Both are depressing and neither really qualifies as a burger.

Most people fail to make a tuna burger because they either want to treat it like a beef patty or a fried fish sandwich and it is neither. A nice piece of tuna deserves respect. This is why Umami’s burger is so damn revolutionary. It doesn’t try and turn the tuna into something it’s not.  Their burger has hand-chopped ahi tuna, crushed avocado, pickled ginger, sprouts, wasabi tartar spread.  The sandwich is built on traditional flavors that work with tuna: avocado, pickled ginger, and wasabi. The chefs have managed to find a harmony in this burger that most burger joints don’t bother to figure out.  So if you’re asking me which burger I enjoyed more…I just couldn’t tell you.  You’ll have to try them both and decide for yourself.

-Molly Bergen

Thanks to John and Serge for the photos.

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