The Fifth Taste

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Umami Burger celebrates its first year in Laguna with additional offerings and a continued focus on flavor.

By Micaela Myers | Photos by Jody Tiongco

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Lemon miso crab melt.

Umami Laguna recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, one of 17 and counting Umami locations nationwide. However, Umami strives to be anything but a typical chain, using small batch and local producers as much as possible, including California microbrews, ice cream from L.A. Creamery, sweets from SoCal-based Cake Monkey Bakery, and more. Of course, meat is a main focus, as it should be at a burger joint.

“We really focus on the quality of the meat,” explains Tyler Brown, manager of operations for Umami. The restaurants use high-end cuts of meat raised with no hormones or antibiotics. “We’re not your typical roadside burger place,” Tyler says. “What sets us apart is the quality and attention to detail.”

Each location has its own signature burger. For Laguna, that’s the lemon miso crab melt made with jumbo lump crab, burrata cheese, baby heirloom tomatoes and lemon miso dressing. Burger traditionalists will appreciate the B.U.B., which Tyler describes as “a little throwback to a classic burger,” featuring two “smushed” patties, bacon, beer-cheddar and toppings. A special Umami favorite is the Royale, a beef patty topped with braised short rib, roasted garlic aioli and house-made truffle cheese. Burgers are seared and carmelized to hold in juices and maximize flavor.

Vegetarians or flexitarians will appreciate the Earth Burger made with a patty of edamame and mushroom—a nice break from the mass-produced Gardenburger served at many burger joints. Surprisingly—since I don’t normally equate burger places with the best salads—I fell in love with the truffled beet salad, which features fresh baby arugula flavored with truffled ricotta and truffle dressing, smoked almonds and tasty beets.

Draft beer is a recent addition to Umami’s menu, and Tyler plans to add even more small-batch labels starting in July. Wine, sake and cocktails are also poured, and happy hour is on the horizon, a welcomed addition that will go perfectly with appetizers like smushed potatoes, house pickles and truffle fries. Even the sodas aren’t typical; you’ll find high-fructose corn syrup-free options, including bottled Coca Cola from Mexico made with cane sugar. For dessert, don’t miss the UFO—a sinful fried cookie topped with fresh organic vanilla ice cream.

The only fear is “ruining” yourself for any regular burger, Tyler says. Umami’s casual beach atmosphere and dog-friendly patio makes it ideal for an indulgent journey into the “fifth taste.” LBM

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Umami Laguna

610 N. Coast Hwy.; 949.342.1210; umami.com

Hours:

Sunday – Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Price:

$10 – $15 (burgers)

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